Huskies defeat Yale to end winning drought

Published on Sunday, 17 October 2021 20:59

Journal Inquirer

EAST HARTFORD -- The UConn football team’s drought is over. The Huskies were winners for the first time in 721 days.

They beat Yale 21-15 Saturday afternoon at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, ending a lengthy, painful losing streak. It had to hang on until the final play, however, surrendering 15 unanswered points and nearly six or seven more.

UConn (1-7) had lost 11 straight games dating back two seasons. Not since an Oct. 26, 2019, win over UMass had the Huskies left the field with more points than their opponent.

UConn quarterback Steven Krajewski threw two touchdown passes and scored a third on the ground. Krajewski completed 21 of his 32 passes for 199 yards.

Kevin Mensah had a team-high 59 yards rushing for the Huskies.

The Huskies didn’t have victory secured until the final moments.

Yale (2-3), playing its first game against an FBS foe since it beat Army in 2014, scored with 4:30 to play in the game to make things interesting. Quarterback Nolan Grooms hit Chase Nenad on a 60-yard touchdown pass down the sidelines in front of the UConn bench.

Kicker Jack Bosman missed the PAT, however, and left the Bulldogs trailing by six.

UConn quickly went three-and-out with its next possession, punting the ball back to Yale for one more chance. Yale converted a dramatic fourth-and-11 to keep the drive alive, and a substitution penalty on the UConn defense gave the Bulldogs one extra play with no time left on the clock.

UConn safety Tui Faumuina-Brown intercepted Grooms’ heave into the end zone, setting off a celebration by the hosts.

UConn interim head coach Lou Spanos was holding the game ball during his time after the game speaking with the media.

“The locker room is sacred. The guys, they gave me the game ball. It’s the best ball I ever had. I’m going to be sleeping with this ball tonight," Spanos said.

The in-state rivals, renewing their dormant football series after nearly a quarter century, appeared for much of the first half to be headed to a scoreless tie.

UConn scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead at the half.

The Huskies made it a three-score margin with their first possession of the second half. Krajewski ran the ball in from 20 yards out to make it 21-0.

The Bulldogs did respond with a pair of third-quarter scores, the first a long Jack Bosman field goal and the second a short Zane Dudek touchdown run. Yale failed to convert the two-point conversion on the latter, and entered the fourth quarter trailing 21-9.

UConn entered play Saturday as one of three winless teams in the nation. Arizona and UNLV each played games later on Saturday hoping to earn their first wins.

The Huskies have still lost their last 10 games against FBS foes, and 32 of their last 33, but that’s a statistic to fret over another day for UConn fans. The fact that their team didn’t have to absorb the embarrassment of a second loss to an FCS opponent this season was rather comforting.

The Huskies also can celebrate avoiding the program’s first winless season since the 1932 campaign ended with an 0-6-2 record. They also avoided the worst start to a season in team history, which happened when the 2013 team started 0-9.

The first points of the game didn’t go on the scoreboard until just over five minutes until halftime. That’s when Krajewski found a wide open Keelan Marion with a 63-yard touchdown pass to put the Huskies up 7-0.

As slowly as the UConn offense started, its defense was stout throughout. The Huskies intercepted Yale three times in the first half, including two by cornerback Tre Wortham. Wortham’s second pick led to UConn’s second score.

Krajewski hit Kevens Clercius with a 14-yard strike to make it 14-0 just before halftime. It was the only play either team would run in the red zone during the first half of play.

Both offenses struggled mightily until nearly halftime. Midway through the second quarter Yale had gained 60 yards and UConn 59.

The closest either team came to scoring early were on long field goal attempts. Yale ran a fake on its 45-yard attempt, but holder Nolan Grooms’ pass attempt was a bit too long. UConn had its 47-yard attempt blocked by Yale’s Tate Goodyear -- though that game after an odd off-tackle run on third-and-7 the play before from the Huskies.

Lou Spanos, who missed last week’s loss to UMass after he tested positive for COVID-19, returned to the sidelines on Saturday. UConn offensive tackle and captain Ryan Van Demark, like his coach, cleared quarantine prior Saturday’s game after missing the UMass debacle. But he hadn’t practiced all week and didn’t play against the Bulldogs.

NOTES: UConn tight end Jay Rose missed the game. He was in “COVID protocol” according a UConn official. … Two of Yale's best players, DE Osorachukwu Ifesinachukwu and LT Nick Gargiulo, missed the game due to injuries. … UConn has added a quarterback to its gameday roster. Jacob Drena, a freshman walk-on from Southington, was in uniform No. 13 Saturday. … UConn long-snapper Brian Keating, one of the team’s captains, was out of action for a fourth straight game due to injury. Keating was in attendance, however, and was on the sidelines boisterously encouraging his teammates. … Cornerback Jeremy Lucien (concussion) missed the game for UConn as well. … UConn’s last shutout victory came Aug. 30, 2012, when it beat UMass 37-0.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Sunday, 17 October 2021 20:59. Updated: Sunday, 17 October 2021 21:02.