PISCATAWAY, N.J. (October 29, 2006) – Rutgers used two non-offensive touchdowns to help them stave off a very game Connecticut squad as the 15th-ranked Scarlet Knights defeated the Huskies, 24-13, Sunday evening before a crowd of 41,077 at Rutgers Stadium in a nationally-televised BIG EAST Conference game.
The Huskies drop to 3-5, 0-3 in the conference. The Scarlet Knights improve to 8-0, 3-0 in the league.
The contest was very much in doubt, with Rutgers nursing a 17-13 lead with 8:36 to play in the game, when Jamaal Westerman of Rutgers blocked a punt by UConn’s Chris Pavasaris (Needham, Mass.) and Quintero Frierson recovered in the end zone to give the Scarlet Knights a 24-13 lead. UConn’s last chance for a comeback was thwarted when Devin McCourty intercepted Husky starting signal caller D.J. Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) with less than three minutes to play and Rutgers ran the clock out.
The Huskies had furiously battled back from a 17-0 halftime deficit on the back of freshman running back Donald Brown II (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.). Making his first career start in place of the injured Terry Caulley (Lusby, Md.), Brown rushed for a career-high 199 yards on 28 carries, including two touchdowns. The highlight was a 65-yard scamper on the third play from scrimmage in the second half to get the Huskies on the board. The Huskies finished with 188 rushing yards in the game. The total marked the most yards allowed on the ground by Rutgers this season, which had entered the game 12th in the nation, allowing just 78.4 rushing yards per game.
Brown’s second touchdown capped an eight-play, 42-yard drive late in the third quarter that brought the Huskies to within four at 17-13. The score remained at 17-13 when a bad snap on the extra-point attempt forced UConn holder Matt Bonislawski (Natrona Heights, Pa.) to try and run the ball in and he was stopped.
The Huskies had several chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter but the Scarlet Knight defense became very stingy and Rutgers earned the victory.
Hernandez finished the game with eight completions in 17 attempts for 67 yards. He had one pass intercepted. He was making his first start since the Indiana game on September 23.
The Husky defense, which kept the high-powered Rutgers offense in check for most of the contest, was paced by junior cornerback Tyvon Branch (Cicero, N.Y.), who had his first interception of the season and a fumble recovery. Rutgers came into the contest eighth in the country in rushing offense at 204.7 yards per game and was held to a season-low 114 yards against the Huskies. Connecticut did a particularly solid job on Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who entered the game second in the nation with 160.6 yards per contest. The Huskies held Rice to a season-low 79 yards on 22 carries.
Rutgers took the opening kickoff of the contest and scored in seven plays. Rice raced around end from the five to complete the 59-yard drive and the Scarlet Knights led 7-0, just 4:22 into the contest. The teams traded punts before Hernandez led the Huskies into Rutgers territory. The drive stalled at the Rutgers 34, and senior Matt Nuzie (Trumbull, Conn.) missed a 51-yard field goal attempt that was long enough, but wide right.
The Huskies were keeping the Scarlet Knight offense in check, but Westerman sacked Hernandez, forcing him to fumble on his own 11 and Manny Collins was the beneficiary and ran into the end zone with the recovery to give the home squad a 14-0 lead. Jeremy Ito added a 51-yard field goal later in the half to give the Scarlet Knights a 17-0 lead at halftime.
The Huskies had one additional good scoring chance as Larry Taylor (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards to the Rutgers 31, but the return was negated by a holding penalty. The Huskies had the ball for 15:46 in the opening half, and was out-gained 162-119 in the first 30 minutes. Brown had 94 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
The Huskies will now have a brief respite before returning to the gridiron on Saturday, November 11. UConn will entertain league foe Pittsburgh at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. The game will be televised by WCTX-Channel 59 and SNY in the Connecticut area, and kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
w UConn is now 3-2 against Rutgers in recent years, including a 2-1 mark in Piscataway. All four of the previous games were settled by a touchdown or less.
w UConn is now 0-9 against ranked Division I-A teams. It marks the first time that UConn has faced ranked teams in consecutive weeks after playing then-No. 3 West Virginia on Oct. 20.
w UConn’s rushing total (188) tonight is the most allowed by Rutgers this year, topping the 169 by North Carolina on Sept. 2. The Scarlet Knights entered the game ranked 12 in the nation, yielding just 78.4 rushing yards per game.
w Meanwhile, Rutgers’ rushing total (114) is a season-low, topping the 124 yards against Navy on Sept. 29. RU entered the game eighth nationally in rushing.
w Tonight is the latest in the season that UConn has ever faced an undefeated Division I-A team. The previous best was set in its last game, Oct. 20 against 6-0 West Virginia. Prior to the past two weeks, the previous high was when UConn played 4-0 Miami (ranked No. 1) on Oct. 5, 2002 at the Orange Bowl.
w UConn has now played a game on every night of the week other than a Tuesday since Dec. 27, 2004. UConn entered the game tonight 6-4 on weeknights and 1-1 this year.
w There has not been a lead change in a UConn football game since the advantage swung twice against Rutgers on Oct. 22, 2005 at Rentschler Field.
w Donald Brown’s 199 yards tonight are a career high and the most by a UConn freshman since (Cornell Brockington had 186 against Western Michigan on Nov. 1, 2003…Terry Caulley had 192 at Iowa State on Nov. 23, 2002…Tory Taylor had 256 against Boston University of Nov. 4, 1995). Brown’s 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter is a career-long. The last 200-yard rushing game by a Husky was by Chris Bellamy when he ran for 212 at Kent State on Oct. 18, 2003.
w Donald Brown is the first rusher to go over 100 yards against Rutgers this year. RU entered the game ranked second in the nation in total defense and 12th against the run. The last time a rusher went over 100 yards against RU was Syracuse’s Walter Reyes in 2004.
w Tyvon Branch’s interception was his first of the year and the third of his career.
w True freshman Robert Vaughn made his first career start at safety.
w Freshman Donald Brown II, a native of near-by Atlantic Highlands, N.J. made his first career start at tailback.