Nov. 24, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - University of Connecticut redshirt senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Edinboro, Pa.) knew the ball would eventually come his way. The Connecticut cornerback just wanted to make sure he was in the right position to make a play.
Wilson's first interception of the season came in the third overtime Saturday and helped the Huskies upset No. 19 Louisville by a 23-20 score before a crowd of 45,618 at Papa John's Cardinal Stdaium.
On third and goal from Connecticut's five, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked for DeVante Parker in the end zone. His pass was slightly behind his receiver and Wreh-Wilson, one of the top cornerbacks in the country, read it perfectly to make the pickoff.
Four plays later, UConn redshirt junior Chad Christen (Etters, Pa.) kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Huskies their second-straight win. The Huskies are now 5-6 overall and 2-4 on the season. UConn closes out the regular seaosn on Saturday against Rentschler Field against Cincinnati at 3:30 p.m. and a win would make the Huskies bowl eligible. The game will be televised regionally by ABC and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Network.
The win for the Huskies was just the second in program history over a ranked team and the first since a win over USF in 2007. Louisville fell to 9-2 overall and 4-2 in the BIG EAST.
"I just know in the red zone they like to go back-shoulder on the fade ball and I had the guy across from me," Wreh-Wilson said. "On the play before, they ran a similar route and I played it the same way.
"This time, the ball came to me. I flattened him out and didn't let him go upfield. I pushed him toward the sideline."
"It's tough when you lose one like that, the way we battled back to get the game into overtime," Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said.
The Huskies' defense made a 10-0 lead stand for more than three quarters before the Cardinals regrouped in the fourth behind Bridgewater. Although Louisville outgained Connecticut 401-241, the Huskies made the stand they needed at the right time.
"We were just looking for a few points in the second half and weren't able to come up with points in the third and fourth quarters," Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I thought our guys hung in there on pride and with character and how hard they fought in this game.
"We just have to play the overtime. As a coach you just figure out how you can get in position to try and win the game and give the kids a chance to score some points and stop them on defense. We were fortunate here today and we came out ahead in a tough game."
UConn senior quarterback Johnny McEntee (Fullerton, Calif.) relieved injured redshirt sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer (Newnan, Ga.) in the fourth quarter and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore Shakim Phillips (Pattreson, N.J.) in the second OT. Redshirt sophomore Lyle McCombs (Staten Island, N.Y.) rushed for 133 yards on 29 carries and senior Nick Williams (East Windsor, N.J.) scored on a three-yard run to put the Huskies up 10-0. Christen gave Connecticut its first lead with a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter.
It was nearly a storybook comeback for Bridgewater, who sustained a broken left wrist on a second-quarter sack by redshirt senior linebacker Sio Moore (Apex, N.C.) and sat out most of the third quarter. The sophomore returned to lead Louisville's fourth-quarter rally and force overtime with a six-yard touchdown pass to Parker with 21 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bridgewater finished 30 of 53 passing for 331 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times along with the game-changing interception. Louisville, which lost leading rusher Senorise Perry two weeks ago with a torn ACL, gained 27 yards rushing.
"The way we were blocking, no running back could have been a difference-maker," Strong said.
For Connecticut, that was nothing new. The Huskies entered the game with the nation's ninth-ranked defense and was No. 11 against the run at 108 yards allowed per game. They applied those strengths early and often against the Cardinals, who had the conference's top scoring offense.
Louisville was outgained 160-88 in the first half while being shut out for the first time since Pittsburgh did it here a year ago. Bridgewater's timing and mechanics looked particularly off with passes either underthrown or overthrown.
The Huskies took advantage of their limited offensive opportunities. After two three-and-out drives, Connecticut moved 51 yards in eight plays to set up Christen's 39-yard field goal. Two drives later it was 10-0 as the Huskies drove 66 yards in 10 plays ending in Williams' three-yard touchdown run.
The lead stood until Bridgewater's return inspired the Cardinals late in the third quarter. After John Wallace's 19-yard field goal early in the fourth, Bridgewater directed a 92-yard, 13-play drive kept alive by a 28-yard pass to Eli Rogers and a nine-yarder to Wright for first down at the Huskies' 26.
A 14-yard pass to Wright and a face mask foul penalty on Connecticut set up first-and-goal at the six, and Bridgewater found a wide-open Parker in the end zone.