Saturday, November 10, 2012

UConn holds on for first Big East win

It wasn't pretty at the end but there were few complaints coming out of the UConn camp after Friday night's 24-17 victory over Pittsburgh except perhaps the belief that those outside the Huskies' inner circle were counting them out.

“It is a great feeling. We have been in four games this year when we lost the game by seven points or less,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “It is awfully nice to win under these circumstances.”

Coming into the game on a four-game losing streak and with all four of the games coming in the Big East, the UConn players knew that people outside the inner circle were already predicting that the Huskies would finish the season with seven straight losses and go winless in Big-East play.

“That is what got us motivated,” UConn senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth said. “Everybody was putting a fork in us.”

The tone was set on the first offensive play of the game as Chandler Whitmer ran a bootleg to his right and hit a wide-open Ryan Griffin for a 12-yard gain. Lyle McCombs would add 29 yards on five carries while Whitmer would hook up with Griffin two more times including a 2-yard touchdown to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 8:31 left in the first quarter.

“I think we just came out and answered the call tonight,” UConn junior offensive guard Steve Greene said. “We set the tempo early. It feels great. It showed what we were capable of on national television."

UConn, which had not scored a touchdown in the second half in its first four Big East games, appeared primed to finally hit pay dirt as a 39-yard run by McCombs got the Huskies into the red zone. But on second down and 7 at the 14, Whitmer badly overthrew Griffin. Jarred Holley intercepted the pass in the end zone.Whitmer, who was 19 of 25 for 213 yards, atoned for his mistake with a key third-down completion to Shakim Phillips to allow the Huskies to run out the clock.

Whitmer was 19 of 25 for 213 yards while McCombs ran for 120 yards. Yawin Smallwood had nine tackles including the 100th of the season while Sio Moore had a pair of sacks. UConn senior defensive end 

Trevardo Williams left the game with a shoulder injury but Pasqualoni said the injury was not serious and he doesn’t expect him to miss any time.

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