UConn is 8-1 for the first time in its 109 year football history
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (November 3, 2007) - Tyvon Branch (Cicero, N.Y.) returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to cap a 25-point scoring blitz in the first half and the Connecticut special teams made several big plays as the No.16/20 Huskies easily defeated Rutgers, 38-19, in a BIG EAST Conference football game Saturday evening before a sellout crowd of 40,000 at Rentschler Field.
The win, the Huskies’ third in a row, improves their record to 8-1 for the first time in school history, and a perfect 4-0 in conference play. Rutgers drops to 5-4, 2-3 in the league.
The Huskies offense was led by sophomore running back Donald Brown (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.), who rushed for a season-high 154 yards on 24 carries. Brown was a nightmare for the Scarlet Knights for the second season in a row, as he rushed for 199 yards in last year’s game at Rutgers. Junior quarterback Tyler Lorenzen (Fremont, Iowa) was his usual, efficient self. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Lorenzen added 67 yards on the ground.
The Connecticut special teams set the tone on the game’s initial possession. After Rutgers was held to a three-and-out, D.J. Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) blocked Jeremy Ito’s punt and the ball went through the end zone for a UConn safety. After the free kick, the Huskies marched right down the field, moving 53 yards on eight plays with the drive culminating on a two-yard pass to Steve Brouse (Selinsgrove, Pa.). Tony Ciaravino’s extra-point attempt was no good, and the Huskies led 8-0.
The teams traded field goals on the next two possessions, as Ito connected from 30, and Ciaravino was good from 43 and UConn led 11-3 with 4:52 to play in the first quarter. Late in the first quarter, Lorenzen hooked up with Terence Jeffers (Lawrenceville, Ga.) on two long passes, the second a 34-yard touchdown catch-and-run to put the Huskies up 18-3. After another Ito field goal, Branch took the ensuing kickoff and raced 97 yards for a touchdown. He became the first Husky to return two kickoffs in the same season for a touchdown (he accomplished the feat earlier against Akron), and he became the seventh player in BIG EAST history to do it. The Huskies led 25-6 and were never seriously challenged again.
Rutgers was able to move the ball against the Huskies (511 total yards; 343 passing and 168 rushing) but continually had to settle for Ito field goals (he made four of five). The Connecticut defense continued their bend-don’t-break attitude led by Branch and Dahna Deleston (East Hartford, Conn.), who each had 13 tackles.
Mike Teel was 32 for 52 passing for Rutgers, for 343 yards, while Ray Rice had 116 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground.
The Huskies finished their scoring on a 33-yard run by Brown and two more field goals by Ciaravino. Brown also had a 70-yard run from scrimmage in the game.
The Huskies will return to action next Saturday, November 10 when they travel to play at league foe Cincinnati. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and the contest will be nationally-televised by ESPNU.
- UConn is now 8-1 on the season. UConn has never been 8-1 in its 109-year long football history.
- With the win UConn is now 4-0 against BIG EAST schools this season. The Huskies have never had four BIG EAST wins in a season since joining the conference. This is the best record UConn has recorded in a conference since it went 6-2 in the Atlantic 10.
- UConn is now 24-8 at Rentschler Field. The Huskies are 6-0 this season at home. This ties for the most wins at home in a season all-time. The Huskies were 6-1 at Rentschler in 2004.
- Today marked the 21th sellout in 32 games UConn has played at Rentschler Field.
- Today marked the sixth time in nine games the Huskies have scored on their opening drive.
- UConn is 6-0 when they have scored in the opening drive this season.
- With the win UConn is now 9-18 all-time against Rutgers and 4-2 since 2001.
- UConn is now 12-5 in the month of November in the past five seasons.
- UConn has 19 interceptions this season. Entering the day UConn was tied for tops in the nation with Boston College, with 18 interceptions.
- D.J. Hernadez’s blocked punt in the first quarter was the first blocked punt by UConn since 2002 when Dwaun Black blocked a punt in the last game in Memorial Stadium on November 9 against Kent State.
- Tony Ciaravino’s 19 converted field goals puts him one field goal shy of the school record for most field goals in a season. The school record of 20 was set by Matt Nuzie in 2004.
- UConn’s 18 points in the first quarter is the most in the first quarter since the Huskies racked up 21 against Temple on October 23, 2004.
- Tyvon Branch’s 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown is his second of the season, the first time any Husky has run two back in the same season. He ran back another for 97 yards this season against Akron on September 29.
- Tyvon Branch’s two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season ties him for the most in BIG EAST history. It has now been done seven times, most recently by Nate Jones of Rutgers in 2002.
- Tyvon Branch's 184 yards on kickoff returns is a school record. It is the sixth most in BIG EAST history.
- Larry Taylor is now the leader in BIG EAST history with 86 punt returns, he has just past former Miami standout and NFL Pro-Bowler Santana Moss, who had 84 returns.
- Donald Brown’s 70 yard run was the longest run of his career.
- Donald Brown’s 154 yards rushing is the fifth 100-yard rushing game of his career and the second against Rutgers, last season he ran for 199 at Rutgers.
- Steve Brouse’s four receptions ties his career high for catches. He has caught four passes twice this season, most recently against Temple on September 15.
Post Game Quotes
University of Connecticut
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“I thought that was just a very good win out there tonight. I was very pleased with all three phases of the game tonight.
“Special teams was probably the soundest special teams we have had in a long, long time here, starting with the blocked punt by D.J. [Hernandez] and Tyvon [Branch’s] kick-off return, and really the yardage that we had on kick-off returns, four for 184 yards. Larry [Taylor] had a 25 yarder. Desi [Cullen] I thought did a good job of punting the ball tonight. I was very pleased with our special teams.
“Defensively, I thought there in the second quarter we really took some punches, but we held in there. We played outstanding red-zone defense to make them kick field goals and I think that was a big part of the game in the first half.
“Offensively, that might have been our best performance consistently for four quarters this year.
“So, when you put all those things together against a team like that, you can end up coming out with the score the way it was. It’s great to be 8-1 and 4-0 in the BIG EAST.”
Were you out of breath during the Donald Brown 70 yard run?
“No, but I didn’t want to go too fast. I was afraid I’d tweak a hamstring.”
On Donald Brown’s performance:
“Just outstanding. I’m very happy for him. That goes to show you what kind of young man he is. I’m sure that he was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to do some of the things that he had to do but, we always knew he would come back. In the first half, I saw where ‘Dre [Andre Dixon] came up a little lame the one time, so we got Donald in there and he had the hot hand. We went with the hot hand. It was good because he’s been a lot fresher than Andre, so it was good for him to go in there and see him do that. One hundred and 54 yards was outstanding. Again, it’s great we have both those guys because both of them are productive. We’re going to need both of them. I’m very proud of Donald for the way he’s handled the whole situation. We just kept working and went out there and had an outstanding night.”
How much of a factor was the wind?
“It was a pretty stiff wind. It was pretty stiff. There were times during the game where it died down a little bit where it wasn’t that big of a deal. We felt when we were going into the wind we could throw the ball. We didn’t want to throw the ball really that much down the field with that wind, but it was definitely a factor. I was kind of glad that they took the wind in the third quarter and then we had the wind for the fourth quarter. I knew if we could sustain the lead in the third quarter, I felt pretty good about what we would be able to do. Like I said, I thought it would be a factor if it came down to where we had to kick a field goal, I thought we would be kicking it with the wind as opposed to into the wind.”
Three straight wins against big name opponents, how does it feel?
“It definitely is a great thing. We have to give it to our fans for coming out and supporting us. They go crazy when the defense is on the field; sometimes they go crazy when we are on the field and they got to keep it down but got to take our hats off to our fans. We appreciate it a lot and it is a great place to play.”
On Donald Brown’s performance:
“I knew he would be ready; all season everyone has been wondering, what’s up with Donald and I have always said that he is ready and will come and make plays for us sometime. I told him that we needed him this game and he knew it. He told me “I’m here, I’m ready”. He got his chance to go in there and makes some plays and we kept giving him the ball and he did a great job.”
On time of offensive possession:
“It took a little momentum from the offense side of the ball but the defense did a great job holding them and they kicked a lot of field goals. That was huge for us and we capitalized in the third quarter and got things going.”
What does this game mean to you?
“It was a huge confidence boost; I was pretty down especially after the Louisville game but we were winning and that is all that matters.”
What did you do on the sideline when you knew that Andre was getting the ball?
“I just had to stay focused and encourage him. If I saw something to help him out, I would give him some pointers but he did a great job.”
When you broke that big run did you see Coach Edsall running down the sideline with you?
“I saw something on my left and it was Coach Edsall. I saw something that was on my right and it was the guy trying to catch me. It was pretty funny.”
How was after this game compared to last week?
“We are always excited about a win and we are always looking forward to the next step after the game is over. It is pretty much the same thing this week.”
On being in first place in the Big East in November:
"In football you want to follow a pattern. We’re just getting better every week. We go from being a good team in September, better team in October, and a great team in November and I think that we’re definitely following that pattern. It’s definitely a tremendous accomplishment but we’re not done yet, we’ve got a lot of work to do."
On the defense being so effective in the Red Zone:
"Ray Rice obviously is tremendously talented, a legitimate Heisman candidate, you’re gonna give up some yards. I think that our defense is built around bending but not breaking. I think the reason we’re so effective in the Red Zone is just a mentality thing."
On UConn having any Heisman candidates.
"Kind of a loaded question, I think Andre Dixon is a tremendous talent but I think with us it’s all about the team effort. If you could give a Heisman to the whole team, then I think that we do have Heisman candidates."
On feeling disrespected:
"I think teams might overlook us a bit because we’re not a traditional football school."
On the success of the team:
"I feel like we’re playing a lot better football in all aspects of the game; offense, defense, and special teams. There’s a lot of passion in the locker room and we fell like together we can do anything."
On being able to play after last season:
"I feel like this is a great thing, I really appreciate the opportunity and every day I thank God, I thank Coach Edsall and that’s why I go out and play hard for my team."
On the defense being on the field for 21 minutes in the first half:
"Coach Martin and Coach Wilson that’s what they prepare us for so we go out there and do what we’ve gotta do. We just go there and play ball. We can’t control what happens, we just have to go out there and if that’s the situation that we’re in, we can’t change that and that’s what we did."
On the success of the defense in the Red Zone:
"We’re a good defensive team, what can I say? All of the work in the offseason, we see this is where it pays off. We expect those situations."
On Donald Brown:
"Oh yeah, that young man came to run today. That’s what you expect of him and I saw him before the game today, he just had that look in his eye. He just came up big today."
On the three game winning streak being any more magical, all of which were home games:
"At the beginning of the season we said we want to go out and win every week. We can’t expect anything less."
HEAD COACH GREG SCHIANO
On the play of the Rutgers special teams:
“I don’t know if we could’ve played any worse at the beginning of the game with our special teams. Missed tackles. Certainly, the fielding of the football. The blocked punt. These are not sophisticated things. We just didn’t get it done. There is zero excuse for it.”
On the early mistakes committed by Rutgers and their effect on the game:
“No, the early mistakes did not put us in a hole but it makes it awfully hard to win. If I’m sitting here and we’ve won than we really overcame a lot of obstacles to win that game. You’re not supposed to win a game when you do the things we did. Statistics mean nothing. Playing the game and winning the game – that’s what its about… You go back to the beginning of the game and it’s 2nd & 20 [for the UConn offense] and we get a DPI. You can’t let people out of a hole like that. Not when a team like Connecticut is playing the way they’re playing. They got it going on right now as far as everything kind of clicking. You can’t give teams like that a chance and we did.”
On the continuing problems for the Rutgers offense in the red zone, resulting in only one TD on the night:
“We need to figure it out quickly. We put up 500 yards in offense and can’t score when you get in the red zone - that’s an issue. We certainly got to look at it, as if we hadn’t? That’s all we do. It’s not working so we got to figure out how to get it to work.”
RB RAY RICE
On the lack of touches of the ball in the second half:
“I’m going to go with whatever decision coach makes. It’s my job to be in the passing game as well.”
On the difference between the record of last year’s team – and the breaks that don’t seem to be going their way - versus this season:
“There’s a fine line between winning and losing. There were plays out there and whether it was miscommunication and all that, we just weren’t communicating. Right now, its tough to tell where we’re at - I guess we just have to go back home and look forward to these next three games.”