EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - UConn junior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (Jefferson, Ga.) passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 52 to lead the UConn football team to a 20-9 win over Cincinnati on Saturday before a crowd of 24,169 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
The Huskies improve their record to 3-3 with the win and are 1-2 in the American Athletic Conference while the Bearcats are also 3-3 with a 0-3 league mark.
The UConn defense was impressive all day as it limited Cincinnati to just two rushing yards and a minus-20 mark over the last three quarters. The minus-two yards was the sixth-best rushing defense day in UConn school history and the best since it held Rutgers to minus-nine in 2011.
Cincinnati went out to a 9-0 lead in the game on three second-quarter field goal from Josh Pasley - of 25, 43 and 26 yards. The UConn defense was tough on the goal line as Cincinnati failed to convert two first-and-goals and a first-and-ten from the UConn 25 into touchdowns.
The Huskies got a spark at the end of the first half as Shirreffs connected with sophomore Tyraiq Beals (East Orange, N.J.) on a 59-yard touchdown pass with 28 second left to halftime for a 9-7 score at intermission.
''That energized everybody,'' Beals said. ''Everybody stood up. We got our heads back in the game and we went rolling from there.''
All the scoring belonged to UConn in the second half as the Huskies took the lead on a 26-yard TD pass from Shirreffs to senior wide receiver Noel Thomas (Norwalk, Conn.) that capped a 13 play-88 yard drive to make it 14-9 Huskies with 6:29 to play in the third quarter.
Thomas led UConn in receiving with nine receptions for 108 yards - his third-straight 100-yard receiving game and his fourth of the season and fifth of his career.
Senior kicker Bobby Puyol (North Palm Beach, Fla.) rounded out the scoring with a 30-yard field goal with 41 seconds to go in the third quarter and a 23-yard with 3:08 to play. Both field goals came after time consuming drives - the first was 3:13 and covered 76 yards while the final one took 16 plays, 74 yards in 6:49.
''We took off a lot of time, I would say that's a big improvement over what we've done in the past,'' said Shirreffs.
That first FG drive featured a 67-yard rush from the UConn 11-yard line by junior running back Akreel Newsome (Ansonia, Conn.), who finished the day with 14 carries to lead all rushers with 116 yards. It was the third 100-yard rushing game of Newsome's career.
Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore, coming back from an ankle injury, threw for 315 yards, but was intercepted twice.
UConn's last win over Cincinnati came in November 2010, the season the Huskies ended up in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
''When you go on the road and they give you an opportunity to score points early and you don't take advantage of it, it usually comes back to haunt you,'' Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. The Huskies had three sacks in the game and a total of five tackles for a loss.
UConn returns to action next Saturday when it travels to USF for a 7 p.m. game on the CBS Sports Network and the UConn IMG Radio Network. The Bulls are 5-1 on the season and lead the American East Division with a 2-0 league record.