NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Paul Pasqualoni has an impressive
running back in Lyle McCombs. The Connecticut coach needs a
quarterback of his own to step up quickly.
The Huskies' first road trip with their new coach ended in a
24-21 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday night despite McCombs rushing
for 118 yards and the defense coming up with seven sacks.
The problem for UConn was that the Huskies gave up five sacks of
their own, and Johnny McEntee was intercepted three times and lost
Pasqualoni played three quarterbacks for a second straight week
with McEntee getting most of the work. Mike Nebrich also got in,
while Scott McCummings rushed five times for minus-5 yards for the
"As the game went, I stayed with Johnny just to have some
continuity," Pasqualoni said. "We put Mike in, and put him in at
the start of the second quarter, which we did a week ago. But it's
just hard to get into the flow of the thing with what they were
UConn led 21-14 when McEntee had his final turnover. Casey
Hayward picked off his pass at midfield and ran it back 50 yards
for a touchdown that tied up the game with 6:45 left.
"I read it out wrong and threw a bad ball," McEntee said.
"That's what happens sometimes."
Casey Spear kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:56 left to lift
Vanderbilt to the victory and its first 2-0 start since 2008.
The Huskies had a chance to try and tie the game, but couldn't
get it done. Rob Lohr sacked McEntee on third down and McEntee
overthrew Isiah Moore on fourth down, giving the ball back to
Vandy. The Commodores ran out the clock and started celebrating a
rare winning start.
This is the Huskies' second straight season to open with a loss
on the road. They rebounded well enough a year ago after losing to
Michigan, going on to win the Big East championship and play in the
McCombs picked up where he left off last week, when he rushed
for 141 yards, but he couldn't do it all. He ran 10 times for 74
yards in the first quarter before Vandy started smothering him.
Dave Teggert kicked two field goals, and Byron Jones blocked a punt
and recovered it in the end zone for a TD.
Huskies linebacker Sio Moore had 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble
that Yawin Smallwood picked up and returned 64 yards for a
touchdown that put UConn up 21-14 after McEntee found Ryan Griffin
for the 2-point conversion with 10:34 left.
UConn hit Larry Smith repeatedly and even knocked him out of the
game briefly. But the senior kept returning, and he threw for 140
yards and one TD. He also had only two turnovers as Vandy outgained
UConn 259-193 in total offense.
Safety Kenny Ladler set up Vandy's first TD, diving in front of
Kashif Moore to pick off a pass by McEntee at the Huskies 42.
Vanderbilt went for the end zone on the next play with Smith
finding Chris Boyd in stride for a 42-yard TD pass down the left
sideline for a 7-3 lead with 5:54 left.
The Huskies seemed to turn the game in the second half as they
hit Smith so hard he left the game for a few plays, replaced by
Jordan Rodgers. That helped back Vanderbilt up near its own goal
line, and Jones blocked Richard Kent's punt and recovered it in the
end zone for the touchdown that pulled UConn within 14-13 midway
through the third quarter. It was the first blocked punt for a TD
by the Huskies since 2002.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)