Weist Tries To Take All The Blame For The Latest Loss

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EAST HARTFORD — In his first game as a head coach — after a quarter-century of stops from Alabama to Michigan to Southern Illinois to Tulsa to Indiana to Western Kentucky to Cincinnati to UConn — T.J. Weist tried to take all the blame.

That's right. One-stop blame.

"When you lose as a team, I just told the team, it comes down to the head coach," Weist said after UConn fell 13-10 to USF Saturday at Rentschler Field. "This loss is on me. It's my responsibility to do whatever it takes to win this game. And we didn't."

It was a magnanimous gesture, of course, even partially true when you consider Weist's handy-dandy clock management machine broke in the closing seconds.

Still, there were other factors in a game — marked by both the spirit of starting over and the reality of 0-for-2013 — that left a homecoming crowd of 37,681 seeing what they wanted to see.

If you wanted to play it pithy, you could say simply Weist dropped the ball in taking the blame because it was the UConn receiving corps that dropped the ball too many times and cost the Huskies as many as three touchdowns.

If you wanted to play the State Boy Is A Lock card and immediately buy into the notion that freshman Tim Boyle is the next Dan Orlovsky, you can look past his 15-for-43 passing numbers and blame the drops, especially the two huge ones by Deshon Foxx and one by Spencer Parker.

If you wanted to run the glass half-full, you could point to the 135 yards, including an amazing 52-yard touchdown run Lyle McCombs had the first 15 minutes, 12 seconds. You can rejoice in the fact that the offensive line, which had given a push adequate for an average of only 45.8 yards through four games, tripled those numbers in the first 15:12. Or, you could run that glass half-empty and point to the fact that McCombs ran for only 29 yards the final 44:48 and the Huskies had only 38 of their 207 yards on the ground during that time.

Or if you wanted to laud the defense for a job well done, just point to the fact that USF was held to zero offensive touchdowns for the second game in a row and somehow managed to win both of them. Or if you wanted to blame the defense just point out that although it held USF to six drives under 10 yards and 9 of 13 total under 30, it allowed a sustained 13-play, 66-yard drive that led to the winning field goal when it mattered most.

Two things are non-negotiable. One, it was an extremely well-punted game, the punters combined for more than 700 yards. OK, I'm being a bit of a wiseguy. But USF did start six of its drives inside its 14 and four inside its 10. Two, UConn is 0-5 — can't beat Towson, can't beat Buffalo or USF — and with games at Cincinnati and at UCF and against Louisville, the trap door could fly open to 0-8. You go 0-8 and, good grief, you just hope the Huskies don't run the table.

"We had every opportunity to win this game," Weist said. "The defense played a great game. They gave us every opportunity with field position and gave us a chance to make plays. It's disappointing we didn't.

"Tim Boyle, I think played an exceptional game for a true freshman. He made some throws early that could have been the difference. If some of our guys make those catches, this is a different game. … Tim stepped up and showed maturity and poise. He put us in position to win."

I want to be cautious on Boyle. Yes, there were big drops. Yes, Boyle showed three times he is able to bring down the ball and run for first downs. He has a big arm. He throws the ball hard. He threw it over his receivers' heads at times. Weist said the Bulls played different variations on the cover-2 with defenders trailing receivers. You've got to fit the ball in and it's not easy. I'll give Boyle a C-plus. And as much as Chandler Whitmer has become a whipping boy, I could paint a picture how he could have won this one.

But I won't.

"We'll get better," Weist said. "The thing is we don't have a lot of time to get better. We're not patient. We are going to be patient with the quarterback."

Weist said Boyle sure didn't look nervous. He looked "stone cold."

The drops, the drops, the drops …

"We put them in position in practice to make those plays under pressure as much as possible," Weist said. "They have to make plays. Some of those players have made those plays before.

"Deshon Foxx: Run out of the cut, you're wide open, run down the field and make the play. On that one play, he was looking early, the ball's in the air, now he's running and it's too late. As a young receiver he can't wait for the game to make that mistake and learn his lesson because it cost us a touchdown. He's got to learn it from other players making mistakes or in practice when we talk about it. He may never make that mistake again, but it's too late."

The Huskies ran the ball 17 times good for 172 yards in the first 15:12. Lyle McCombs ended with a career-best 164 yards. Weist said Mike Foley taking over the offensive line helped. It sure looked like UConn could have controlled the game better on the ground. Yet they only ran 20 times for 35 yards the final 44:18. Even if you don't count the three sacks, it was still only for 69 yards. It's not like the Huskies were forced to fire the ball around. The only trailed for 6:12 in this game, for 2:09 after Aaron Lynch scooped up a Boyle fumble for a 44-yard TD return forced by Ryne Giddins hitting his arm (Kevin Friend still should have fallen on the ball) and for the final 4:03 after Marvin Kloss' 44-yard field goal.

"Coach [Chuck] Bresnahan is a smart defensive coordinator," Weist said. "He came up and stayed in some cover-2 coverages that still take away the pass and twisted some things up on the inside and put some pressure on the edges for us. Honestly, that's something we haven't handled in the past couple of games.

"We didn't run the ball as well in the second half as we would have liked. I tried to mix it up inside and out. Tim was throwing the ball pretty well and I wanted to get the ball to Geremy Davis and our playmakers. Lyle played a heck of a game. Sure, I'd like to take some things back and make some better calls going in there on the run game."

Two good things about Weist, who replaced Paul Pasqualoni as interim coach on Sept. 30: He is forthcoming. He's also the play-calling offensive coordinator so he can stand in the pocket and explain matters afterward.

He said he thought the offensive line overall did "pretty good." He also said he'd love to have one or two of those sacks back.

"We had guys open down the field," Weist said. "I'm going to be sick watching the film. We had some double moves on them and just couldn't get the ball off."

He's certainly not going to like what he sees on the last series on film. The Huskies didn't call a timeout with 2:30 to go, blew 30 seconds and got bailed out when USF, in a lather itself, called a time out on third down with 2:02 left. Boyle could have been picked off three times on the last drive, but the Huskies incredibly still had a chance to tie it when Boyle found Dhameer Bradley for a 16-yard gain to the USF 49. There were 16 seconds left. There was time for a completion, a stopped clock and a field goal attempt. Boyle looked at Weist. Weist looked at Boyle. The clock got down to seven before Boyle called timeout. There was time only for a desperation throw in the end zone

"I looked up and I thought the clock was stopping at 16, it didn't," Weist said. "I didn't make a play-call. I didn't call time out. I made a mistake in clock management. I cannot make that mistake in a game and learn from it. It cost us a game."

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