EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - University of Connecticut sophomore tailback Arkeel Newsome (Ansonia, Conn.) rushed for 179yards with 244 all-purpose yards to lead the Husky football team to a 31-13 win over East Carolina on Friday night before a crowd of 23,168 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
The Huskies improve to 4-5 on the season and are 2-3 in American Athletic Conference play while the Pirates are also and identical 4-5 and 2-3.
Late in the third quarter, Newsome appeared hemmed in at his team's 10-yard line, but found a seam on the right side of the line and broke free for a 90-yard third-quarter touchdown run that gave UConn a 24-6 lead and control of the game. The rush was the fourth-longest in school history.
"It was almost an arm tackle, but I was like, 'I gotta go, I gotta go," he said. "All I saw was green. My eyes got really big."
The Huskies have now doubled their win total from a year ago and need just two more to become bowl eligible.
"We took another step forward as a team this week," UConn head coach Bob Diaco said. "We got better and we grew."
Newsome also had a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave UConn a 10-6 lead - which was the halftime score.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Bryant Shirreffs (Jeffreson, Ga.) completed 12 of 21 passes for 184 yards with one passing touchdown and a three-yard dive into the end zone in the fourth quarter that gave the Huskies their final points.
Marquez Grayson ran for a career-high 87 yards on nine carries for East Carolina, which has lost three of its last four.
Pirate quarterback James Summers, who has been sharing duties with Blake Kemp, started for the third time in his career and played into the fourth quarter. He was 12 of 27 for 87 yards and an interception before giving way to Kemp. Kemp ran for a two-yard touchdown after DeShaun Amos recovered a fumble to pull the Pirates to within 11 points, but he also threw three of East Carolina's four picks.
"We needed some offense and wanted to give James a little bit longer look and some longer reps, and then went with Blake" said East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeil. "Blake came up short."
The Huskies, who gave up 612 yards in a loss to Cincinnati a week ago, held the Pirates to 340 yards and just 137 through the air.
East Carolina's DeShawn Benton opened the scoring with 5:15 left to go in the first quarter on 32-yard interception return, but the extra-point attempt was blocked.
UConn responded by scoring the next 24 points - starting with their longest drive of the season, 94-yards, to take 10-6 lead into halftime. They were helped by two ECU penalties. A targeting call after a 29-yard catch by freshman Hergy Mayala (Montreal, Que.) led to safety Travon Simmons' ejection and set the Huskies up on the Pirate's 11 yard line. Corner Josh Hawkins was later called for interference in the end zone, setting up set up Newsome's 2-yard touchdown run.
Shirreffs engineered an eight-play 66-yard drive in the third quarter, hitting sophomore tight end Alec Bloom (Ligonier, Pa.) over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass that put the Huskies up 17-6.
"That's just the best feeling," Shirreffs said. "We need big plays like that and I feel like that's been something we've been lacking all season."
The Huskies return to action next Saturday when they travel to Tulane for a 4 p.m. game on ESPNews and the UConn IMG Radio Network.