Nov. 5, 2011
By Erika Wentzell
The University of Connecticut football team defeated Syracuse on Saturday by a 28-21 for the team’s fifth-consecutive victory over the Orange. A BIG EAST football matchup in November means one thing for UConn fans -- an exciting show.
Competition in the BIG EAST is coming to a boil as the end of the season approaches and the Huskies were in desperate need for this win. There is a tangible level of competition that exists between Syracuse and UConn in every sport that the schools face each other in. Fans were animated today as they packed into the Rent to watch the latest chapter of the Huskies vs. Orange rivalry unfold.
The stakes may have been a little higher on Saturday considering UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni was also the head coach at Syracuse for 14 seasons. Despite his long history with the Orange, Pasqualoni insisted that this win wasn’t any more satisfying than other BIG EAST victories.
“Just winning football is pretty special,” says Pasqualoni. “People don’t appreciate generally how hard it is to win these games. And any time you win its great.” Husky senior linebacker Sio Moore divulged that the win may have meant more than his coach lead on, “He downplayed it the whole way but we knew what it meant. It meant a lot for him and us to get that victory.”
The Huskies were able to find the endzone first in this game as they took a quick 7-0 lead just 1:24 in. The score was the first time since they faced Iowa State on September 16 that the Huskies drew first blood. Getting momentum early was a big factor in UConn winning today.
It’s not a secret that the Huskies are a second half team according to Pasqualoni. “We’ve been consistently, on offense, a different team in the second half, and in the third quarter. We’ve just got to be able to start the game that way.”
The team continues to work on this aspect of their game, but scoring first tonight is a step in the right direction.
An important development for the Huskies came from the career-high performance of redshirt freshman quarterback Scott McCummings. He was responsible for both fourth quarter touchdowns and a solid 59 rushing yards.
The young player from Natick, Mass., has big potential, and Saturday proved that the coaching staff was willing to give him a little more freedom to grow.
“Scotty is a big guy when he’s running with the ball,” says Pasqualoni. “And we just felt like it a was a good time to do it, a gut feeling, just a sense that we’re prepared for it. Let’s get him in the game and go for it.”
McCummings was glad to have the opportunity he was given Saturday. “The coaches have been showing a lot more confidence in me than in the past,” said the young QB, who has seemed to find his rhythm on the field today. “I felt like I was back in high school again. I was having fun out there. It was great. I’m glad I rose to the occasion and helped us get a win.”
Considering how talented he is in his first season, the Huskies should be optimistic that with continued development McCummings will be a key player for UConn in the future. McCummings played at the same high school as another QB who had success on every level -- a fellow by the name of Doug Flutie.
There are only three games, all BIG EAST matchups, remaining before the regular season wraps up. This means a lot of pressure for the Huskies to have a flawless record from here on out if they want to stay afloat in their conference race. Saturday’s win was huge for the team, and it will instill confidence in both the players and the fans.
Pasqualoni was adamant that UConn’s fans are a driving force in the team’s morale. “I thought the fans were great today,” said Pasqualoni. “Fantastic crowd, love them. What I love about this place is that the people in the state of Connecticut love the University of Connecticut. People have a unique love for this place and it makes it a great place for players and a great place for coaches.”