Tough Loss at Vanderbilt

Connecticut suffered a very tough loss at Vanderbilt Saturday night. Carey Spear's 31-yard field goal with 2:56 left in the game gave the Commodores their 24-21 victory on a night when the Huskies failed to score an offensive touchdown. Coach Paul Pasqualoni has a lot to work on with a short week coming up.

Defense and special teams kept the Huskies in the game. UConn (1-1) even led 21-14 after linebacker Sio Moore stripped the ball from Vandy quarterback Larry Smith and Yawin Smallwood scooped up the fumble for a 64-yard return for a touchdown. Johnny McEntee hooked up with tight end Ryan Griffin for the two-point conversion but that was the only bright spot for UConn's starting quarterback.

Here are some quick observations on UConn's performance:

Quarterback: McEntee, starting his second consecutive game at QB, really struggled. And it looks as if the UConn coaching staff has decided to stick with him because there wasn't much shuffling in the three-QB system. Mike Nebrich and Scott McCummings saw limited action behind McEntee. Nebrich three two passes, completing one for five yards. McCummings was credited with five carries for minus-5 yards and didn't attempt a pass.

McEntee was picked off three times, including a 49-yard return by Robby Barbieri that let Vanderbilt back in the game. His TD on the interception tied the game at 21-21. McEntee looked like an inexperienced quarterback playing on the road for the first time – and that was the exact situation. He was 10-for-27 passing for 99 yards. He made a few good throws, but for the most part it was a difficult outing. When the quarterbacks changed, it led to confusion and penalties. Not smooth at all. McEntee threw into coverage way too often.

"The interception return really hurt," Pasqualoni said on WTIC's postgame radio show. "Too many mistakes. We didn't generate enough offense."

Tailback: Lyle McCombs started again, had a great first half but the Huskies didn't turn to him much in the second half. The big mystery was D.J. Shoemate. After telling the media Thursday that Shoemate was close to 100 percent, it turns out Shoemate didn't practice Thursday and he not only didn't start against Vandy, he didn't play. When McCombs came out, it was Jonathan Jean-Louis who filled in.

We heard early in the day Saturday that McCombs would get the start. Not sure what was up with Shoemate. Never heard anyone on radio or TV get to the bottom of it. Let's hope a beat writer in Nashville got a reason because this was strange. McCombs carried 27 times for 118 yards, but it would be nice to see these two splitting time and changing the pace. McCombs carried six times for 44 yards on UConn's opening drive.

Defense: Vandy finished with 10 first downs and 259 yards. The Commodores had little success moving the ball, other than a couple of big plays – touchdown runs of 40 and 48 yards. UConn's defense was outstanding with 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two interceptions.

Sio Moore: The junior linebacker gets better every week. Credit him with six tackles, four tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Moore was sensational.

Dave Teggart: The senior placekicker had field goals of 25- and 28-yards. Teggart now is UConn's career point leader. He entered the game tied for first with Matt Nuzie and his 54 career field goals is a school record.

Next up: Iowa State at Rentschler Field, Friday, Sept. 16 (8 p.m., ESPN2). The Cyclones may not need a plane to fly to Connecticut. James White scored on a 4-yard run as Iowa State defeated rival Iowa 44-41 in the triple OT. UConn's defense will have its hands full with quarterback Steele Jantz, who was 25 of 37 for 279 yards and 4 TDs. He also carried 16 times for 42 yards. Jantz is a 6-3, 224 pound junior. Looks like a fullback when he runs.

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