UConn's only option: Turn the page

Bob Child/ AP photo UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer (10), shown here handing the football off to tailback Lyle McCombs against Buffalo, said UConn must turn the page quickly and prepare for Temple on Saturday.

Storrs - So you're a frustrated UConn football fan.

Understandable, especially in the wake of the Huskies' latest meltdown, last week's 19-3 loss at Rutgers in the Big East Conference opener.

Well, try spending a few hours each day between the walls of the Burton Family Football Complex.

"Yes, obviously (it's frustrating)," tight end Ryan Griffin said Tuesday. "Three points against Rutgers isn't going to do it. That's not going to win you any ball games, so it's frustrating and it does hurt."

There's one major difference, however.

While most fans have a week to stew and lament about the coulda, woulda and shouldas, UConn's players must turn the page and search for solutions before Saturday's Homecoming Day game against Temple at Rentschler Field (1 p.m., no TV).

"It's frustrating, yeah, because you're competitive and you want to win games," quarterback Chandler Whitmer said. "It's frustrating but you can't dwell on it too much.

"Any time you lose it's not fun, but we can't hang our heads. We come back and get to work. The good thing about football is you've got next week."

That's the challenge UConn (3-3, 0-1 Big East) faces as it prepares to face the Owls (2-2, 1-0), who enjoyed a successful return to the conference last week by rallying in the fourth quarter to upset South Florida 37-28 in Philadelphia.

And most of that challenge falls on the offense, which has been wildly inconsistent in what has turned into a win one, lose one opening six games.

"We've done a lot of good things, so we've seen it," Whitmer said. "It's in there. We just have to find how we can get that consistency each week. We all have confidence in each other. We all know what we can do. It's just frustrating when it doesn't always happen.

"We're not perfect but we also need to be better than we are and we've just got to put it together."

Griffin, a fifth-year senior, said the Huskies must begin the week with a greater sense of urgency.

"The past two years it's been up and down," he said. "And offensively we haven't played consistently for two games in a row. It is frustrating for us but we still have time to change it.

"Maybe a little frustration is good. A little aggression ... take it to the practice field and work that much harder. I know I've only got a few games left here, so I'm going to leave it all out there."

The key, Griffin said, is figuring out a way to run the football. It will not only open up the entire offense, he said, but it will take some of the pressure of the Huskies' defense, which has played consistently well every week and currently ranks sixth nationally in total defense.

"It hurts," he said. "I feel like our offense isn't holding up our end of the deal. The defense played outstanding again (at Rutgers). Since our season started they've been playing unbelievable, so we've got to do a better job as an offense.

"You can't deviate from the plan. You've got to keep doing what we do best and that's run the ball. We just have to up the tempo in practice and get this thing started."

Griffin even laughed while brushing off criticism that the Husky offense had become too predictable, especially by running so much on first down.

"We should be able to run the ball all four downs," he said. "We just need to execute."

Whitmer agreed, saying UConn must do a better job of taking advantage of its opportunities

"We were on the goal line (at Rutgers) and we couldn't punch it in," he said. "And we had good field position on a couple of other opportunities. We just couldn't get anything going and that kind of snowballs and deflates us a little bit as an offense.

"We've got to come out and keep fighting and fighting."

c.banning@theday.com

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