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Final Score: UConn Comes Back to Defeat Holy Cross, 27-20

It was real ugly, but a win is a win I suppose.

NCAA Football: Holy Cross at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the drunkest games in modern UConn history, the Huskies miraculously prevailed in the most unlikely of ways. Backup quarterback Bryant Shirreffs led a second-half comeback as the final whistle blew with UConn on top 27-20.

That UConn needed a second half comeback is inexcusable. The defense getting torn apart to the tune of 447 yards by an FCS offense is embarrassing. Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals, who is solid in his own right, looked like Joe Montana out there at times, finishing with 358 yards while completing 33 of 56 attempts. The slow offensive start is really the only unsurprising part of UConn’s wholly uninspiring performance to open the season.

But at least they got the win. This is all a much more painful conversation if they didn’t, which looked like a sincere possibility for most of the game.

The first half started poorly and actually got worse as it wore on. After two fruitless Husky drives, Holy Cross struck first with a field goal. UConn answered back with a nice-looking touchdown drive of its own to go up 7-3, but that was it for the offense led by David Pindell.

Two unfortunate second-quarter turnovers, a fumble by Pindell on a scramble and another by Jordan Swann on a kick return, led to two Crusader touchdowns as they took a commanding 20-7 lead into the halftime break.

The second half looked like more of the same until Shirreffs got in. He took over on UConn’s third possession of the half, 11th overall, and promptly drove down the field for a 5-play, 53-yard scoring drive capped by a Nate Hopkins rushing touchdown to make it 20-14. The redshirt freshman from Texas finished with 130 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.

The Husky defense held up in the second half, allowing UConn to grab the lead with another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull ahead 21-20. This time it was Shirreffs through the air to Hergy Mayala, who had a 24-yard catch on 3rd down earlier to keep the drive alive. Mayala finished with nine receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Holy Cross fumbled after a long completion with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter, giving Shirreffs and the boys a short field with a chance to build on the lead. The redshirt senior led another scoring drive, hitting Arkeel Newsome on a side screen for 34 yards before Hopkins notched his third score on the ground. Michael Tarbutt missed the extra point to keep things dangerous the rest of the way at 27-20 but the Huskies held on for the win.

With all the excitement built up across the offseason, this was a far from ideal way to start the season. The secondary looked extremely vulnerable, which does not bode well for the high-powered offenses looming on the schedule. The offensive line, as is tradition, struggled to get a push against an FCS opponent, which means the offense may be scrambling to make things happen once again.

We’ll take the win. Next time out better look a whole lot better, but it’ll be tough with No. 19 USF coming into town for a noon kickoff at the Rent on September 9th.