The UConn Huskies, coming off of a tough loss against Navy last weekend, looked to redeem themselves as they battled the Virginia Cavaliers at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies would come out victorious 13-10 after UVA kicker Alex Burbank’s last-second field goal sailed to the left of the uprights as time expired.
Virginia seemed to be dominating early, getting on the board first with a field goal after a long drive which took up over 5 minutes on its second offensive possession. Although Virginia was able to put together a long drive, the UConn defense did well to keep UVA out of the end zone and hold it to a field goal.
The Husky offense struggled to get anything going early on as the Huskies only gained a single first down in the first quarter. They showed signs of moving to a more open and spread out philosophy, running the majority of their plays out of 11 personnel (1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WRs). UConn had only 2 drives and 9 total plays in the first quarter while the defense struggled to get off the field.
Virginia's first drive of the second quarter (rolling over from the first) was a 13-play, 90-yard drive taking up 6 minutes and finishing with a 9-yard touchdown run by Albert Reid. The defense failed to get off the field, allowing Virginia to convert multiple 3rd downs.
UConn's first points came on a Puyol field goal with 4:46 left in the half, thanks in large part to Arkeel Newsome’s two long runs of 38 yards (+15 from a facemask penalty) and 19 yards to put the Huskies inside the red zone.
The Cavaliers continued to take advantage of the large cushion UConn was giving their receivers and hit them for multiple short and intermediate routes. UVA also did well on screen and swing passes. Unfortunately, the Huskies continued to struggle up front protecting Shirreffs and giving him time to read the field.
Going into the half the Huskies offense had only run 22 plays for 98 yards, 6 first downs, and had just three points to show for it. The defense had allowed UVA to run almost double the amount of plays for double the yards and first downs, but was fortunate to have only given up 10 points.
The Huskies’ ability to adjust at halftime would once be put to the test. They started the second half on offense after UVA won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the game.
Arkeel Newsome gave UConn a spark with explosive runs when they put the ball in his hands. As the offense continued to struggle, with most plays turning into rushes by Shirreffs one way or another, a big 4th-down conversion to keep the second offensive drive of the half alive was essentially nullified by an interception thrown in end zone on a jump ball 3 plays later. That would be the first turnover of the game for either team.
The score would remain the same at 10-3 Virginia entering the fourth quarter.
The defensive line had a strong showing on the day and especially in the second half. Foley Fatukasi had a big 2nd-down sack at the start of the fourth quarter to set up a defensive stop.
A second offensive turnover on a fumble by UConn was quickly redeemed by an interception from Jamar Summers to give the Huskies the ball back on UVA’s 37-yard line. UConn scored the first points of the second half on a Bryant Shirreffs TD run to tie the game with 7:55 left, capping off a 9-play, 37-yard drive set up by the Summers interception and also aided by a few key penalties committed by the Virginia defense on two consecutive third downs that kept the Husky offense on the field.
On the next Virginia possession, a huge 4th-down stop by the defense set the Huskies up for an 8-play, 50-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by big plays by Noel Thomas and Bryant Shirreffs. Bobby Puyol knocked in a 43-yard field goal to give UConn its first lead of the game with 1:33 remaining.
The defense would hold stout, keeping with their bend-but-don't-break philosophy as the Cavaliers drove down to the 3-yard line with time running out. After a run on third down, UVA rushed to try to get the kicking team on the field and Burbank’s hurried attempt missed.
A defensive affair throughout, the Huskies found a way to pull out the victory against ACC opponent. An impressive defensive showing in the second half coupled with just enough offense, including some big performances by Arkeel Newsome (13 carries, 77 yards) and Noel Thomas (6 receptions, 91 yards). The defense was then able to hold on just long enough to get away with the victory.
UConn improves to 2-1 on the season as they head into a home game against another ACC opponent in the Syracuse Orange next Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Rent.