UConn Athletic Communications
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. --- For 23 minutes of Friday night’s game at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, the UConn football team was dead even with one of the top-scoring offensive teams in the country. But college football is a 60-minute game, and the final 37 minutes of this one belonged to Memphis.
After forging a 21-21 tie midway through the second quarter, the Huskies simply could not keep up with the high-flying Tigers and lost a 70-31 American Athletic Conference decision, the most points ever allowed by a UConn team.
Yet as lopsided as the final score was, the Huskies (1-4, 0-3) tried to find a way to make it a starting point for the future.
“This is the rock bottom, the absolute rock bottom,” senior linebacker Vontae Diggs said. “As the saying goes, there’s no place to go but up. We have to work harder, we have to grind harder, we have to player smarter. We have to do what we have to do to make sure this never, ever, in the history of UConn football, this will ever, ever, ever happen again. This is an embarrassment. This is not what we want for ourselves, this is not what the people want --- no one deserves this.”
Memphis (4-1, 1-1) piled up some impressive offensive numbers, recording 711 yards in total offense, including 431 passing yards by quarterback Riley Ferguson, with seven touchdown passes. Senior wideout Anthony Miller caught four of those TD passes, on his way to 224 receiving yards.
The game couldn’t have begun much better for UConn, however, as senior running back Arkeel Newsome broke free for a 64-yard touchdown scamper just 1:16 into the contest to put the Huskies on top 7-0. Newsome finished with 114 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Memphis took just 2:40 to tie the game on Ferguson’s first TD pass, but UConn again moved in front on a 1-yard TD plunge by redshirt freshman Nate Hopkins. But Memphis caught UConn 14-14 on Miller’s first touchdown catch.
Then it was Memphis’ turn to take the lead on another Miller TD, but UConn made the comeback to tie it, 21-21 on a 30-yard TD pass from Bryant Shirreffs to tight end Alec Bloom with 7:13 remaining in the half.
But the Tigers found the end zone twice more before halftime to take a 35-24 lead into the locker room and overwhelmed the Huskies in the second half, outscoring UConn, 35-7.
“From the midpoint of the second quarter on, that was not good,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “We just go back to work, watch the film, work to get better and learn to do the things we’re supposed to do. We have a chance to make plays and we don’t make them. The second half, we didn’t do anything well at all.”
Edsall still has faith in the defensive scheme the Huskies are playing.
“This is a big job that we’ve undertaken to make better,” the coach said. “And it isn’t going to happen overnight --- it just isn’t. I wish it could. What we’re trying to do is put together the best thing that we can to give us a chance to win. And right now, it’s not pretty.”
The bright spot for the Huskies has been on offense. In their last three games, they have compiled 97 points, the most for a three-game stretch since 2010, the year the Huskies went to the Fiesta Bowl. But despite the 310 passing yards he amassed, Shirreffs was not happy with his performance.
“It was an accumulation of negative things that happened,” said the UConn quarterback. “I don’t think I played very well, so I have to look at that first. I think it was our execution and I take responsibility for those things. We have to focus on the little things and once we do that, we’ll get better. We started well, but we didn’t continue it and I wish I knew why.”
UConn will try to get back in the win column on Oct. 14, meeting Temple in Philadelphia.
“”Obviously, there are a lot of corrections to make,” Diggs said. “Seven hundred yards and 70 points? That speaks for itself. There’s nothing else we can do but continue to work.”