EAST HARTFORD -- University of Connecticut quarterback Johnny McEntee threw for a career-high 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Huskies running back Lyle McCombs had 136 yards rushing and two catches for 52 yards and a touchdowns, and wide receiver Kashif Moore added 112 yards and two touchdowns.
This was the UConn offense that everyone has been waiting for. It was balanced, dynamic and even explosive at times against Western Michigan.
The only thing that surprised more than UConn's offensive explosion was what happened to the defense against the pass-happy Broncos.
The UConn defense was supposed to be the anchor of this Huskies team.
Instead, it blew up in spectacular fashion.
Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder was 37-of-51 for 479 yards and five touchdowns as he carved up the Huskies' defense like a Halloween pumpkin in a 38-31 Broncos victory at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Carder was in command. He found wide receiver Jordan White for 12 catches and 173 yards and two touchdowns, Robert Arnheim 10 times for 113 yards and Chleb Ravenell for nine catches, 123 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:35 left to stun the Huskies.
UConn, which led the Big East in defense coming in and is coming off a 17-3 win over Buffalo, allowed 21 fourth quarter points after taking a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. Carder found Ravenell for eight of his nine catches in the fourth quarter.
For a defense that is built to be aggressive and make big plays, Carder had UConn looking lost.
It was something that the Huskies defense didn't think was possible.
"To be honest? No," linebacker Jory Johnson said if he thought someone could do this to the UConn defense. "One thing Coach Don Brown stresses, especially with the secondary, is to press people and make people uncomfortable. We just didn't do that tonight. They picked us apart as a defense."
Saturday was the first game without star cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and it showed. Wreh-Wilson is out for several weeks with a sprained MCL in his knee, and his replacement Gary Wilburn was picked on repeatedly. Wilburn wasn't the only one struggling to stay with the receivers: Free safety Harris Agbor scuffled in the first half and was benched in favor of Byron Jones in the second half. Strong safety Jerome Junior also was late on several passes and was even flagged for a personal foul with a hit.
The Huskies never rattled Carder. UConn sacked him three times and did force a fumble, but for the most part didn't disturb the offense.
"When it's those numbers, usually it indicates you weren't able to get to them enough and weren't able to harass them enough and the quarterback was able to get the ball to the open receivers," UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
The Huskies are now 2-3 heading into Big East play next Saturday at West Virginia. The Huskies will go there having blown a fourth quarter lead in all three of their losses.
After trailing 14-0 and 17-7 in the first half, the Huskies righted the ship in the second half, taking a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter on a McCombs touchdown pass from McEntee.
The Broncos answered, going 80 yards on nine plays with Carder finding White for his second touchdown to tie the score. The next Broncos possession was similar. Western Michigan went 62 yards on seven plays with Carder finding Ravenell in the right corner for a 14-yard touchdown pass. That gave them a 31-24 lead with 5:53 left.
The Huskies put the game in McEntee's hands and the junior got things going for the Huskies. On fourth and 5 from the Western Michigan 26-yard line, he found Nick Williams free in the front of the end zone to tie the score at 31-31.
The lead was short-lived as the ensuing kickoff by Chad Christen went out of bounds to start the Western Michigan drive at its own 40. Carder then found White for 19 yards, and then he found Ravenell over the top, beating Wilburn and Jones for a 41-yard score 28 seconds after the Huskies tied it. A last minute drive by McEntee ended short as a pass to tight end Ryan Griffin was fumbled deep in Western Michigan territory to seal the game.
"I am disappointed," Pasqualoni said. "We will address these things, the personnel issues and the scheme issues and get ready to play West Virginia. We will be prepared to play and open up big east conference play."
The Huskies are 2-3 in the non-conference schedule, having lost fourth quarter leads against Vanderbilt, Iowa State and now Western Michigan.
"That means we got to finish," linebacker Sio Moore said. "We have games to win and the games are there for us to win each and every time. From Vandy to Iowa State to this one. Those are games we have control of. We have to come up big for 60 minutes."
The Huskies have yet to put it together this season. The Huskies had 10 penalties and the defense was carved up on Saturday. In another week it's the quarterback play that was subpar or the running game struggles.
As the Huskies enter Big East play, the season teeters on the brink.
John F. Silver is a contributor to SNY.tv.