|Injuries, off-field distractions and a lack of decisiveness led to a long season for UConn RB Lyle McCombs. (US Presswire)|
The Big East RapidReports blog is taking a look at what went wrong at the three Big East schools that didn't make a bowl -- South Florida, Connecticut and Temple.
Connecticut (5-7, 2-5 Big East)
Expectations: The Huskies were predicted to finish sixth in the preseason Big East media poll. The prognostications turned out to be nearly spot-on, as UConn finished tied with Temple for sixth in the conference. UConn entered the season with an intimidating defense that was expected to carry the team. It offset an inexperienced offense, but was not dominant enough to lead the Huskies to a winning record. After earning a spot in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, the Huskies failed to become bowl eligible for the second straight season.
What went wrong: RB Lyle McCombs finished the season on a high note in eclipsing the 120-yard mark in two of his last three games. McCombs, though, largely failed to meet expectations after rushing for 1,244 yards last season as a freshman. McCombs finished with 331 rushing yards less this season. QB Chandler Whitmer was marred by turnovers, nearly finishing with a 2:1 interception to touchdown ratio (16 interceptions, nine touchdowns). During a four-game midseason losing streak, UConn averaged just 8.25 points per game. The Huskies are currently ranked 118th in scoring offense (17.75) and 109th in total offense (318.33 yards per game).
When it went wrong: The Huskies sputtered after a disappointing 30-24 loss at Western Michigan on Sept. 22. It opened a stretch when UConn lost five of six games. Coach Paul Pasqualoni's team allowed only 10.3 points per game and 51 rushing yards per game over their first three contests. Over its next six, UConn allowed 22.6 ppg and 145.8 rushing yards per game. Biggest overall disappointment: McCombs. Early in the season, the sophomore appeared hesitant to hit the hole and wasn't decisive in making his cuts. As a result, McCombs only had one 100-yard game in his first eight games. McCombs was also benched for the first quarter against Rutgers after an arrest stemming from an alleged dispute with his girlfriend. The Huskies started slow in a 19-3 defeat to the Scarlet Knights.
Bright spots: Five members of the Huskies' defense earned All-Big East honors, including three on the first team. DE Trevardo Williams was one of only two unanimous selections among defensive players in the league. The menacing 6-2, 233 pound lineman is tied for 11th in FBS in sacks per game (0.96). Williams set the school record for sacks in a career with 30.5. UConn's best effort of the season easily came in a 23-20 triple overtime win over Louisville on Nov. 24. Williams constantly rattled Cardinals QB Teddy Bridgewater with pressure off the edge, finishing with three sacks and 3.5 TFLs. LB Yawin Smallwood finished third in the league in tackles with 120, while LB Sio Moore ranked second in TFLs with 15.5.
2013 outlook: The Huskies must absorb heavy losses on the defensive side of the ball. Of the five aforementioned All-Conference performers on defense, only Smallwood can return. UConn will also lose Ryan Griffin, an All-Big East second team tight end. On offense, both Whitmer and McCombs are expected to return. WR Dhameer Bradley, a three-star recruit from Elkton, Md., could help stretch the offense.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.