UConn football's blowout loss at Indiana brings back painful reminders of last season

Published on Monday, 23 September 2019 20:02
Written by NEILL OSTROUT

JOURNAL INQUIRER

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - We thought they were finished with these. Naïve, looking back now.

Oh, not losses. It will take a lot longer for the UConn football program to become a consistent winner.

It just looked like the Huskies had maybe moved past getting regularly trounced, trucked, thumped or whatever you’d like to call it, at least by the Indianas of the college football world.

Now, this week’s game against Central Florida? That looks more and more like an epic pounding. Especially after the Knights’ surprise loss in Pittsburgh this weekend, a defeat they’ll likely want to forget quickly by trying to hang 100 points on the Huskies in Orlando.

As for Saturday afternoon in basketball country, the Hoosiers’ gridiron group scored 38 unanswered points to throttle UConn 38-3 at Memorial Stadium.

The Huskies forced and turnover and scored the game’s first points. That was about the end of the good news for the visitors, whose losing streak to FBS opponents has now reached an alarming 18 games.

“I thought our kids competed. We didn’t give up really any big plays in the running game. They just wore us down a little bit,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said after. “We kind of got overmatched a little bit.”

It’s not a surprise that UConn was overmatched, even by a middling Big Ten foe. It is a bit surprising that the outcome was largely never in doubt.

UConn, relying on a freshman making his first road start, couldn’t move the ball on offense, and despite not giving up many big plays, couldn’t stop much on defense.

The relief the Huskies (1-2) earned in their opener by at least beating someone, even FCS also-ran Wagner (0-4), is gone. The positive vibes from a “good loss” to Illinois are gone, too.

The Indiana script unfortunately looked eerily similar to the ones the Huskies wrote often last season: massive deficits that turned into embarrassing blowouts with the Huskies seemingly unable to stem the tide.

“We got beat by a better team today,” Edsall said. “Indiana was better than us. Pure and simple.”

That may be, but the manner of defeat is the issue. And the bigger question remains whether or not this bludgeoning leads to more of the same.

At least some of the Husky players say no. This year is different.

“To be honest, no,” defensive tackle Lwal Uguak said when asked if his team could begin to fall into a similar pattern. “We have a different culture this year. We know what’s at stake and how we have to play. How we have to bounce back every single week no matter how it goes.”

How it went for the UConn offense on Saturday was dictated by the Hoosiers. The hosts refused to let the Huskies run the ball, and UConn quarterback Jack Zergiotis in turn couldn’t throw the ball because of the pressure, some real and some imagined, the Indiana pass rush was putting on him.

“We’ve got a tough game next week but we’re going to bounce back,” Zergiotis said afterward, taking more than his share of the blame for the setback. “That game (Indiana) definitely shouldn’t have been how it ended.”

The UConn defense fared slightly better at first. But as key defenders continued to exit with various injuries - safety Tyler Coyle, linebacker D.J. Morgan and cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson all were forced to the sidelines - the dam that been taking on water slowly eventually burst.

Edsall didn’t question his players’ effort, and it appeared on first glance that he was correct. No one quit or rolled over or played dead.

But neither did many produce the kind of performance it takes to win on the road at any level.

“We’re going to watch this film, critique ourselves and look ourselves in the mirror and see who actually played every play like it was your last,” running back Art Thompkins said, parroting one of the team’s mantras. “Myself, there were some things that I could have done some things better.”

Indiana, themselves routed a week earlier on the same field by No. 6 Ohio State, was able to bounce back in a big way against the Huskies. UConn can only hope that its film review and self-criticisms result in something remotely similar the next time it takes the field - Saturday night at in the “Bounce House” on the UCF campus for the erstwhile Civil Conflict matchup.

Who truly believes UConn has the ability to rebound and pull a fairy tale upset just east of Disney World?

Don’t look this way. We won’t get fooled again.



Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Monday, 23 September 2019 20:02. Updated: Monday, 23 September 2019 20:05.