UConn finished the 2006 season by losing five out of its last six games. It was the one win in double overtime that gave fans hope.
Hope is powerful. With hope, there is always possibility.
If you look back now at the 2006 UConn football season, it probably looks like a disaster. The team went 4-8. They were out of bowl contention before they played their season finale. It was a second straight year of failing to make a bowl game. For the first time, there was a portion of the fanbase that wondered if Randy Edsall was the right man for the job or if early I-A success was skewed by the presence of Dan Orlovsky.
That 2006 team finished its season by losing 5 out of its last 6. But it could’ve been so much worse. What happens if UConn had lost its last 6?
They didn’t. This win over Pitt was the team’s lone win down the stretch and it provided the necessary hope the program needed to withstand two straight losing seasons.
UConn came into the game at 3-5, having lost back-to-back games to undefeated teams in West Virginia and Rutgers. Pitt was 6-3, coming off of two losses of their own after a 6-1 start. Rentschler Field was sold out. It was readily apparent that UConn’s season was on the line – a loss would eliminate all hope for a bowl game.
After three quarters, hope appeared lost.
UConn entered the fourth quarter down 31-17 and a majority of the UConn faithful had given up the fight – the stadium was rapidly emptying as the final quarter began.
When UConn took possession with 12:10 to go in the game, there was no hope. They took over at their own 2-yard line. Even the most optimistic fan, who had seen UConn’s offense struggle all year to score points, would have trouble mustering up the notion that the Huskies pull it off.
Then Donald Brown got a first down on three runs. D.J. Hernandez scrambled for nearly 40 yards. Then he completed two passes in a row. In typical UConn fashion, though, the drive appeared stalled near the goal-line. Facing a 4th-and-4 from the Pitt 8, Hernandez hit Brown for a touchdown and suddenly, there was life.
That 98-yard drive is largely lost to time. It shouldn’t be.
The more memorable drive, of course, was the 3-minute, 77-yard march that ended with a tying UConn touchdown with three seconds left on the clock. Improbably, UConn had pulled off a two-touchdown comeback and forced overtime.
In easily the most exciting sequence in the Rent’s history, Pitt and UConn went to double overtime in front of a "friends and family" crowd. I vividly remember the students sprinting down the length of the Rent to get to the other end zone for the second overtime, where I was already situated. It felt like the game would never end.
So when UConn scored a touchdown to make it 45-44 and Randy Edsall called timeout, the crowd buzzed. We all turned to each other.
"Do you think…." "Would he really…."
Edsall is known to be the conservative type. He was not on this night. UConn went for two. D.J. Hernandez scampered in for the win and threw the ball out of the stadium. The crowd went delirious and, personally, I spent that Saturday night partying in downtown Hartford until all the bars closed.
UConn, of course, squandered the new life on their 2006 season the following week by losing to a terrible Syracuse team.
Going into the 2007 season, there were zero expectations but there was hope. We remembered the Pitt game. We knew they could come back and win.
It’s fitting that the 2007 run kicked into overdrive on a rainy Friday night when, down two scores to Louisville, they rallied in the final 10 minutes with two touchdowns. That marked the beginning of an amazing four-year stretch for UConn football. The seeds were planted against Pitt in 2006.
The great photo used for this cover imagecan be found at Depth of Field Photo.
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