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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    UConn football searches for answers while adjusting to loss of QB Fagnano for the season

    UConn quarterback Joe Fagnano, shown here during the season-opener against North Carolina State, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during last Saturday’s loss at Georgia State. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

    Storrs — Coach Jim Mora’s list of things he likes about his UConn football team’s performance through two games is a short and revealing one.

    Punter George Caratan, who’s averaging 47.3 yards per kick.

    That’s basically it.

    “It’s a real positive for George but it’s sad commentary on our first two games,” Mora said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

    The Huskies are underperforming in nearly every category.

    The result is not only an 0-2 start but also the loss of momentum and excitement coming off a successful season.

    UConn will also have to move forward without starting quarterback Joe Fagnano, a transfer in his first season who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Saturday’s disappointing 35-14 loss at Georgia State.

    Mora announced Tuesday that Fagnano will undergo surgery on Friday.

    Redshirt junior Ta’Quan Roberson will lead the team on Saturday against Florida Internatioanl at Rentschler Field in East Hartford (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

    “It’s really devastating for Joe,” Mora said. “As a team, we have great confidence in Ta’Quan, obviously, and Zion (Turner) behind him. It’s a fairly significant injury. We didn’t think it was that significant until they got a really good look at it with the MRI.”

    It’s the second straight year that UConn has lost its starting quarterback for the season within the first two games. Ironically, Roberson saw his year end in the first quarter of the season opener in 2022.

    In relief of Fagnano on Saturday, Roberson went 19 for 30 for 216 yards and two touchdowns and also threw an interception. Robertson did most of his damage after the Huskies fell behind 28-0 in the third quarter.

    “Ta`Quan came in and absolutely gave us a spark,” Mora said. “I would say he’s probably got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good thing.”

    The Huskies have turned the page from Saturday’s loss.

    Mora has a 24-hour rule — win or lose — to think about a game after it is over before focusing on the next opponent.

    The period passed on Sunday night.

    “We’ve moved on from the disappointment of Saturday night, learned our lessons, we’re working hard to apply them and we’re getting ready for FIU at home,” Mora said. “We had a good practice (Tuesday). The energy was good and their focus was good. Now we have to go out and prove that we’re a better team than we’ve shown, especially last week.”

    “I told the guys after that game, `That’s not the team that I’ve seen in meetings. That’s not the team that I’ve seen on the practice field. But that, unfortunately, is the team we are because we’re 0-2 and we just got beat badly at Georgia State and that’s the reality of the situation.”

    It’s a tough reality for UConn to swallow.

    The Huskies came in riding some serious momentum from last season’s success that ended with a bowl appearance.

    Mora upgraded the talent base and improved the depth.

    But, so far, UConn has been a disappointment.

    Perhaps the most head-scratching development is the lack of a running game despite returning a veteran offensive line — the strength of last year’s team — and a healthy running back trio.

    After averaging 191 yards per game last season, the Huskies have generated just 105 yards per outing. They ran the ball 31 times for just 50 yards on Saturday. They’ve scored just 28 points in two games.

    “It definitely is (frustrating),” said sophomore running back Victor Rosa. “It’s a lack of execution. Last year, we obviously were able to successfully run the ball. We’ve just got to get back into that.”

    Mora also took his share of the blame for the dropoff.

    “It’s disappointing,” Mora said. “But we’re going to keep digging and digging and digging and finding answers and working hard.”

    Defensively, the Huskies have had issues. They’ve allowed opponents to convert at a 50 percent clip (16 for 32) on third down and given up an average of 229.5 rushing yards.

    UConn also has been hurt by penalties, committing 14 for 126 yards.

    “We’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but we’re really just working on playing fast and starting fast and getting after them,” defensive end Pryce Yates said.

    Mora is confident that the Huskies will bounce back this week.

    “We have to continue to just work and look for answers and put our guys in the best position to make plays and then demand that they make those plays. And, if we do that, we’ll rise up. If we don’t, then we’ll struggle. It’s pretty simple. I think we have a group that will rise up.

    “We’ve been in a hole before and proved that we can dig out of it. So that’s what we have to do.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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