Saturday, November 01, 2014

Emotional day ends with much-needed UConn victory

It as not been the best of times for the members of the UConn football team in the last couple of years.

A year ago the Huskies opened the season with nine straight losses and this year UConn headed into November without owning a victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team. So you can excuse the Huskies if they were a little raucous in the locker room following Saturday's 37-29 win over a Central Florida team that came into the game with an 11-0 record in the first season and a half of the American Athletic Conference.

"It was a surreal feeling, you can't even explain due to the fact that you are with your brothers, you are singing, feeling untouchable for a few minutes," UConn sophomore cornerback Jhavon Williams said. "Sunday and Monday you watch the film and it is back to work. It doesn't last long but you have to live in the moment definitely."

UConn coach Bob Diaco had a rather unique response when I asked him to describe the scene in the locker room after the game.
"They feel pride," Diaco said. "We are excited to continue this game with all admiration and respect to Central Florida, Coach (George) O'Leary, they are spectacular. Maybe we will make a trophy, I will make it myself, put a big giant Husky and another big giant Knight, make a stand, put it in our hallway, the Civil Conflict. The loser, maybe they have to put either Nutmeg o the stand when it is not there and they will put a stack of oranges. I have admiration and respect for Central Florida and Coach O'Leary. I point to that program to the program that we can operate. We are going to look to that program, these guys do it the right way, these guys play the kind of football that we want to play and they play it every week."

UConn senior guard Gus Cruz admitted that the team drew inspiration from the halftime ceremony honoring the memory of slain former starting cornerback Jasper Howard, who had a memorial statue unveiled in his honor at halftime.

The Huskies certainly found ways to do things they haven't done all season - win the turnover battle, have more sacks that its opponent and answered scores after squandering the lead.

There were plenty of stars to go around.

Deshon Foxx changed the game when he came in to take some snaps at quarterback and raced 68 yards on his first play at QB. At that point UCF was completely dominating and that seemed to rattle the Knights. UConn's list of 100-yard rushers and receivers go back to 1968 and 1970 respectively and no player has had one of each in the same season. Foxx did it in consecutive weeks (120 receiving yards vs. East Carolina and 102 rushing yards today).

UConn came into the game with two interceptions. Junior safety Andrew Adams had three on his own and Jefferson Ashiru, who did not start for the first time since a Sept. 14, 2013 game against Maryland, had the other one.

Sophomore Noel Thomas had two touchdown catches giving him three over the last two games while Ron Johnson had his first two career rushing TDs.

Jamar Summers, making his first career start, had a huge blocked field goal to keep UCF from going up by two scores in the early going while Graham Stewart had 12 tackles and a key sack late.

Let's not forget Bobby Puyol's 43-yard field goal in horrendous conditions on the last play of the first half enabling the Huskies to take a 17-14 lead into the break.

All of this was done without two of the team's four captains as safety Byron Jones will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury and receiver Geremy Davis was held out due to an ankle injury he suffered in last week's loss to East Carolina.

Speaking of injuries, Diaco said Davis was close to being able to play while it looks like the Huskies will be without promising freshman linebacker/defensive end Luke Carrezola for the rest of the season due to a lower-leg injury.

Last but certainly not least, I rode up on the elevator with AD Warde Manuel before the game and jokingly asked him if he has taken the Michigan job yet and tongue planted firmly in cheek said "last night" He made it abundantly clear that he likes the job he has at UConn.


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