UConn turned an expected blowout into a rock fight at Rentschler Field, pulling out a gutsy win against Fresno State, 19-14. True freshman quarterback Zion Turner led UConn (2-4) on a crucial late fourth-quarter drive to give the Huskies the lead for good.
With 8:26 left in the fourth quarter and UConn down 14-12, Turner and the Huskies took over on their 19-yard line and relied on the ground game led by running backs Robert Burns and Victor Rosa before connecting with wide receiver Kevens Clercius, who hauled in an impressive back-shoulder throw from Turner for a 40-yard gain and brought the Huskies onto the Bulldogs’ side of the field.
WHAT A CATCH!@_ZionTurner ➡️ @kevens_clercius pic.twitter.com/Tjp1N2YaCB— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) October 1, 2022
Turner then hit Justin Joly on a slant for another first down, and called his own number three plays later, using his legs for an 11-yard rush to keep the drive alive on 3rd and 10 and enter the red zone. By the time Devontae Houston scampered in for a 17-yard score, the Huskies had ripped off the longest drive for either team that day — an 11-play, 94-yard drive culminating with Houston’s score and giving the Huskies a 19-12 lead. It was Jim Mora’s first FBS win as UConn head coach.
Fresno State entered the game with usual starter Jake Haener out due to injury. The Bulldog offense sputtered out almost completely after opening the second half with a touchdown. In their final drive, after quarterback Logan Fife completed a 1-yard pass, his next attempt was incomplete before Huskies linebacker Jackson Mitchell came up the middle on 3rd and 9 for a key sack.
While the Bulldogs went for it on 4th and 13 and had a receiver open over the middle, the ball was dropped, securing UConn’s first FBS win since taking down UMass in 2019.
Haener’s absence was a major impact on the Bulldogs’ offense. The Husky defense also looked the strongest it has all year. Fresno State posted just 187 total yards on offense, with only 30 yards on the ground.
UConn started the singing in the first quarter on a 25-yard field goal from Noe Ruelas but trailed at half after Nick Remigio dodged six Huskies defenders on a punt return for an 87-yard touchdown return.
UConn answered with another Ruelas field goal on the ensuing drive as the offense started to get into rhythm, with offensive coordinator Nick Charlton using a two-quarterback set featuring Cale Millen alongside Turner. Millen took the snap and flipped to Turner on a reverse, who then hit a wide-open Clercius for a 39-yard gain and put the Huskies on Fresno State’s 10-yard line.
TRICK PLAY@_ZionTurner ➡️ @kevens_clercius for a UCONN FIRST DOWN! pic.twitter.com/VRfKCkLDAC— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) October 1, 2022
After the field goal pulled UConn within one, the Bulldogs took a 7-6 lead into halftime before opening up the second half with a 62-yard touchdown drive. The 1-yard run from Jordan Mims put them up, 14-6.
Following Fresno's touchdown, UConn and the Bulldogs traded turnovers before Turner took over in Fresno territory. After two rushes for 10 yards from Burns, Turner hit wide receiver Aaron Turner in the flat for a five-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-12 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt.
Aaron Turner was one of three Huskies to catch a pass in the victory, posting three receptions for 17 yards and a score. He joined Clercius (79 yards) and Joly (34 yards).
Without star running back Nate Carter due to a season-ending shoulder injury, Houston rose to the occasion in his first start with 105 yards on 23 carries and the score. The Huskies pounded Fresno State for 183 yards on the ground, with three rushers other than Houston — Burns, Victor Rosa, and Zion Turner — adding 20 or more yards.
Burns’ final yards of the day came on 4th and 2 with 24 seconds remaining, running up the middle for seven yards to prevent the Bulldogs from getting the ball back and sealing the Huskies’ upset win — a drastically different result from the 45-0 beatdown UConn received at Fresno State last year to open up the 2021 season.