By DESMOND CONNER, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
11:44 PM EST, November 8, 2013
EAST HARTFORD — So the UConn defense makes a great play near the end of the third quarter, and a rare one at that, against Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The Huskies are trailing by 18 points and there are some serious UConn faithful sitting in the stands braving a ridiculous cold.
Safety Andrew Adams gave them something to cheer about by intercepting Bridgewater, a Heisman hopeful, deep in UConn territory with 27 seconds to go.
It was only the third pick the super-talented junior has thrown this season.
Maybe it fires up the UConn offense to do something; maybe inspires the unit to string together a series of plays leading to a score.
Well, it happened — just not then.
On the next play, UConn freshman quarterback Tim Boyle went airborne to Shakim Phillips who was fighting Louisville cornerback Terrell Floyd for the ball.
Phillips lost. Floyd controlled a ball that was tipping around momentarily and raced 17 yards for a touchdown.
And Floyd would get another pick, this one in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
It was that kind game for UConn (0-8, 0-4 American), which has now equaled its worst start since 1977, when the Huskies finished 1-10, 1-4 in the Yankee Conference. UConn had five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles).
UConn scored its touchdown with 35 seconds left when Casey Cochran found Kamal Abrams for a 14-yard TD pass long after the winner of the 31-10 game played before 27,104 was determined.
"I'm proud of our effort, this team doesn't quit," interim UConn coach T.J. Weist said. "You can look at the score and come up with different things but this team doesn't quit."
The high-flying, high-octane Louisville offense produced two touchdowns in this one. The UConn defense played one of its best games of late but mistakes, as they have all season, killed the Huskies.
The Cardinals improved to 8-1, 4-1 in The American and kept their league title hopes and BCS hopes alive, although they were hardly impressive doing it.
Holding the Louisville offense to 14 points would usually be a cause for celebration — unless you're UConn. The Huskies aren't equipped with enough big-play ability, if any, to take advantage of teams that struggle against them.
Louisville held a 21-3 lead at the half, due in large part to gifts from UConn.
The Huskies even gave the Cardinals a potential gift just before the half when McCombs muffed a punt that was recovered near midfield with 24 seconds to go, after the Huskies' defense had turned in a solid effort.
Bridgewater took a shot to the end zone with two seconds remaining and the Cardinals were well-positioned in end zone to make a catch but the ball fell to the turf to end the half.
The UConn offense was its usual self in the passing game. Boyle was 7 of 14 for 48 yards and an interception, his sixth of the season since taking over the starting job in Game 5. That pick came while going deep to Geremy Davis in the second quarter, two plays after the Cardinals went up 14-3 on a 28-yard pass from Bridgewater to Devante Parker.
With his sixth pick in four games, Boyle tied the guy he replaced, Chandler Whitmer, who had six in four games, too.
"Our offense has not been efficient all season and we're going to keep doing whatever it takes to make it better," Weist said. "Again, I'll go back and look at personnel, as a staff, look at personnel and make the best decisions for this team.
"We've got a young quarterback that we've committed to the last four weeks. He's leading this offense and he's got to do a better job of not turning that football over and making better, more sound decisions. I think we ran the ball early well. I think they made some adjustments and shut some things down but going into halftime and early in the third quarter there's no question we're still in this game. We just didn't score enough points to make it a game."
The Huskies were surprisingly decent on the ground in the first half with 74 yards on 22 rushes. The Cardinals came into the game allowing 80 yards total and were ranked No.1 in The American against the run. By contrast, UConn was averaging 76 on the ground, last in the conference.
And the Huskies were determined to succeed on the ground to open the game.
Starting at their own 39, the Huskies rushed for 27 yards on five carries. And on that fifth carry and 37th yard, reserve tailback Martin Hyppolite fumbled. B.J. Dubose recovered for Louisville.
The UConn defense, which had done a decent job, especially against the run, came up big and forced the Cardinals to punt – and of course, subsequently, Louisville's defense forced UConn to punt from its own 35, where for the first time this season, a Cole Wagner punt was blocked.
Lou Gaines picked the ball up and raced in from 7 yards for a 7-0 Louisville lead with 6:23 to go in the first quarter.
"The[blocked] punt gave them momentum [early]," Weist said. "Three plays really in that first half that changed everything for us. The interception on the deep end they took back for a touchdown. We fell down on the crossing route to give them a touchdown. Three plays.
"And they were true to form for what they were as a team. On offense they held the ball 33 minutes. Our defense played a heck of a game. We held them. We stopped them from scoring. When we go three-and-out on offense and we're not productive, we're not effective or efficient and we keep turning the ball over and putting our defense in bad position, bad field position, no defense can really stand up to that."
UConn's best drive, 14 plays, 57 yards resulted in a 35-yard field goal by Chad Christen early in the second quarter to make the score 7-3.
Louisville answered that with a seven-play, 64-yard drive in which Parker was left wide open — another UConn mistake.
Louisville outgained UConn 210-122 in the first half.
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