By DESMOND CONNER, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
12:39 AM EDT, September 15, 2013
EAST HARTFORD —
Can it get any worse than this?
The vitals: Maryland 32, UConn 21 before 38,916 in Randy Edsall's return to Rentschler Field, this time as the Terps coach.
Yes, he was booed but he got the last laugh so, let's get on with it.
This game came down to the Huskies' blowing way too many scoring opportunities in the first half that came back to bite them in the second, when the Terrapins, now 3-0 for the first time since 2001, got off the schneid and really began flexing their offensive muscle to the tune of 501 total yards, topping that plateau for the third consecutive game.
The UConn defense recovered a fumble, had an interception and stopped Maryland twice on fourth down, but the Huskies came away with only 10 first-half points while the Terps were trying to find their way.
Maryland had a 13-10 lead at the break. In the second half, missed opportunities continued for UConn. Late in the third quarter, during a drive that could have tied the score at 20 if UConn had scored, Chandler Whitmer was intercepted. And that interception was run back for a Maryland TD that extended the lead to 27-13.
Whitmer (29 of 46, 349 yards, one TD, two interceptions) compounded his tough day by getting hit with an intentional grounding call in the end zone for a safety. There were special teams gaffes, including too many shorties by punter Cole Wagner and a blocking below the waist penalty by kicker Chad Christen. And on a Terps' 50-yard field goal attempt that came up short, Taylor Mack tried to return it and was stopped deep in his own territory.
He could have downed in the end zone and the ball comes out to the 20 or if he doesn't touch it all the Huskies take over possession at the line of the scrimmage which would have been their own 33. Instead, they started at their own 10.
Basically, the Huskies had a difficult time getting out of their own way after a dismal opening game performance against Division I-AA Towson on Aug. 29.
Oh, have we mentioned the Maryland offense, yet, particularly quarterback C.J. Brown, who accounted for 399 (277 passing, 122 rushing) of the Terps' 501?
Dude wasn't sacked either, while his counterpart was planted in the turf five times for the second straight game.
"We didn't make enough plays on C.J. Brown," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "He had a really big night running the ball. We had a hard time tackling him. I don't think we had a minus-yardage play on him. We didn't have a sack on him. We knew coming in he was going to be a good player. He made more plays than we made on him.
"On the other side of the ball, we just weren't able to run the ball. We tried. We're not creating enough space in there for the back to find a crease. So it's frustrating."
If the Huskies are frustrated now, wait till Michigan, probably frustrated, too, after narrowly escaping with a 28-24 win over Akron earlier in the day. The Wolverines get here Saturday for an 8 p.m. game (ABC) at the Rent.
"It's another opportunity," Pasqualoni said, trying for an uplifting tone.
That's a tough one to sell, especially with what the Huskies have shown so far in 2013. This year's start isn't good, especially coming off a pair of 5-7 seasons and resulting in another post-game press conference where athletic director Warde Manuel stood in what is becoming an all-to-familiar stoic pose after another UConn loss.
The bright spot for the Huskies was receiver Shakim Phillips who had career highs in receptions (10) and yards (178). His 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown with 4:26 left to play showed there was no quit in him or the Huskies but he barely made it in the box, pulling up with a hamstring injury from which he did not return.
The hamstring has been a constant problem for Phillips.
The Huskies had a bunch of problems Saturday night, though, and they still had opportunities to overcome them but it wasn't happening.
UConn took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Lyle McCombs (19 carries, 53 yards) who didn't find much room Saturday night, allowing the Maryland defense to tee off on Whitmer when it could. And it did.
"As an offense, you want to be balanced," Whitmer said. "That's what makes a team tough to defend and that's something we've got to go back and work on. We can't just be one-dimensional. We ought to be able to make plays. I know those guys are working. I'm not pointing any blame. We just got to watch the film and see what improvements we can make."
Down 7-0, Brown faked a handoff and sped down the middle of the field for 41 yards and a touchdown. Maryland got a pair of field goals from Brad Craddock and UConn got one from Christen in the half.
Maryland led 13-10 at the break before the Terps' All-American and exciting receiver, Stefon Diggs got in on the action, completing a four-play, 80-yard drive with a 12-yard TD reception for a 20-10 Maryland lead with 9 minutes, 4 seconds to go in the third. The Huskies got another Christen field goal to draw within a touchdown when the turning point of the game occurred, an interception of Whitmer, the second by Dexter McDougle, but this one was returned 49 yards for a score.
The Huskies would get no closer.
"It was one on one," Whitmer said. "Geremy vs. that guy. And the kid made a great play. Give him credit. He was able to break on it and get underneath Geremy. I know I got hit. I didn't quite see the whole thing; same with the other [interception]. He made another great play, one on one match with Shak. Give him credit. He's a great player."
Pasqualoni was asked if he thought the Huskies had the talent they need to compete. He confidently said yes and he's probably right, but whether they're young, old or somewhere in between, now Is the time for the talent to start showing.
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