It was never going to be easy.
In fact, it was never going to happen at all.
Down 21-0 at the half, UConn reeled off 28 unanswered points to shock the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field for its first win of 2013. The Huskies stumbled through arguably their worst half of the season, before Casey Cochran scored twice and Max DeLorenzo punched in a touchdown of his own late in the second half. Then, as the game stood knotted at 21 apiece, Yawin Smallwood raced a P.J. Walker interception back 59 yards for six points.
The UConn defense held strong over the final Owl drive of the game, largely due to a Smallwood sack that forced a detrimental third down and long from midfield. After the sack, Walker could only fire deep into double coverage and watch his passes fall helplessly to the turf.
The Huskies broke into the win column to grow to 1-9 on the season, as only Rutgers and Memphis are now left on the schedule. Both are home games.
Cochran finished 8-18 for 111 yards, one passing touchdown, a rushing score and an interception. The redshirt freshman made his second career start and concluded the first Husky scoring drive of the game with a 33-yard throw to Geremy Davis. The series opened the second half and seemed to inject life into the away sideline.
While the UConn offense failed to pick up a first down on its subsequent drive, Smallwood and co. stiffened to limit the Owls to 99 yards over the entire second half. They collected seven total sacks, forced three traditional turnovers and multiple turnovers on downs. Tim Willman recorded two quarterback takedowns and a fumble recovery in the final road game of his collegiate career.
UConn's next scoring series ended with four minutes remaining in the third quarter and a four-yard DeLorenzo run. The Huskies had entered inside the 10-yardline via a 16-yard Cochran to Davis fourth down connection, before gaining five yards over two snaps. Interim coach T.J. Weist called timeout prior to a critical third down and sent his redshirt sophomore runner back in to take the ball again. DeLorenzo plowed through to push the score to 21-14, and he would lead the Husky ground attack with 61 yards on 18 carries.
The final offensive touchdown proved to be by far the most difficult.
Three fourth quarter, red zone hand-offs brought UConn to the Temple one-yardline, where Cochran lofted a pass well short of Geremy Davis, who was interfered with on a fade route. As a result of the ensuing penalty flag, the Huskies were gifted a new set of downs. Another trio of runs failed to produce a run, and it was gut-check time once again. Weist kept his offense on the field and called for a fake-handoff this time. Instead of throwing, though, Cochran was to keep it around the corner and run in.
The youngster did exactly that, and the game was tied at 21, as the clock read 6:52 left in the game.