After a season full of late-game moments that went awry, UConn football earned its first win of the 2023 season on Saturday, beating Rice 38-31.
The Huskies scored 28 unanswered points across the second and third quarters after falling behind 14-0 quickly. The first Rice turnover gave the Huskies the ball on the two-yard line, while the second was a fumble returned for a touchdown. With four total turnovers, UConn was able to overcome being outgained 474-319 on the day.
Ta’quan Roberson led the Husky offense, completing 15 of 19 pass attempts for 215 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Justin Joly paced the receivers with seven catches for 96 yards. Jelani Stafford continued to contribute on both sides of the ball, stuffing in a pair of rushing touchdowns, adding a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery on the other side.
UConn’s offense was slow to get going, starting their first drive of the day in Rice territory but failing to convert on a field goal from the 33 yard line. While the Huskies punted the ball away twice, Rice’s high-flying offense got to work, scoring rushing touchdowns on two consecutive drives in the late first quarter to go up 14-0 early.
In the second quarter, Pryce Yates blindsided Rice quarterback JT Daniels, with Stafford recovering the fumble and punching in a touchdown two plays later. Daniels had an errant throw behind the line that was ruled a fumble on the ensuing Rice possession and this time Jackson Mitchell ran it in for a defensive touchdown.
UConn’s defense continued to hold the Owls hostage in their own stadium, forcing a three-and-out, and this time Ta’quan Roberson made them pay with a 41-yard strike to Cam Ross for a touchdown to put them in the lead for the first time that night, 21-14.
The Huskies picked up right where they left off after halftime, recovering a muffed Rice punt to set up Stafford’s second touchdown of the night and his team-leading fifth touchdown of the season.
Rice fought back in the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns aided by the poor tackling of the UConn defense, but Roberson was able to keep them at bay leading a three-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 59-yard touchdown pass to Justin Joly to push the lead to 38-28. It was a short pass that saw Joly cutting to the middle of the field; he broke a tackle and ran past the defense to get into the end zone to give UConn all the buffer it needed.
UConn football enters the bye week 1-5, building plenty of momentum for games against USF and Boston College in the weeks after.