After giving up 479 passing yards in a 38-31 loss to Western Michigan, the Huskies traveled to Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday and got torched through the air again. Quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers' Heisman Trophy candidate, lit up UConn's secondary for 450 yards on the way to a 43-16 victory in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.
West Virginia (5-1, 1-0 Big East) finished with 541 total yards and 469 were by way of the pass. You can do the math. That's 948 yards passing against UConn (2-4, 0-1) in the past two games.
There isn't a team in college football that can win doing that.
The Huskies stayed close in the first half and Dave Teggart's 22-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter gave UConn a little momentum at halftime. The Huskies trailed only 10-9 thanks to Teggart's three field goals, including a career best 53-yarder on the first play of the second quarter.
Some will point to Johnny McEntee's fumble early in the third quarter as the turning point. It did prevent UConn from taking the lead but the Mountaineers clearly were the best team on this day. It was only a matter of time before Smith took control of the game.
McEntee and the Huskies were driving into West Virginia territory when he scrambled and was hit by cornerback Pat Miller. Instead of going into a slide, McEntee put his head down and tried to pick up extra yardage. Miller jarred the ball loose and redshirt freshman linebacker Jewone Snow made the recovery and ran 83 yards before being pulled down at the UConn 12.
Two plays later Smith connected with Tavon Austin in the back of the end zone and West Virginia grabbed a 17-9 lead. Before the Huskies knew what hit them, they were trailing 43-9.
"Johnny tucked the ball in and didn't have anyone to throw it to so he ran it," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said, according to MSNsportsNET.com. "And instead of going down he stayed up, got hit, and the ball came out."
McEntee completed 21 of 37 passes for 193 yards and was not intercepted. But he was sacked five times – including once for a safety. UConn's only touchdown came on a 48-yard interception return by Ty-Meer Brown with 7:54 left in the game. Brown picked off Paul Millard, who came in after Smith completed 27 of 45 passes for 450 yards and four TDs.
UConn has scored just one rushing touchdown in the last five games. Lyle McCombs carried 20 times for 73 yards. But McEntee was UConn's next leading rusher with 13 yards on 11 carries.
"That was a heck of a second half," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "That was a dominating performance from our defense."
Said Pasqualoni: "It's a game that got out of whack in the end."
UConn has lost four of its last five. The Huskies return to Rentschler Field on Oct. 15 to play South Florida. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. West Virginia leads the Big East in pass offense. South Florida is ranked second and was idle Saturday.