Huskies Win! Keep Bowl Hopes Alive with 37-29 Defeat of UCF
UConn honored the memory of Jasper Howard in style and also came through on the field today at Rentschler Field, as they defeated the reigning AAC champion UCF Knights, 37-29 before 28,751.
The Huskies fell behind early, with a play reminiscent of their early season struggles, as a muffed quarterback-center exchange, gave UCF a short field inside the red zone. The Knights quickly capitalized to go ahead 7-0, with 7:38 remaining in the opening quarter.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the cold, wind and rain, as the deficit remained a one score game until WR Deshon Foxx was inserted at quarterback. He promptly scampered 68 yards for an electrifying touchdown run that pulled the Huskies even, 7-7.
“It’s definitely fun being out there to play multiple positions,” Foxx said following the win. “It’s definitely harder on the defense, but it was great blocking. I know the wide receivers gave great blocks, the offensive line held up and at tight end, I think it was Alec Bloom, he threw one great block that sprung me. So, I have to give them the credit for it.”
Foxx was unsure how much time he would see at the position heading in, as it is more a situational change than anything.
“The coaches keep reminding me to stay mentally prepared for each game,” Foxx said. “I watch film for being a quarterback and a wide receiver because you never know if the game is going to be an air show or run the ball every play. I just try to stay mentally and physically prepared to play both positions.”
Starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who went 13-25 for 142 yards and two touchdowns, joked about Foxx’s speed.
“It’s a genetic warfare I’m fighting,” Whitmer said. “I don’t quite have that level. The Good Lord certainly blessed him with some speed.”
With WR Geremy Davis, the top receiving threat for the Huskies, out again with an injury, Whitmer relied on sophomore and Norwalk, CT native Noel Thomas, who caught four passes for 83 yards and two scores.
“When Geremy went down, it’s tough because he’s one of our leaders and a big play guy, but we’ve seen in practice Noel making big plays,” Whitmer said. “Obviously you want Geremy out there, but I wasn’t worried. I trust Noel 100-percent and he made huge plays, that’s what he’s going to do. He’s a competitive kid, he wants the football and just let him go out, make plays and he did a great job of that.”
Following Foxx’s run, the Huskies surrendered an 8-play, 79-yard scoring drive to the Knights, that was capped by a one-yard William Stanback run.
The Huskies answered, as Whitmer found Thomas for a 38-yard scoring strike that tied it up, 14-14. Following the second interception and return by safety Andrew Adams, that set the Huskies up in plus-field position with 11 seconds remaining in the half, kicker Bobby Puyol nailed a go-ahead 43-yard field goal that gave the Huskies a 17-14 halftime lead.
UCF came out of the half and retook the lead on a 73-yard catch and run by WR J.J. Worton, which gave the Knights their final lead of the game, 21-17.
That is when the Huskies offense took over. Three consecutive touchdown drives of 79 (1-yard run by Ron Johnson), 34 (22-yard pass to Thomas) and 54 (2-yard Johnson run) saw UConn take a 37-21 lead.
“Those are our goals, that’s what we want to do,” Whitmer said. “It’s positive plays, putting big drives together, no matter how we do it, run or pass. That’s what we want to do, finish those drives and we did that. There’s things that can be corrected, but all in all, we got the win and that’s really all that matters.”
The Huskies held off a late push by UCF to hang on for the win, which keeps the Huskies (2-6, 1-4) bowl hopes alive. Head coach Bob Diaco noted that every loss is just one loss and every win is just one win, but it was a meaningful one for the Huskies and they handled it with maturity.
“It was a great win,” Diaco said. “I thought they handled themselves with class. It wasn’t some frantic, jubilation of falling on the ground and acting like we have never been there. We prepare to win, we bust our butts and we are going to strain and grind for four quarters. We’re going to come to the contest expecting to win, so it isn’t like some fluke where you’re, ‘oh my gosh, we won,’ so there’s a healthy, celebratory, awesome, loving brotherhood moment and a respect and honor to represent this spectacular university, the University of Connecticut. It’s an honor and they feel pride, pride is a great word.”
Offensive lineman Gus Cruz expanded on that sentiment.
“The locker room was great, a lot of energy,” Cruz said after the game. “A lot of our goals are still up for grabs. We can still accomplish things we put forward as far as goals for ourselves. Every week, coach fills our head with a lot of confidence. When we play a team like this, who has been dominant for the last two years, I think we handed them their first conference loss, we come in here with the mentality that we aren’t playing their record. We aren’t playing their history, we’re just playing them on Saturday and from then on it’s who’s going to be the best team that day. We feel confident in our players that we’ll be able to go out there and accomplish things.”
There are moments where a team realizes they are turning a corner and from the feel of it, the Huskies know that moment is now. It’s time to build off of it, but first, all of Husky Nation should enjoy this one for twenty-four hours.by