It was a cold October night in East Hartford, Conn., but the University of Connecticut (4-5, 2-3 conference), found a way to warm things up on the field en route to a 31-13 win over East Carolina (4-5, 2-3 conference).
This game was played in front of a national television audience on ESPN, and even though there didn’t appear to be a huge crowd on hand, the Huskies played like everybody was watching.
Led by sophomore running back Arkeel Newsome and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, the UConn offense put up 404 totals yards and four touchdowns. Shirreffs was 12-of-21 for 184 yards a touchdown and an interception. That included this beautiful strike to Alec Bloom in the third quarter:
— American Football (@American_FB) October 31, 2015
Newsome had a tremendous night overall and added a highlight of his own on the way, ripping off a huge 90-yard run late in the third quarter that electrified the Huskies sideline. In all, the sophomore ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries:
While the Huskies’ offense put the points up on the board, a ton of credit has to go to the defense for shutting down an ECU unit that was putting up 29.9 points and 426 yards per game heading into this contest. Tonight against UConn, ECU was only able to muster up 340 total yards. Yes, the Pirates’ offense did score with just over nine minutes left in the game, but up until that point the only points scored by ECU came courtesy of this pick six from DaShawn Benton:
— American Football (@American_FB) October 30, 2015
Meanwhile, the Huskies were able to come away with four picks of their own, including two from cornerback Jamar Summers.
It was that kind of night for UConn.
While the Huskies played well enough to pick up the win, that’s not the only thing Bob Diaco’s team came away with. As a bi-product of this win, UConn was drastically able to change its momentum…and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Heading into this contest, the Huskies were 3-5 and ranked 5th in the AAC East Division. They were on a two-game skid, looking ahead to games at Tulane, at home vs. Houston and then at Temple to end the season. A lot happen in the next few weeks, but currently both Houston and Temple are ranked nationally in the AP Top 25.
There’s a big difference between heading into the final stretch of the season with positive momentum, and trying to get back on track against Tulsa and then hoping things can pick up in time for a big game against Houston. Now, with a good week of practice and another crisp game against Tulane, the Huskies have a chance to head into their final two games on a two-game win streak. They’ll also have some momentum under their belts.
Of course, to look past Tulane would be foolish—especially because no road game is easy— but without a doubt, UConn set itself up nicely for a run of sorts here at the end of the season. And while it’s not guaranteed—with games against two great teams coming up in Houston and Temple—a strong finish would be far less likely had the Huskies come out Friday night and lost to ECU on national television.
At the very least, UConn has given itself a chance to build some momentum; and that’s all you can ask for at this point of the season.