Chandler Whitmer lines up under center against Temple, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012.
In a game that had the makings of a UConn blowout after 15 minutes, was anything but over the final three quarters. The Huskies' defense stiffened for most of the second half, stopping Temple on back-to-back fourth-down attempts late in the fourth quarter, but it still wasn't enough to avoid overtime.
The Owls drove 95 yards down the field to score the tying touchdown with 19 seconds left in regulation, and went on to win thanks in part to UConn kicker Chad Christen's fourth missed field goal on the afternoon, the last coming on a 27-yarder in extra time. A series later, Temple kicker Brandon McManus striped a 29-yarder for the 17-14 victory and in the process the Owls accomplished for the first time in school history something that the Huskies have yet to do under coach Paul Pasqualoni: win back-to-back games in the Big East.
The Huskies are now 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the conference; the Owls move to 3-2 and 2-0.
UConn's leading rusher, running back Lyle McCombs didn't sniff the field all day, although it's not clear if the decision was part of his punishment for last week's arrest, or part of Pasqualoni's plan to jumpstart the running game. Whatever the reason, the results were mixed; Max DeLorenzo got most of the work carrying the ball 21 times for 90 yards in regulation but the Huskies were without a big-play threat coming out of the backfield in passing situations.
As for the rest of the offense, quarterback Chandler Whitmer showed early the type of confidence that could make the Huskies a legitimate contender in the Big East. He finished 22 of 39 for 293 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Whitmer, who has struggled with turnovers, did lose a fumble in the second half.
Ultimately, it didn't matter; despite the offense sputtering over the final three quarters, Christen bears responsibility for this loss. He honked a 36-yarder on the Huskies' first drive and missed second-half attempts from 42 and 45 yards before missing wide right in overtime. If Christen makes any of his first three, the game's over after 60 minutes. Instead, it's the latest deflating loss for a UConn team whose season could be slipping away from them.
As they've done so many times this year, the Huskies struggled to put together a complete game from start to finish and in the process let a lesser opponent hang around until it was too late. It happened two weeks ago against Buffalo, and the week prior to that, the inconsistencies cost UConn a win at Western Michigan.
The Huskies looked like a top-25 outfit during the first quarter, hanging 14 points on the Owls. By halftime, Temple had made it 14-7 thanks to an ill-timed defensive lapse that has become all to familiar this season; running back Montel Harris rushed for 62 yards on the Owls' penultimate drive, including gains of 33 yards and a 24-yarder that put him in the end zone. Prior to that, Temple had gained a grand total of eight yards and given up three sacks.
The score might've been closer if linebacker Yawin Smallwood hadn't forced a fumble with seconds on the clock and Temple driving.
Whatever halftime adjustments the Owls made worked because the running game was suddenly clicking and the Huskies were on their heels. But it wasn't enough to lead to points, not until that final drive when Temple quarterback Chris Coyer scampered for 19 yards on a 2nd and 10 with just over a minute to go in the game. A Tim Willman tackle for loss followed by a Trevardo Williams sack appeared to seal Temple's fate but then Coyer completed back-to-back throws -- a 33-yarder to Deon Miller followed by a 14-yard touchdown toss to Jalen Fitzpatrick -- to tie the score with only seconds remaining.
And then overtime happened.