#7 Most Important UConn Football Win: USF, 2005

CBS Sports

Thanks to a light national schedule, a 4-5 UConn team made its debut on ABC when USF came to town with BCS dreams. UConn dashed those hopes and kept its own bowl hopes alive.

Box Score

In television terms, 2005 might as well be 1995 when it comes to college football. While this Thanksgiving weekend will be littered with big games from every single conference, that was not the case in 2005.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2005, there were zero Big Ten games, 1 Big 12 conference game and only one game featuring a Pac-12 team. The light schedule meant there were holes in the television lineup. Smartly, the Big East took advantage of this. Like its success with ESPN’s Thursday Night Football franchise, the bigger conferences eventually followed the Big East’s lead.

But in 2005, it meant that a 4-5 UConn team on a four-game losing streak would be featured on ABC against a USF team that was still mathematically alive for the Big East title. In fact, if USF had won, they would have played West Virginia the following week for a de facto Big East championship. It didn’t happen.

The game itself was, well, not pretty. For USF fans, it is most remembered for one of the worst play calls in the history of college football – the Voodoo 5 play that spawned the name of SB Nation's USF blog.

For UConn fans, there was an odd sense that the identity of the program was being forged. The weather that day was disgusting. It was 33 degrees at kickoff. It was gray. It was overcast. It was gross. It was quintessential New England.

In the years that followed, UConn played a never-ending string of bad-weather games, starting the following week against Louisville when ESPN decided an 8 p.m. kickoff in December would be a good idea. It was reported the temperature at kickoff that day was 30 but it was windy and there is no way it was above single digits. There would be future games in monsoons, downpours and snow.

On this day against USF, the defense and Andre Dixon led the way and, in the post-Dan Orlovsky era, this was how UConn won football games. Darius Butler, one of the best UConn players ever, announced his presence to the nation with a 90-yard kickoff return for the touchdown. UConn held on desperately to a 15-10 lead throughout the fourth quarter and evened its record back to .500 with a bowl bid still a possibility.

Like the Pitt win in 2006, this game served as a reminder that despite replacing Dan Orlovsky, the UConn football program was going to remain competitive. It was also a reminder to the home faithful that despite the drastic turnover in the conference – it was still a solid BCS conference that would survive for another decade.

But for me, the biggest takeaway for me came that night when I was watching Notre Dame hold off Stanford to clinch a BCS berth. At halftime, as they were running through the highlights, Craig James – yes, the immortal Craig James – gave a huge shout out to UConn and, specifically the fans at the Rent that day. He credited the fans for willing the UConn defense to victory.

It was a turning point for the program. UConn was no longer the new kid of the block, the novelty with an NFL quarterback, but a legitimate program. As mentioned above, the win gave ESPN the ability to move the following week’s game into primetime as UConn played for a bowl berth. They didn’t beat Louisville. They wouldn’t play in a bowl for two years.

But this win showed the country UConn was not to be ignored.

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