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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    UConn football fights to the finish but falls short against Boston College

    Boston College Eagles running back Alex Broome (20) runs through the UConn defense during the second half Saturday in Boston. BC won 21-14. (Mark Stockwell/AP Photo)
    UConn quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson throws during the second half Saturday against Boston College. (Mark Stockwell/AP Photo)

    Chestnut Hill, Mass. — UConn’s defense spent too much time on the field on a warm fall Saturday afternoon.

    Blame its inability to stop Boston College’s attack as well as the Husky offense’s struggles to keep possession.

    The result was the Huskies gradually wore down and watched any chance of an upset for the second straight year slip away.

    The Huskies dropped to 1-7 with a 21-14 loss before an announced crowd of 36,902 fans at Alumni Stadium.

    It was their fourth defeat by seven points or less.

    “It’s kind of what’s hounded us this year is that we’re close but can’t find a way to get the win,” coach Jim Mora said. “I really appreciate these guys’ fight. It would be really easy for them to give in a little bit but they won’t. They refuse to give in, so I respect the heck out of that.

    “... But it is still terribly disappointing, obviously, because you don’t come here to come close, you don’t come here to fight hard and lose. You come here to win.”

    Mora continues to believe a break-through is coming.

    That didn’t happen on Saturday against a Boston College team that extended its winning streak to four straight.

    The Eagles (5-3) dominated the game and avenged last season’s 13-3 loss at UConn. They held a decisive edge in total yards (433-222), first downs (30-10), total plays (83-43) and time of possession (40:44-19:16).

    The Huskies couldn’t get off the field in key situations, as the Eagles converted 10 of 16 third down chances and three of four on fourth down tries.

    “BC is a different looking team than they were last year when we played them,” Mora said. “... They’re big, physical, fast and tenacious and violent. They look like a big-time football team. And they’re playing like a big-time football team.”

    Junior Kye Robichaux led the Eagles with 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His second score, a 14-yard run with four seconds left in the third quarter put the Eagles on top by a 21-7 margin.

    But the Huskies, who showed little signs of offensive life, finally found some rhythm. They drove 70 yards in eight plays, capped off by Cam Edwards’ 30-yard scoring scamper with 13:51 left in the game.

    And then they got the ball back down seven.

    Three holding penalties helped blow up a promising possession.

    Faced with a fourth down and seven, Mora opted to have Noe Ruelas attempt a 54-yard field goal with 6:44 remaining, instead of going for it. Ruelas, who started in place of Joe McFadden, badly misfired on his first attempt of the season.

    Mora called it his hardest call of the game.

    “My thought was if we can get within four, we would have had three timeouts with six minutes and 44 seconds on the clock, and we had been playing really good defense in the second half and we had the wind,” Mora said. “You get a stop, and a touchdown wins it. … I put him in a tough spot by asking (Noe) to do that.”

    When the Eagles took over, they did what they had been doing all game. They moved the ball and ate up time, ending the game with quarterback Thomas Castellanos (16-24-1, 151 yards) taking a knee at the UConn 3-yard line.

    “There were certain things that we could have executed better on,” Edwards said. “Overall, we played a hard-fought game. It’s not really frustrating. We’ve just got to get things going. We’re headed in the right direction.”

    UConn found a way to stay close in the first half despite being out-gained 225 yards to 77. The Huskies only had four first downs compared to 16 for BC.

    Credit UConn’s defense, which forced two turnovers — one in each of the two first quarters.

    First, defensive end Pryce Yates fell on Castellanos’ fumble near midfield.

    The Huskies took advantage, marching 51 yards in nine plays to grab a 7-0 edge. Short-yardage specialist Jelani Stafford, a 300-pound defensive tackle, plowed into the end zone from the 1 for the game’s opening score on UConn’s second drive. It was his team-best sixth rushing touchdown of the season.

    The lead didn’t last.

    Behind a potent rushing attack that entered the game averaging 211.3 yards, Boston College scored on two straight drives to go ahead 14-7.

    The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage, giving their ball carriers plenty of room to run. They routinely ripped off big gains.

    Robichaux’s 5-yard touchdown run capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive, to the score late in the first quarter. And then Castellanos found a wide-open Alex Broome for a 6-yard scoring strike for the go-ahead score.

    The Huskies were fortunate to trail by only seven at halftime.

    Defensive back Malik Dixon-Williams made an interception in the end zone to keep the deficit at seven with 17 seconds left in the second quarter.

    “I was just where I needed to be, honestly,” Dixon-Williams said. “He just threw it right to me. I just knew I had to go make a play.”

    Overall, the Huskies did a decent job containing Castellanos, the nation’s top rushing quarterback, and didn’t commit a turnover. Castellanos had a season-low 45 yards on the ground but made some big plays.

    UConn played without starting running back Victor Rosa (ankle), leaving Edwards to handle the bulk of the backfield duties. Edwards finished with a team-best 89 rushing yards.

    “There’s a lot of things that impacted that game,” Mora said. “Not having Victor hurt us.”


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