EAST HARTFORD - Lou Spanos can be forgiven for dropping an F-bomb Saturday. Heck, after what the UConn football team has been through, it’s probably the least amount of swearing after a Husky game in two years.
Moments after UConn beat Yale 21-15 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, snapping a losing streak that stretched back 721 days, Spanos was speaking to the media while clutching the game ball he had just received from his players.
“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 interim UConn head coach then got a little colorful with his language.
He’s not the first coach to get a little over-excited in a news conference, or even the first from his school.
Spanos’ outburst wasn’t exactly like former UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun explaining in a post-game press conference his reasons for not recruiting Ryan Gomes some 15 years ago. (If you’re unfamiliar and you want to Google it, don’t do so in mixed company. It’s not exactly appropriate for younger ears).
Spanos’ story about his plans for the game ball were quite a bit more sweet when he just slipped a bit.
“There’s going to be a 24-hour rule. I’m going to tuck it away (Sunday) morning when I get up at 4 in the morning and on to (freaking) Middle Tennessee State,” Spanos said.
Before the rest of us move on, it’s worth noting why this day was worth an expletive or two.
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.
The Huskies have used three different starting quarterbacks this season, three different “starting” head coaches, and experienced at least three different ways to lose.
After breaking through, everyone in blue was rather spent.
“The scene, it was emotional. The players have fought so long and hard since we started this journey this year,” Spanos said.
And this leg of the journey wasn’t over until the clock hit zero. After that, actually.
After jumping ahead 21-0, UConn found itself clinging to a six-point lead in the final minute.
A penalty for having too many men on the field called on the UConn defense on what should have been the game’s final play - that almost represented a new and more painful way for UConn to lose - extended the game for an untimed down.
When Yale quarterback Nolan Grooms heaved the ball into a mass of players from both teams in the end zone, many Husky fans were almost certainly cursing under their breath. A few of those fans probably even let their minds drift back to the UConn men’s basketball team’s stunning loss to Yale in December 2014 when a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner in front of the visitor’s bench at Gampel Pavilion gave the Bulldogs a stunning 45-44 upset.
Even some of the UConn players on the field watching were a bit nervous.
“I was just silently praying to myself. But was confident the defense would be able to hold them off,” UConn quarterback Steven Krajewski said.
In the end, it turned out OK for the Huskies’ this time. Grooms’ Hail Mary was pulled down by UConn safety Tui Faumuina-Brown.
Faumuina’s interception was the fourth of the day for the Huskies, and resulted in as many dramatic exhales around the stadium as screams of joy.
“It was a lot of different emotions. We’re happy we got the win but it was just scary. We had to fight to the end. We’re relieved we got this first one,” said UConn cornerback Tre Wortham, who had two picks of his own. “I had a sigh of relief once I saw Tui came down with it.”
UConn entered play Saturday as one of three winless teams in the nation. Now - Arizona and UNLV both lost later on Saturday - there are only two.
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.
Yale (2-3), playing its first game against an FBS foe since it beat Army in 2014, was more than competitive, though the offenses from both teams looked rather inept for the first 30 or 40 percent of the game.
Spanos and his coaching staff didn’t exactly coach a perfect game. The play calling, especially early in the game, was highly questionable. The clock management late in the game, when the Huskies for some reason refused to milk the clock to protect their lead.
Still, there was reason to celebrate for the Huskies on Saturday. And swear.