— You know something is wrong when Nick Williams can't find anything positive to say. To be clear, after Saturday's slow-burning 19-3 loss to No. 22 Rutgers before a paid crowd of 50,870 at High Point Solutions Stadium, he couldn't find anything positive.
"This is about as frustrating as … I want to use a different word because frustrating isn't doing it justice," said Williams, a senior receiver/returner and captain from New Jersey. "It's a difficult deal, emotionally, mentally, to keep going up and down like this. But it's about how you respond. Six games in we're nowhere near where we want to be, but we still have six games left. It's about looking in the mirror, seeing what you did wrong personally, making sure this team sticks together and comes back out each week working."
. First-year coach Kyle Flood becomes the second first-year coach in Rutgers history to start 5-0. John Bateman achieved it in 1960. The Scarlet Knights are 2-0 in the conference.
If you are what your record says, then the Huskies would be average. Were they average Saturday?
Well the offense (outgained 280-244) looked pretty bad when it wasn't turning over the ball or missing wide-open opportunities. And it certainly wasn't productive running the ball (season-low 53 yards). The Knights final touchdown came on a 25-yard interception return by Wayne Warren with less than four minutes to play with Chandler Whitmer (14 of 32, 191 yards, four interceptions) just gunning to make something happen.
The defense, led by Jory Johnson (10 tackles), struggled to make big plays, particularly in the second half. But the way the offense played, it probably wouldn't have made much difference. UConn also tackled poorly, especially on receiver Mark Harrison. Safety Andrew Adams and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson bounced off him on a 14-yard touchdown that put Rutgers up 13-3 in the third and essentially put the game away.
And other than a couple punts by Cole Wagner, special teams just weren't special. Williams, who had never lost a punt in his career, fumbled one that led to a Rutgers field goal in the first half.
"I was running the return, the guy was shielded from my vision, popped up at the last second and put his helmet on the ball," Williams said.
The Huskies came into the game with the unsettling news that running back Lyle McCombs (12 carries, 32 yards) had been charged with second degree breach of peace Friday, a misdemeanor, following a spat with his girlfriend. He sat out the first quarter but played the rest of the way. McCombs has a Nov. 27 court date at Superior Court in Rockville.
"I apologize for my mistake," McCombs said.
As far as the team goes, if UConn doesn't flip the script on its inconsistent play, this season might not be any better than the last. A frightening thought. The Huskies are 8-10 in a season-and-a-half under coach Paul Pasqualoni. They have yet to win back-to-back games under Pasqualoni.
"You want my honest opinion," senior linebacker Sio Moore said. "I'm tired of going up and down. We're a better team than what we showcase. It's frustrating and it pisses me off. This was a winnable game, hands down. I'm just tired of it. We've got to be more consistent."
Trailing 13-3, , Wagner buried Rutgers at its 1 with 14:45 to play. Rutgers ran 12 plays, gained 64 yards and held the ball for 7:28 before punting.
"I'm sick about that," Moore said. "We should have gotten off the field a lot sooner than we did on that drive."
The Huskies had a few openings in the passing game and went to big tight end Ryan Griffin (three catches, 31 yards) in open space. Whitmer missed him on what could have been a touchdown in the first quarter. Whitmer missed others guys, too.
"We weren't on the same page there," Whitmer said about throwing high to Griffin. "We missed an opportunity. That was one of many. We just have to correct it. We just didn't capitalize on opportunities. The defense did a good job keeping us in the game. We've got to be able to execute when opportunities present themselves."
Maybe things could have been easier for Whitmer with a running game.
"It's tough when you don't see it all pay off," Whitmer said. "And we do [work on the run game] a lot. Not only on the field but in meetings and in the film room because there's a lot of mental things that go into it. We just have to execute those mental things and bring them to the field."
Want to know how UConn scored?
Late in the second quarter from the Rutgers 47, Whitmer, going to Griffin, was hit late and Rutgers was hit with a 15-yard personal foul (the Knights were taxed 10 times for 80 yards). From the 32 it was McCombs (21 yards) and wildcat quarterback Scott McCummings (9) to the Rutgers 2. But on third-and-goal McCummings raised up from the run and threw a pass that Martin Hyppolite caught out of bounds.
UConn had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Chad Christen and would never see the red zone again.
The Huskies were moving before the half and had the ball at its 44 and all three timeouts left. There was one big completion on the drive, a 22-yarder to Geremy Davis (four catches, 78 yards) but there were no timeouts called to set up shots at the end zone.
"We were in good shape, there wasn't really a need to use a timeout," Pasqualoni said. "Once it got to eight seconds we kicked a field goal. If you run the risk of trying to play there with eight seconds that's kind of the cutoff. If you do something, God forbid you get sacked, you get tackled in bounds, even though you have timeouts sometimes you can't get to them. ... You're right at the line with seven seconds and I wasn't going to risk one second. I just thought Chad, with the wind, would have a pretty good shot to make the three."
Christen missed a 51-yarder wide right.