Phommachanh shows promise in first start, but UConn manhandled by Army, 52-21

UConn coach Lou Spanos gestures from the sideline during the Huskies game against Purdue on Sept. 11.

UConn coach Lou Spanos gestures from the sideline during the Huskies game against Purdue on Sept. 11.

Stew Milne / Associated Press

We’ll start with the good news. UConn scored not one, not two, but three touchdowns Saturday against Army behind new quarterback Tyler Phommachanh, its first points against an FBS opponent in 658 days.

Aside from that, it was ugly.

The Huskies were manhandled 52-21 by Army at Michie Stadium and with that dropped to 0-4 on the season.

Army (3-0) reached the end zone on all six of its first-half possessions, including a 2-yard run by quarterback Christian Anderson on the team’s fourth play from scrimmage. Only one of the drives spanned more than 5:48, and it wasn’t until Anderson was subbed out at halftime that UConn even sniffed stopping the Black Knights.

“Missed opportunities,” interim coach Lou Spanos said. “We had a couple missed assignments.”

Army’s dominance overshadowed a promising debut from Phommachanh, UConn’s third different quarterback in four games. Phommachanh, a Stratford native and Avon Old Farms alum, ran for two scores, including a 38-yarder early in the third quarter that ensured the Huskies wouldn’t get shut out for the third time.

Phommachanh completed 11 of 26 passes for 109 yards and one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 60 yards on 11 carries.

“You saw him as a playmaker,” Spanos said. “You saw first of all his vision with his arm ability. He threw some nice deep balls. With that, you saw his feet. He kept plays alive. ...

“Do we have a long way to go? Yes. But he did alright for the first game.”

Phommachanh was the first Connecticut product to quarterback the Huskies since Tim Boyle in 2015. He repped his hometown by writing 203 on both his wrists, signifying the area code for the southwestern part of the state.

“It was a great feeling,” Phommachanh said. “This is what I’ve been working for my whole life. … I was just grateful to come out here and show what I can do.”

Spanos indicated he plans to stick with Phommachanh under center when UConn returns home next Saturday (3:30 p.m.) against Wyoming.

“Tyler gives us the best opportunity,” Spanos said. “I’m not worrying about the redshirt. I’m worried about competing and winning. … I’m looking forward to seeing him next week.”

UConn’s other points came on a 96-yard kickoff return by Brian Brewton late in the third.

“You saw what Brian can do to help us,” Spanos said. “He does have another gear. It was nice to see the work he put in this week.”

Brewton would’ve had another return touchdown if not for a holding penalty. The Huskies also had a 55-yard completion to Heron Maurisseau wiped out by an illegal blindside block.

Army overwhelmed the Huskies with its triple option, rushing for 397 yards and outgaining them 504-225. Tyrell Robinson led the Black Knights with 84 yards on the ground, 70 of which came on a touchdown that made it 28-0 in the second quarter. Jakobi Buchanan and Anthony Adkins added touchdown runs of 2 and 1 yard, respectively, for a 42-0 halftime lead.

For the second straight week, Army did not punt.

“It’s a little bit hard to replicate the speed that they run their plays at in practice,” cornerback Jeremy Lucien said. “Honestly, they didn’t throw a single thing at us that we didn’t see all week. Going forward, we just need to be able to adjust to that speed a lot faster.”

Spanos pointed to a number of missed tackles and inability to get off the field on third down. The Black Knights were 5 of 9 on third down and also converted 2 of 3 fourth down opportunities.

“We’ve got to do a better job of knowing our assignments,” he said.

The Huskies have now lost 29 of their last 30 games against FBS programs. Their only win was a 56-35 victory over UMass on Oct. 26, 2019.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour