The UConn football season was already intriguing enough through six games.
On Saturday, Murphy's Law got thrown in: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong — and it did.
The Huskies had to absorb a 17-14 overtime loss to Temple before 37,279 at Rentschler Field. It was a game in which fairly reliable junior kicker Chad Christen missed all four of his field goal attempts, including a 28-yarder in OT. And the one that could have pushed the UConn lead to 10 late in the game was blocked, leading to a game-tying, 12-play, 72-yard drive for the Owls (3-2, 2-0 Big East).
Temple tied the game with 19 seconds left in regulation on a 14-yard reception by Jalen Fitzpatrick to force OT. Owls kicker Brandon McManus calmly hit a 29-yarder for the win and the Huskies had to watch the Owls party like rock stars right in their faces and on their field in celebration.
"We can't allow people to come on our field and celebrate like they did," said senior receiver Mike Smith. "That's very, very disrespectful. Anybody who doesn't feel it's disrespectful is crazy. To see them dancing and kicking us off our own field, man, it's very disappointing … and there was nothing we could do about it."
Tyler Matakevich, a Connecticut kid from Stratford who led the Owls in tackles with 19, and Temple coach Steve Addazio, who comes from Farmington, left the state with big smiles — and deservedly so.
The Huskies could have done something about it.
UConn (3-4, 0-2) shot out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and somehow, some way, lost the energy it had for those scores. Senior cornerback Dwayne Gratz was out of position on the 33-yard pass to Deon Miller that keyed the final scoring drive for Temple. The Owls were facing a third-and-13 at the UConn 47 and hit it. And there was confusion in the coverage on the Fitzpatrick TD catch that went past reserve corner Taylor Mack.
And there were the uncharacteristic misses by Christen.
"Obviously, a very, very disappointing loss," UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I thought there were some great efforts out there. I thought the defense on the fourth downs [stopped Temple on 4th-and-1 on two previous fourth-quarter drives in regulation] was really outstanding. I thought we protected well in the first part of the game, gave [quarterback Chandler Whitmer] some time to throw the ball. In the end Temple made two plays that really probably were the difference. We didn't capitalize on all the point opportunities. Obviously, Chad had a tough day. Sometimes in the world, in the life of the kicker, it's a lonely position, tough position."
As for Christen, he was, as usual, honest and succinct.
"I had a bad practice Thursday and carried it right over to the game," he said afterward.
OK, but what about the offense overall?
Whitmer (22 of 39, 293 yards, two touchdowns) was spraying the ball all over with confidence. Eight Huskies caught passes, led by a breakout effort for Shakim Phillips (seven catches, 100 yards). Whitmer hit Smith (five catches, 54 yards) for a 15-yard score and hit senior tight end Ryan Griffin, who caught two for 67 yards, with a 42-yard TD strike. Those scores came on consecutive drives in the first quarter after Christen missed a 36-yarder on UConn's first drive.
The Huskies, as usual, were inconsistent on offense from that point on. Their next 10 possessions produced seven punts, two missed field goals and no points.
Still, the Huskies, who outgained the Owls 381-334, had a chance to ice the game with a 44-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Miller.
"I feel like what we do, we create our energy," Whitmer said. "If something doesn't go exactly how we plan then we just lose it. We've got to be able to create energy like we do with some big plays but also continue that energy when things aren't going well. It's a 60-minute game. In football, you're not going to win every play. You've got to be able to bounce back from negative plays with that same energy."
The offensive line needed it the most. While it did pave the way for Max DeLorenzo (23 carries, 91 yards), who started in place of Lyle McCombs (left wrist), it didn't protect Whitmer enough. He was sacked six times.
The defense seemed to have its usual energy but even the D broke down on the touchdown it gave up in the second quarter. Montel Harris (30 carries, 142 yards, 1 TD) beat the Huskies defense up with a 33-yard run and a 24-yard scoring run on a third-and-2 with just over three minutes left in the half to make the score 14-7.
Nobody scored in the third quarter, but the wheels had already come off UConn's offense and Christen. The defense stopped Temple on consecutive fourth-and-1's, but then came the blocked field goal and the Temple scoring drive that tied it up. The defense had problems on that drive, specifically on the 33-yard reception by Miller and the TD by Fitzpatrick.
"There was some confusion on the coverage," linebacker Jory Johnson said. "It was just a blown assignment. Just got the wrong call, miscommunication and it led to a touchdown. ... I thought for the most part we stood up and played great. It was 19 seconds. ... Very disheartening not to have the result we wanted."