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Ward too much to handle! UConn loses 42-14 to No. 6 Houston Cougars

Coach Bob Diaco’s UConn football team was hoping for a little history to repeat itself last night against the No. 6 Houston Cougars.

Last year the Huskies pulled one of the college football season’s biggest upsets when they edged the Cougars 20-17 in Hartford.

However, that was not case last night as Heisman Trophy candidate Greg Ward, Jr. and the Houston Cougars returned the favor, and then some, with a resounding 42-14 win in front of a national television audience at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Ward gave his Heisman candidacy a huge boost as he passed for 389 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the one-sided victory.

The Cougar’s talented wide receiver, Linell Bonner, had a huge night as he racked up 159 receiving yards against the Huskies overmatched defensive secondary.

The Cougars defense (No. 1 against the rush) limited the UConn ground game to just 62 yards.

In the opening quarter the game appeared to be headed for a repeat of last year’s cliff-hanger as the UConn defense held the Cougars scoreless. Offensively, the Huskies game plan was to manage the clock, move the chains and keep the high-powered Cougar offense on the sidelines – take the game into the fourth quarter.

But that strategy quickly imploded as Ward and the Cougars put the game away in the second quarter with four unanswered touchdowns.

UConn did manage to get some points on the board when quarterback Bryant Shirreffs connected with Noel Thomas (135 yards receiving) on a pretty 62-yard pass-and-run to make the score 28-7 going into the locker room.

Shirreffs did manage to fill up the stat sheet as he threw for 239 yards but with the rushing attack under siege the effort was not anywhere near enough to counter the Houston offensive onslaught.

Diaco concurred in his postgame remarks to reporters. “The second quarter was disastrous,” said the UConn coach.

Houston remained unbeaten (5-0) while the Huskies absorbed their second loss in a row. UConn saw their record fall below the .500 mark (2-3).

Both teams will face American Athletic Conference opponents on Oct. 8.

Houston will continue their campaign for a berth in the College Football Playoff when they face Navy. The Cougars are headed for a huge showdown on Nov. 17 with No. 3 Louisville and their Heisman candidate Lamar Jackson.

The Huskies will have a few extra days to regroup before they face Tommy Tuberville’s Cincinnati Bearcats. Diaco will be looking to get his squad back on the path to bowl eligibility.

What’s next?

The Huskies need to put the last two losses clearly in the rearview mirror and regroup over the last seven regular season games.

UConn will need to go 4-3 if they expect to gain bowl-eligibility and looking at the schedule against the likes of Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Temple, Boston College and Tulane that is certainly a realistic goal.

Cincinnati, the Huskies next AAC opponent, gave the Cougars a game for three quarters before succumbing to a fourth quarter smashing in losing 40-16.

At issue is the Huskies offense which has yet to score a point this season in the first quarter.

The offense is not the type that can, or has yet to prove that they can, play when it is behind.

Shirreffs and company must find a way to put some points on the board early in order to gain some momentum and take the pressure off the defensive unit.

The Oct. 8 home game against Cincinnati is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

The game aired on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network (WTIC – Hartford, 1080 AM) with Joe D’Ambrosio on the call and Wayne Norman providing color. The game will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network.

Follow Bob for all the UConn football game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

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Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
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