September 21, 2013
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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns and junior linebakcer Desmond Morgan made a one-handed interception in the fourth quarter that swung the game Michigan's way and the 15th-ranked Wolverines topped the University of Connecticut by a 24-21 score before a sold out crowd of 42,704 at Rentschler Field. The game was the largest attended game in the history of the stadium.
UConn drops to 0-3 on the season while the Wolverines improve to 4-0. A week after Michigan needed a last-second stand to hold off Akron, Brendan Gibbons kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:36 left to give the Wolverines their first lead of the second half.
UConn junior Chandler Whitmer (Newnan, Ga.) threw two touchdowns and junior safety Ty-Meer Brown (McKeesport, Pa.) returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that put UConn up 21-7.
Quarterback Devin Gardner turned the ball over three times for Michigan and the Wolverines also muffed a punt inside their 10 that led to a UConn touchdown.
After UConn junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood (Worcester, Mass.) stopped Gardner short on a fourth-and-two at the Huskies 22 with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter, the record crowd at Rentschler Field was rocking and starting to believe an upset was in the making.
But Morgan made the play of the game, leaping high and snaring Whitmer's pass over the middle with his right hand.
"It was just a simple zone coverage," Morgan said. "I just dropped back and did what I was coached to do, kind of read off his eyes and lo and behold he threw it that way so I was just trying to jump up and make the play on it. Once I got the ball in my hands I was just trying to follow the blockers."
He returned it 29 yards to the 12. "That's going to be replayed a long time in Michigan history," Gardner said of Morgan's pick. On the next play Toussaint swept untouched around the left side to make it 21-21 with 9:49 left.
"We contained them for a long time but not long enough," UConn coach Paul Pasqualonisaid.
Michigan forced a three-and-out on the next series and got the ball back around midfield, but its drive stalled at the 4 and Gibbons made the short kick to give Michigan a three-point lead with 4:36 left. UConn's last drive reached midfield, but Michigan pushed the Huskies backward and they came up a 3 yards short on a fourth-and-29.
Michigan had three turnovers in the first half that helped give UConn a 14-7 lead. Turnover No. 4 came on its first possession of the second half. Gardner tried to sneak on a third-and-short, but as he slid down the line, he bumped into one of his linemen and the ball popped loose.
Brown picked up the ball and had a couple of teammates escorted him into the end zone.
Michigan finally responded with a drive, going 75 yards, the final 35 by Toussaint, who made it 21-14 with 5:37 left in the third.
"All the effort that was put into it from the university, to the fans to everyone who had a part of tonight's game showed everyone who was watching that this was true, big-time college football," Pasqualoni said. "Would have been great to win."
Gardner threw a first-quarter interception deep in UConn territory. He redeemed himself with a 17-yard touchdown run to give Michigan a 7-0 lead with 1:52 left in the first. UConn ended the quarter with one first down.
But Michigan couldn't take advantage and Whitmer through two TD passes in the second quarter to put UConn up 14-7 at half.
Gardner didn't complete a pass in the second quarter and for the second straight week Michigan looked disjointed against an inferior opponent.
"We've got a major league problem and we've got to fix it because that's not going to win championships," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.
UConn returns to action next Saturday when it travels to Buffalo for a 3:30 p.m. game on ESPN3 and the UConn IMG Radio Network.