ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Connecticut interim coach T.J. Weist said this week that he expected the Huskies’ matchup with UCF would be their toughest challenge of the season.
He was right about that.
What he didn’t expect was that on-going defensive shortcomings and self-inflicted mistakes on offense would wind up with their most lopsided defeat of 2013 as well.
Two first-half turnovers put the Huskies in a hole early and they had no answers for No. 21 UCF’s air attack in a 62-17 loss Saturday.
The setback was UConn’s eighth straight dating to last season. The Huskies (0-7, 0-3 American Athletic Conference) trudge into a week off having made little improvement since the 0-4 start that cost former coach Paul Pasqualoni his job.
“The elements are there for us, but it’s been hard for us to put it together,” Weist said. “That’s a solid football team. They came out on offense and used all their weapons. You can see everything went right for them because they executed. They took advantage of turnovers.They did the things we would like to have done.”
UCF’s Blake Bortles threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, frustrating the Huskies’ defense throughout.
He completed his first eight passes of the game and ended his day early in the third quarter, connecting on 20 of 24 for 286 yards.
Freshman quarterback Tim Boyle was sacked twice, also slowing down an offense that was just 2 of 12 on third-downs conversions.
The Knights (6-1, 3-0) scored on their first nine possessions of the game.
It was an important game for UCF, which upset Louisville last week and entered the polls this week with its first national ranking since 2010. That year the Knights lost their next game and immediately dropped out.
There was no stumble this time.
UCF’s had its way offensively in the first half as it hurried to a 45-10 lead.
The Knights scored on all seven of their possessions of the half, compiling 338 yards on offense.
Bortles continued to show the poise he displayed in that comeback win, spreading the ball around to seven receivers on Saturday.
The Knights’ defense also carried over its momentum from the Louisville win, holding the Huskies to 90 yards in the first half.
UConn needed a UCF special teams’ miscue to score its lone touchdown of the opening 30 minutes.
The Huskies started the second quarter with a three-and-out and punted, but after Knights punt returner J.J. Worton lost the ball in the sun, teammate Stanley Sylverain made contact with the ball after it had bounced on the turf.
UConn recovered, and then benefited from a roughing the passer call on the Knights to set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Lyle McCombs that made it 21-10.
It was one of the few hiccups for the Knights all day, though.
Trailing 24-10 and facing a third-and-long inside his own 40, Boyle had a pass tipped by UCF linebacker Terrance Plummer and it was picked off by Troy Gray.
Knights receiver Rannell Hall then bulled his way over the goal line on a run from 17 yards out three plays later.
UCF got the ball to open the game and needed just seven plays and a little over 2 minutes to take a 7-0 lead. Storm Johnson carried three times in the 75-yard drive, capping it with a 10-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies’ started from the 10 on their first possession of the day and quickly got into UCF territory on a 57-yard run by McCombs. The drive moved inside UCF’s 25, but stalled there and they settled for a 40-yard field goal by Chad Christen.
UCF took just 2:40 to go up 14-3, this time with Bortles using a 20-yard pass to Breshad Perriman to set up his own 10-yard scoring run.
The Huskies get their next chance at win No. 1 on Nov. 8 when they host No. 18 Louisville.
Weist said no one in the Huskies’ locker room is planning to give up on this season.
“It’s hard to say we’re deficient. We’ve got some weapons. I’m not going to say it’s a lack of talent,” he said. “We’d like more depth, more explosiveness in certain areas, but we have talent. We’ve got to keep pushing to find answers.”
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