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UConn football defeats UMass, 56-35

The Huskies comfortably took the win against an opponent we’ll be seeing a lot of in the future.

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

It was not a brilliant performance by any means, but it was more than good enough. UConn football grabbed its first FBS win in over two years, beating UMass 56-35 on the road.

UMass turned the ball over on its first three possessions, but UConn was only able to build a 7-0 lead off of it, missing a field goal and then turning it back over with a Jack Zergiotis interception. The Minutemen tied it up with a 58-yard touchdown drive, only to see UConn respond with a long touchdown drive of its own, making it 14-7. This scoring pace continued for most of the game. UMass got another touchdown on the very next drive to make it 14-14 before the Huskies pulled away with 21 unanswered points.

UConn finished with 539 yards of total offense, 326 of those coming on the ground. Art Thompkins was gaining yards in chunks early but it was Kevin Mensah who carried the load with 19 rushes for 164 yards (8.6 ypc) and FIVE touchdowns. Thompkins finished with 135 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies were able to run the ball at will which opened up their passing game and helped maintain their lead.

Zergiotis finished 18-of-27 with 198 passing yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick. He dodged a bullet on a few errant throws that were close to being intercepted, but also connected on some solid completions to help UConn convert five of its nine third downs and one out of two fourth-down attempts. His favorite target was Cameron Ross, who the freshman passer connected with for a 57-yard touchdown pass on a nice downfield throw. Ross finished with nine receptions for 120 yards and the score.

Randy Edsall’s squad took a 35-21 lead into the half, with Mensah logging three of his five touchdowns in the first 30 minutes.

UMass got a touchdown at the end of the first half and another at the beginning of the second half get within a score, but some trickery got UConn back on the board in the third quarter. From the 15 yard-line, Zergiotis sent the ball across the line of scrimmage to Quayvon Skanes, who threw a pass to Jay Rose in the end zone. Kevin Mensah added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good.

Earlier this week, the oddsmakers had UConn as 9.5 point favorites and closed around 10.5, depending on your source. Given their struggles across the season, UConn should feel encouraged by the fact that they took care of business against a clearly inferior team. Besides Wagner, this is the only opponent on this year’s schedule where a loss would have been truly unacceptable. Crisis avoided.

This is UConn’s first win over an FBS team in two seasons, since the Huskies beat Tulsa at home, 20-14, on October 21st, 2017. It’s Randy Edsall’s third win against an FBS program in his three seasons back in Storrs.

With the Husky football team entering FBS independence next year, expect to see a lot more of the Minutemen in the future. It’s likely there will be an annual schedule arrangement, with both schools helping each other maintain flexibility given the challenges of scheduling without a conference affiliation. The all-time series is now at 37-35 with UMass ahead.

UConn will be in action next week at home against Navy in a Friday night contest. The game will be at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.