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Mora vows things will improve after Huskies fall to Florida International

In his first start of the season, UConn QB Ta’Quan Roberson completed 15-of-32 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.

Trailing by 21 points after one half of play, UConn football coach Jim Mora wasn’t going to pat his team on the back for cutting the deficit to seven in the fourth quarter.

The Huskies slipped to 0-3 on the season with a 24-17 loss to Florida International before more than 20,000 Saturday in East Hartford at Rentschler Field.

“Disappointing loss and disappointing start to the season,” Mora said afterwards. “We knew when we took the job, it wasn’t going to be easy.

“I promise you this, I am not going to allow this program …. I will not allow this program to descend to what it was,” he said. “I promised our fans that. I promised our student body that. I promised our athletic director that. I promised our president that and I promised our players that.

“It will not happen. That might be hard to believe right now as we stand here at 0-3 but we will get this thing figured out,” Mora said.

Mora didn’t sugarcoat things Saturday. Writers offered him a way to soften the bitterness of the defeat by asking if there were any positives from the game. He declined and put the facts on the table.

“Our offense hasn’t been anywhere close to what it needs to be to win football games,” he said.

While he did like the way the Huskie defense played in the second half with two quarters of shutout football, he lamented giving up big plays in the second quarter, including a 64-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half.

And he realizes his unapologetic language in the interview room means little without the effort of the UConn players.

“We don’t have any time to feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to learn from what happened today.

“We have to adjust to what we learned today and put it into action because words don’t matter and actions do and right now our actions haven’t been good enough to win football games,” Mora said.

UConn junior running back Devontae Houston ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, carrying the brunt of the running load after Victor Rosa strained his back in the contest.

Florida International freshman QB Keyone Jenkins threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Panthers (3-1).

The visiting Panthers took a 24-3 lead at the half. They took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in six plays with Jenkins scoring from the one-yard line. UConn answered with a 13-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard field goal from Joe McFadden.

After FIU’s Chase Gabriel hit a 27-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead, FIU scored on a pair of big plays. Jalen Bradley scored on a 45-yard reception with 11:46 remaining in the second quarter and then hooked up for a 64-yard pitch and catch to Kris Mitchell up the left sideline with 47 seconds left in the second quarter for a 24-3 lead.

Connecticut took the opening kickoff of the second half and went 82 yards on eight plays with junior defensive tackle Jelani Stafford scoring on a one-yard run for his first carry and touchdown of his collegiate career to cut the lead to 24-10.

Houston’s 37-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson with 14:04 left in the game cut the lead to seven points, 24-17.

UConn had one last chance getting the ball on the FIU 48-yard line with 2:41 left in the game. Roberson took the Huskies to the 11-yard line before a holding penalty put the ball back on the 21-yard line. On fourth down and 14, Roberson’s pass to Cam Ross was good for just 12 yards, two yards shy of what they needed and the Panthers took over and ran out the clock.

The Huskies’ three-game homestand continues next week when they host nationally-ranked Duke for a 3:30 p.m. game on CBS Sports Network.

Content from UConn Sports Information included in this report.

Florida International 24, UConn 17
At East Hartford
Florida International (3-1)   7  17  0  0  — 24
UConn (0-3)                           3  0  7  7  -17
First quarter
F: Keyone Jenkins 1 run (Chase Gabriel kick), 12:27
C: Joe McFadden 25 FG, 5:49
Second quarter
F: Gabriel 27 FG, 14:58
F: Jalen Bracey 45 pass from Jenkins (Gabriel kick), 11:46
F: Kris Mitchell 64 pass from Jenkins (Gabriel kick), 0:47
Third quarter
C: Jelani Stafford 1 run (McFadden kick), 11:32
Fourth quarter
C: Devontae Houston 37 pass from Ta’Quan Roberson (McFadden kick), 14:04
Individual statistics
RUSHING: FIU: Lawrence 9-37, Jenkins 12-24, Ownes 8-21, Bracey 1-5: UConn – Devontae Houston 19-126, Victor Rosa 9-34, Ta’Quan Roberson 8-8, Jelani Stafford 3-7, James Burns 1-minus 2
PASSING: FIU: Keyone Jenkins 15-27-0, 284;  UConn – Ta’Quan Roberson 15-32-0, 170
RECEIVING: FIU: Bracey 5-90, Mitchell 2-73, Rivers 2-58, McDonald 3-44, Hooker 1-13, Miamen 1-8, Shomari 1-minus 2; UConn – Brett Buckman 5-62, Houston 1-37, Ross Cameron 4-36, Joly Justin 4-34, Porter Geordon 1-minus 1

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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