EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Chris Wormley #43 of the Michigan Wolverines chases Chandler Whitmer #10 of the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Paul Pasqualoni said before Saturday's game against 15th-ranked Michigan that there would be no moral victories, but after building a two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter that's exactly what the Huskies ended up with. The Wolverines kicked a field goal late to wrap up the 24-21 win.
"Obviously I'm proud of the team's effort, proud of the kids who had to step up and play," Pasqualoni said after the game. "We had some young guys in there this week, had some guys out hurt. I admire the approach the kids took, their attitude and how hard they played. I think what happened tonight is they made a couple more plays than we did, got a couple more first downs."
But moral victories don't count in the standings, which means UConn is 0-3 ahead of next week's matchup with Buffalo. On Sunday, Pasqualoni told the media that despite the final score, there was plenty to like about the Huskies' performance.
"There were some very encouraging things on film on both sides of the ball, some things that we obviously have to do a better job of finishing with but I think we are getting better and there are some things that we can build on," Pasqualoni said, via the New Haven Register.
And while it may not show up in the win column, a lot of young players were forced into action, and that experience can only be a good thing as the Huskies play out the season.
"We played with so many young players," Pasqualoni said. "The encouraging thing is we have young wide receivers in the game, we have first-year players in the game. Johnny Green is really trying to step up, trying to fill some big shoes, Deshon Foxx is still a first-year player gaining experience. He played and tried to be as productive as he could be. I thought Max DeLorenzo went into the game, played 15-19 plays and did a good job. …
"Jefferson Ashiru went in and played his first game, an inexperienced guy really played down to down. He’s got some things to clean up but tried to give us good effort. Tyree Clark had to go into the game for Taylor Mack and he showed us that he could compete, he tried really hard assignment wise and made some plays for us. Brian Lemelle came in and caught some punts. I probably shouldn’t have put him in that situation right before the half, I should have let the clock run out but we were returning punts well and I got a little greedy. Jon Hicks went in on special teams and made some plays for us."
Despite those positives, there was still the lingering issue of an inconsistent offense, the most glaring example when quarterback Chandler Whitmer forced a fourth-quarter pass into coverage that resulted in a one-handed interception by Michigan's Desmond Morgan.
"It's tough because, I mean we were making plays all night," Whitmer said. "That was a great play and that's tough for us because we really wanted that one. This one hurts, you know, it's tough. You've got a team like that, a great team in your place. Great atmosphere, it was unreal, and you know, they made plays. We both made plays, it was a hard-fought game, but in the end they were able to put three more points on the board than us."
Michigan heads back to Ann Arbor with a lot more questions than UConn but that doesn't change the Huskies' current predicament. The good news: As Pasqualoni noted, his team showed glimpses of pretty good. And unlike the NFL, where only three teams in the history of the league have qualified for the playoffs after starting 0-3, UConn only needs six wins to become bowl eligible.
Of course, that means they'll need to win six of their final nine -- and this comes after the team has finished 5-7 in back-to-back seasons.