The UConn Huskies remain winless on the season after a 41-12 loss to the Buffalo Bulls, leaving embattled head coach Paul Pasqualoni desperate for answers.
"I wish there was something I could've done to help them," Pasqualoni said. "There's no question. As a coach, you always feel that way."
It was the Huskies first loss to the Bulls since 2001 and it was far from pretty, as Connecticut managed just 220 yards of offense. The four-game losing skid, and the way it's unfolded, is something Pasqualoni says he hasn't faced in his long career.
"Not ever," he said. "Never anything like this. No."
Starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer was intercepted twice and fumbled the ball as well. Backup Casey Cochran fared no better, intercepted on his first pass attempt by Nick Gilbo.
"The turnovers just kill you, and where the turnovers were," Pasqualoni said. "We've got to do better. I keep talking about red zone defense. I've been talking about it for three years."
The Huskies sank into a 28-6 hole before scoring their lone touchdown with 3:54 to play before halftime. Running back Lyle McCombs took a hand-off left for a 2-yard score. Connecticut missed on the 2-point conversion and wouldn't score again.
Despite the rushing touchdown, the Huskies continue to have trouble on the ground. Entering the game 121st in rushing offense, they finished the game with 27 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
Pasqualoni put a lot of responsibility on the offensive line.
"There's only so many ways you can run the ball," he said. "At the end of the day, you've gotta block."
Many Huskies were taken out of the game in the fourth quarter, a new experience for left tackle Jimmy Bennett.
"I've never been taken out of a game because my team is getting smashed," Bennett said. "That's what happened today. That's the lowest I've ever seen. It's the lowest and miserable. Miserable, honestly, just miserable. We took out our starters because we got beat that bad. It's embarrassing."
Buffalo had no such trouble, operating with a balanced attack that produced 177 yards passing and 153 yards rushing. The Bulls excitement at beating Connecticut led to an early-season Gatorade bath for head coach Jeff Quinn.
"We knew that our football team here has played this opponent quite well in the past," Quinn said. "We just weren't able to secure that victory. I really challenged our kids to respond from play one to play last and every kid did that."
Buffalo scored through the air, on the ground and on defense in building a 28-12 halftime lead. That half included a first quarter where the Bulls held an 11-point lead despite only possessing the ball for 2:35, a fact that inspired the defense.
Bulls quarterback Joe Licata passed for a career-high three touchdowns, connecting with different receivers on each score. Licata found tight end Mason Schreck for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter, later adding a 22-yard touchdown to Alex Neutz and a 36-yard score to Fred Lee.
The Bulls were aided by the return of starting running back Branden "Bo" Oliver, who had 110 total yards including 90 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"I think Bo really tried to bring another level of intensity to our running game," Quinn said. "We're going to continue hanging our hat on those guys up front to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage, control things from that standpoint."
Patrick Clarke hit field goals of 49 and 50 yards for Buffalo. Chad Christen had two field goals for Connecticut and a third attempt blocked.
Receiver Geremy Davis was a bright spot for the Huskies, with five catches for 102 yards.
The win was Buffalo's first against a BCS school since Sept. 7, 2002, when they beat Rutgers.