Two years ago, with Dave Teggart holding his hands aloft in the grandest of poses, this had been the scene of the greatest moment in the history of UConn football.
Randy Edsall led his program to the threshold of a BCS bowl and Teggart punched the ticket to Phoenix with a 52-yard field goal with 17 seconds left. Most anything seemed possible that night.
Two years later, with Paul Pasqualoni dropping his head along the sidelines, Raymond James Stadium would be the scene Saturday night of perhaps the lowest point of the past seven years.
This 13-6 loss to South Florida certainly wasn't the most embarrassing 60 minutes of the season. That was the last game, a 40-10 loss at Syracuse. So, no, this isn't the story of a blowout. This is the story of deflation, if not for the players, certainly for the UConn fans who follow those players.
This loss was embarrassing on another level. That's because two years later, most things seem impossible.
The Huskies not only are in last place in the Big East, but also there's a good chance they may not win a conference game in 2012. Yep, UConn could run the L table. It's the Big East folks, not the SEC. You run the L table in the Big East and something is seriously wrong.
"It's sickening," linebacker Sio Moore said.
UConn can't beat anybody these days. Their offensive line stinks. And when this night was over, the body language of the players and the coaches sang a loser's mantra. Bad bounces. Bad luck. Fought hard. Just couldn't pull it out. Couldn't catch a break. Too many bad, crazy things happened in the fourth quarter. Yada. Yada. Freaking yada.
"At some point, there's educational value in getting up off the ground and continuing a tremendous attitude, great work ethic and the right approach," Pasqualoni said. "Let's face it. There's going to be points in life when things don't go your way. So you hope these guys develop the right attitude and right approach."
If educational value in getting up after you've been knocked down is the primary goal, well, give the 2012 Huskies a Ph.D. in fanny spankings.
This night had all the earmarks of a coach killer. Former UConn coach Skip Holtz had lost a program worst six in a row and in the third year of a downward spiral, there have been more than a few calls for his firing at USF. His biggest and most effective ally is the contract extension he signed this year. It would cost USF a $2.5 million buyout if it dumped Holtz.
If UConn were to fire Pasqualoni, it would cost $1 million before Jan. 1, and $750,000 after it. That's certainly not wild money. But athletic director Warde Manuel has been insistent that Pasqualoni isn't getting fired after two seasons. These are Edsall's players. And if you replace Pasqualoni now, you'd have recruits from three different coaches.
The argument is that it could introduce chaos. And it is a good argument.
Here's another one. Bad things happen to bad teams. And when you find a way to lose in the fourth quarter to a team that had perfected the art of losing in the fourth quarter, it doesn't look to be getting any better.
Yes, UConn did some decent things on offense, outgaining USF 327-283, driving all the way to the 22 on a final potentially tying drive before Chandler Whitmer's deflected pass turned into an interception.
We won't bore you with offensive numbers, because Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone insist the only numbers that matter are on the ones of the scoreboard. So the bottom line is this. The Huskies, averaging 8.25 points a game in the Big East, are 0-4 in the conference and 3-6 overall. They have lost four in a row in the Big East for the first time since 2005.
They haven't ever lost five in a row. Buckle in. Folks, they are looking at 0-7 in the Big East and 3-9 overall. Pittsburgh, which lost to Notre Dame in three overtimes, is playing much better. The Huskies will be spanked at Louisville. Book it. And if they bow their heads, Cincinnati will come into Rentschler Field in the finale and whip them, too. Yes, the Huskies can win both home games, but which way would you bet at this point?
Wins over UMass, Buffalo and Maryland … big whoop.
Here's the thing. USF never wins at the end. USF never, ever wins at the end.
Well, USF did this time.