EAST HARTFORD - For some of the participants, the ending of the UConn football teamâs 41-38 loss to East Carolina on Saturday was a little too similar to the end of a defeat the Huskies suffered last season.
Those same people hope the Huskiesâ 2017 season doesnât spiral downward in the same way their 2016 one did.
In early September of last season the Huskiesâ suffered a 28-24 loss to Navy, a game in which it was on the verge of the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, only to watch in horror as the clock struck zero before they could run another play.
Against East Carolina Saturday in the final seconds, the Huskies were unable to get off another play that could have resulted in the game-winning touchdown. And then kicker Michael Tarbutt missed a 33-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.
It was a crushing loss, one that the Huskies, in part because of their past, hope doesnât linger in their minds.
âWe just have to forget about the game. As soon as I leave this building Iâm going to forget about the game and starting watching film on SMU,â linebacker Junior Joseph said after the game, mentioning Saturdayâs game in Dallas against SMU (4 p.m., ESPNews). âThey have a good offense, a great receiver in Courtland (Sutton).
âWe just have to move on. We canât dwell on this loss like last year where we lost to Navy and I felt the team dwelled on that loss. And it kind of carried on the whole season.â
UConn (1-2, 0-1) can ill afford to slip up again. There are few games remaining on its schedule that are, on paper, as winnable as the ones it has already played.
Putting a gut-wrenching loss to East Carolina, which hadnât won a game itself since beating UConn last season, behind them would be a big help for the Huskies.
âWeâve got a short week right now so itâs right into our next game. You donât have much time to dwell on this one,â UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs said. âRight now we donât have a bye week so itâs attacking each week and attacking each day.
âWe just have to get better from here.â
Shirreffs, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, was named to the American Athletic Conferenceâs weekly honor roll Monday. But he dismissed his numbers as largely meaningless given the fact that the Huskies never led.
UConn coach Randy Edsall was not in charge when the Huskiesâ collapsed against Navy. Still, he has a simple plan for how to overcome the pain of the ECU defeat.
âI only know one way, thatâs go back to work on Tuesday and get back after it,â Edsall said. âUnderstand that if you have pride and youâre a real, true teammate, youâre going to find a way. Youâre going to watch this film and youâre going to say âMan, if I would have just made this block, if I would have just did this or whatever.â And youâre going to find a way to get yourself better.
âIf itâs important enough for you and if itâs important enough for you to make sure your team can win, there shouldnât be any problem.â
The Huskies were back on the practice field this morning, and Edsall said before the workout that he was expecting nothing more than a fired-up group of players ready for a new challenge.
âI would expect this team to come back and be champing at the bit and on fire on Tuesday when we practice,â Edsall said. âAnd Iâll be darned disappointed if I donât see that.â
But the coach also admitted he and his staff would have to look inward for corrections as well.
âShoot, I have to look at myself and say âWhat can I do better? What can I do to help this team get better?â â Edsall said.
NOTES: Edsall didnât provide updates on injuries Monday but itâs likely the Huskies will play without wide receiver Hergy Mayala (ankle), center Ryan Crozier (knee) and kick returner Jordan Swann (concussion) this week against SMU.