Look, I'll be the first one to admit that I had written off the 2012 season for the UConn Huskies football team. And while they were holding on to the fourth quarter lead on Saturday, I still wasn't sold that they would win.
But hey, they proved me and all the doubters wrong.
Chad Christian's third field goal of the game, this one in triple overtime, gave UConn a 23-20 upset win over the No. 20 Louisville Cardinals in front of 45,618 on Senior Day at Papa John's Cardinals Stadium in Louisville, KY.
UConn improves to 5-6 (2-4 Big East) and remains alive for the postseason. All they need to do is win over Cincinnati next Saturday and they become bowl-eligible. It's the second straight loss for the Cardinals who fall to 9-2 (4-2).
This was a game where the UConn defense really needed to be strong like it has been this season despite the under .500 record. The offense was strong in the first half, inept in the second half and came alive under Johnny McEntee in the overtime periods.
McEntee took over for Chandler Whitmer who suffered an upper-body injury and didn't return to the game
UConn got it done in the first half with a strong rushing effort by Lyle McCombs. He's really come along the past few weeks and it has helped UConn out immensely. They also got it done with a strong defensive effort as they shut down the Cardinals running game and forced Bridgewater to throw the ball a lot more than then the Louisville game plan probably called for.
The Huskies defense kept the Cardinals off the board until the fourth quarter when Bridgewater led them down the field before the drive stalled and they settled for a field goal. After UConn got the ball after they stopped a fake punt, they were unable to do anything offensively.
Cole Wagner had his punt downed at the Cardinals eight yard line. From there, Bridgewater led them down the field for the game-tying touchdown with just seconds on the clock.
In the first overtime, the two teams traded field goals. In the second overtime, McEntee hit Shakim Phillips for a touchdown. But on the first play from scrimmage, Bridgewater hit DeVante Parker for a 25-yard touchdown to tie the game.
In the third overtime, Louisville was driving down and had third and goal at the UConn five-yard line when Blidi Wreh-Wilson picked off Bridgewater in the end zone. UConn then ran McCombs three times to set it up for Christian's game-winning field goal.
We can say what we want about this team. They really never give up. And because of that they still have a chance to play in a bowl game.
You know the seniors are going to want to win the final game so they get a chance to play one more. So I fully expect UConn to play a complete game next week. The only question will be is who at the helm, Whitmer or McEntee.
But for now, a win is a win and it's a nice feeling.
CON - 05:28 - Chad Christen 39 Yd Field Goal
CON - 10:20 - Nick Williams 3 Yd Run. (Chad Christen Kick)
LOU - 11:40 - John Wallace 19 Yd Field Goal
LOU - 00:21 - DeVante Parker 6 Yd Pass From Teddy Bridgewater. (John Wallace Kick)
LOU - John Wallace 37 Yd Field Goal
CON - Chad Christen 37 Yd Field Goal
CON - Shakim Phillips 3 Yd Pass From Johnny McEntee. (Chad Christen Kick)
LOU - DeVante Parker 25 Yd Pass From Teddy Bridgewater. (John Wallace Kick)
CON - Chad Christen 30 Yd Field Goal
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Offensive Player of the Game:
Chad Christen hit three field goals on the day, including two in overtime. One of those was the game-winner in the third overtime.
Defensive Players of the Game:
Blidi Wreh-Wilson picks up this honor by virtue of his interception of Teddy Bridgewater in the third overtime. He also had five tackles and four pass breakups.
Turning Point(s) of the Game:
Blidi-Wreh Wilson's interception of Teddy Bridgewater in the third overtime to give UConn the ball with a chance to win it on their possession which they did.
Chandler Whitmer was 7-of-21 for just 72 yards and was intercepted once. Johnny McEntee was 2-of-7 for 20 yards and one touchdown pass. Lyle McCombs had 29 rushes for 133 yards and two catches for 33 yards. Nick Williams had three rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown. John Delahunt had two catches for 36 yards. Shakim Phillips had two catches for seven yards and a touchdown.
Dwayne Gratz, Yawin Smallwood and Jory Johnson led the Huskies with 11 tackles each. Gratz added three pass breakups while Smallwood had two tackles for a loss of 10 yards. Trevardo Williams had seven tackles and three sacks. Ryan Wirth had six tackles and a sack while Julian Campenni had two tackles and a sack.
Special Teams Notes:
Chad Christian made both of his extra point tries and all three of his field goals (39, 37, 30). None of his three kickoffs went for touchbacks. Cole Wagner averaged 43,8 yards on 10 punts. One of them was downed inside the 20 and two of them went for touchbacks. Nick Williams had three kickoff returns for 34 yards.
Gus Cruz suffered an undisclosed injury but did return to the game.
Chandler Whitmer suffered an upper body injury and didn't return to the game.
Jory Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury but did return to the game
Yawin Smallwood suffered an undisclosed injury but did return to the game.
Trevardo Williams suffered a leg injury.
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered an upper body injury and returned to the game. He then suffered a leg injury but did return to the game as well.
Referee: T. Jones • Umpire: R. Feeney III • Linesman: T. Considine • Line judge: K. Codey • Back judge: B. Platt • Field judge: D. Gallagher • Side judge: G. Liotus
Here are the postgame notes from the UConn Sports Information Department:
- UConn held its opponent scoreless in the first half for fourth time this season and second straight game
- Connecticut faced a ranked opponent for the second time this season, marking the first time since 2009 that UConn has faced more than one team in the top-25
- Huskies have outscored opponents 122-74 in the first half
- After four total punts, UConn picked up game’s first first down on a 29-yard run by redshirt-sophomore Lyle McCombs
- McCombs rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries in the first half; nearly his yearly per game average (74.1)
- Redshirt-freshman Julian Campenni picked up his first career sack in the third quarter
- UConn’s four third-quarter drives consumed just 4:36
- Redshirt-senior quarterback Johnny McEntee made his first appearance since season opener vs. Massachusetts (Aug. 30)
- In the second half, Connecticut quarterbacks completed just one pass on 11 attempts
- UConn has not scored a second half touchdown in BIG EAST play
- The Huskies last second-half TD came on a run by McCombs at the 5:03 mark of the third quarter against Buffalo (Sep. 29)
- Last game for UConn to go more than one overtime was at Notre Dame (Nov. 21, 2009)
- Redshirt-sophomore Shakim Phillips scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard reception in the second overtime
- Last three overtime game came at home against Villanova (Oct. 16, 1999); first in UConn’s FBS era
- Redshirt-senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson got his first interception of the season in the third OT and eighth career
- Redshirt-junior kicker Chad Christen’s game-winning field goal came from 30 yard out; putting him at 12-for-15 from inside 50 yards
- UConn is now 3-1 in BIG EAST overtime games
- First win over a ranked opponent since No. 11 USF (Oct. 27, 2007) and only second in program history
- UConn won back-to-back games for the first time under head coach Paul Pasqualoni and for the first time since winning five-straight in 2010
- McCombs reached the 100-yard mark for the third time this season and for the second-straight game
Here are Louisville's postgame notes.
Big East Games and Results:
Friday, November 23
South Florida 10
Saturday, November 24
(18) Rutgers 6
Things to Work On:
- Get healthy. With all of the injuries suffered by the Huskies, you hope that none of them are serious and they are all back for the final regular season game.
- Come up with the ultimate game plan. If UConn wants a chance to play in a bowl game, Coach Pasqualoni and his coordinators need to come up with the ultimate game plan to win next Saturday.
The Huskies return home to Rentschler Field on Saturday when they'll host the Cincinnati Bearcats. Kickoff is TBA