Rutgers 26 UConn 24

UConn entertained Rutgers at rainy Rentschler Field on Saturday, hoping to bounce back from an uninspired loss at Cincinnati the week before. The Huskies were trotting out their third different starting quarterback in as many weeks, Dennis Brown, a true freshman from Miami. Brown accounted himself well, but UConn was as sloppy as the conditions and ended up dropping a 26-24 decision. The Huskies fall to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big East, while Rutgers improves to 5-2 and 3-1.

Here is a position-by-position look at how UConn fared against the Scarlet Knights:

OFFENSE

 

Offensive line: The front five, for various reasons, couldn't stand still. The Huskies were flagged for seven false starts, an unofficial record for the team in the Division I-A era. Every member of the offensive line except Immanuel Hutcherson was caught moving too soon at least once, with senior tackle Grant Preston leading the way (in the wrong direction) with three.

 

"We're not focused enough," Preston said. "We made stupid penalties, and when you do that, you're killing yourself."

 

Coach Randy Edsall was even more blunt. "The guys up front have got to move their feet and fight harder," Edsall said.

 

Rutgers also managed to sack Brown four times and hold the Huskies to 97 rushing yards.

Offensive Line Grade: D

 

Quarterback: Dennis Brown's first career start was better than D.J. Hernandez's last week, but not as good as Matt Bonislawski's in the 38-0 season-opening win over Buffalo. Brown said he was so excited in the first quarter, he had tears in his eyes. That quarter ended with UConn amassing zero points and zero first downs.

 

Once Brown settled in, however, he didn't look out of place. He completed 18 of 35 passes with two touchdowns and one interception --- a desperation heave in the final seconds when the Huskies needed to go about 70 yards in 10 seconds to get into field goal range.

 

"He showed some promise," Edsall said.

 

The two-point difference in the final score, however, turned out to be a safety with 9:20 left that put Rutgers up 19-17. Stationed at his own 10, Brown failed to catch Trey Tonsing's shotgun snap, and Brown ended up having to bat the ball out the back of the end zone to avoid a Rutgers touchdown via fumble recovery.

 

"I don't think it was a bad snap," Brown said. "I took my eye off it a little bit to get a read on what the defensive end was going to do."

 

Who can blame Brown for being so wary of Rutgers' pass rush, considering how the Scarlet Knights dominated the line of scrimmage?

Quarterback Grade: B-

 

Wide receivers/tight end: Wide receiver Jason Williams and tight end Dan Murray caught well-placed touchdown passes, and the receivers in general were far more dependable than they have been in recent weeks. Edsall's biggest complaint was about redshirt freshman Nollis Dewar's second false start penalty in as many weeks, an occurrence Edsall called "ridiculous."

 

"I've never seen anything like that out of wide receivers before," Edsall said.

 

Junior Brandon Young returned from a two-game absence caused by an ankle injury to make a pair of catches and give the Huskies some badly needed depth. Williams led all receivers with five catches.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Grade: B-

 

Running backs/fullbacks: There was a rare Cornell Brockington sighting in the third quarter. The junior all-conference selection in 2004 was seen racing 51 yards for a touchdown, making everyone check their calendars to see what year this was. Terry Caulley continues to fade, finishing with 26 yards on 10 carries. One of Caulley's runs was for 18 yards, leaving him with 8 yards on the other nine carries. That hurts.

 

Caulley did have another excellent blocking game, though --- a valuable commodity, considering the inconsistent play of the offensive line.

I

f not for Brockington's one huge run, however, this would have been a day to forget for the backs.

Running Backs/Fullbacks Grade: C

 

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive line: Not even the return of sophomore defensive end Dan Davis from an ankle injury that cost him two games could keep Rutgers from trampling the Huskies to the tune of 238 rushing yards. Ray Rice was virtually unstoppable, collecting 217 yards on the ground --- the most ever by a Rutgers true freshman.

 

"They just ran the ball down our throats," Edsall said.

 

The Huskies also recorded just one sack as Mike Teel and Ryan Hart had all the time they needed, even when the Huskies blitzed. Lose at the line of scrimmage, lose the game.

Defensive Line Grade: D

 

Linebackers: Danny Lansanah started after all, improving during the week after injuring his shoulder at Cincinnati. It didn't matter much, though. With Taurien Sowell (ankle) probably out for the season, Lansanah switched to middle linebacker, with Jonathon Smith starting. Smith led the Huskies with 15 tackles, but the linebackers failed to fill the gaps on rushing plays with any consistency and the Scarlet Knights ran wild.

 

James Hargrave had a low-impact afternoon, and the co-captain ended up committing a crucial holding penalty on third down that kept a Rutgers drive alive and allowed the Scarlet Knights to tie the score 17-17 in the third quarter.

 

"It shouldn't, but sometimes the wind goes out of you a little bit when a penalty like that happens in that situation," Edsall said.

 

Alfred Fincher and Maurice Lloyd are long gone.

Linebackers Grade: D

 

Defensive backs: The best unit of the three on defense. Darius Butler had another solid game, while sophomore Tyvon Branch, subbing for injured Ernest Cole (broken arm) recorded the first interception of his young career. Free safety Marvin Taylor also anticipated a Mike Teel pass well and chalked up his first career interception.

 

Ryan Hart found a few holes in the second half, but with all the time he had to throw, it was hard to point the finger of blame at the secondary.

Defensive Backs Grade: B

 

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

Jimmy McClam is no Larry Taylor, but the redshirt freshman did an excellent imitation of the injured sophomore (torn ACL) on kickoff returns. His best return, alas, was called back because of a needless block in the back by Justin DeRubertis, but McClam made Taylor's injury easier to swallow and showed genuine promise.

 

Shane Hussar benefited from some fortunate rolls early, then clicked into gear in the second half to finish with a punting average of 40.2 yards. Four of Hussar's punts were downed inside the 20.

Matt Nuzie missed a 45-yard field goal, but did connect from 40 yards away. Neither he nor Graig Vicidomino was able to put the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, but Rutgers' potent return unit was not a factor on this day.

 

Penalties, not performance, kept the special teams from having a great day.

Special Teams Grade: B

 

 


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