EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - University of Connecticut senior wide receiver Noel Thomas (Norwalk, Conn.) had a pair of touchdowns receptions as the Husky football team topped previously undefeated and No. 13 ranked Houston by a 20-17 score before a crowd of 26,879 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
UConn's record improves to 6-5 on the season as the Huskies gain bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2010 season. UConn is 4-3 in the American Athletic Conference while Houston falls to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the league.
The win is UConn's third over a team ranked in the Associated Press poll at the time of the game. The Huskies beat No. 19 Louisville on the road in 2012 and topped No. 11 USF at home in 2007.
The key turning play of the game was a 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth from junior Garrett Anderson (Walnut Creek, Calif.) on a trick play to Thomas. Anderson came to the UConn program as a quarterback, but has recently been playing out of the running back spot. He took a pitch from junior quarterback Tim Boyle (Brookfield, Conn.) and launched the TD pass that made it 20-10 with 9:48 to go.
Houston came right back and made it 20-17 as Brandon Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 94-yard to make it 20-17. The Husky defense held tight the rest of the game and as they stopped the Cougars on a fourth-and-nine from midfield with two minutes to go and sophomore cornerbackJamar Summers (East Orange, N.J.) clinched the win with an interception with 55 seconds left.
Boyle took over QB duties for the Huskies when a hard hit sent redshirt sophomore starter Bryant Shirreffs (Jefferson, Ga.) to the sidelines for the rest of the game. Boyle, who saw QB time in just one other game this year, was 12 of 22 in the air of 110 yards while sophomore running back Arkeel Newsome (Ansonia, Conn.) had 32 carries for 114 yards.
The Huskies opened the scoring on their first drive with a six-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a four-yard TD pass from Shirreffs to Thomas. Newsome had a 42-yard run in that drive.
The two teams traded second-quarter field goals as redshirt junior Bobby Puyol (North Palm Beach, Fla.) had a 25-yarder for the Huskies with 4:59 left in the half as the Huskies led 10-3. The only scoring of the third quarter came on a 39-yard FG from Puyol that made it 13-3.
Houston scored a touchdown on a 38-yard pass from Kyle Postma to Chance Allen to make it 13-10 Huskies with 13:55 to play.
Postma, playing in place of Heisman hopeful Greg Ward Jr., was 16 of 27 in the air for 190 yards with one TD and one interception and was sacked three times.
Ward, who rolled his left ankle a week ago against Memphis, came in during Houston's last drive. Postma, who engineered Houston's come-from-behind win over Memphis last week, could not do it again against UConn. The Cougars' next drive ended when his fourth-down pass from to a diving Demarcus Ayers was ruled out of bounds on a replay.
The Huskies conclude the regular season next Saturday when they travel to Temple for a 7:00 p.m, game on ESPNU and the UConn IMG Radio Network.
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