On a glorious warm, sunny fall afternoon far more reminiscent of Opening Day than the final home game of the season, tailback Lyle McCombs and quarterback Scott McCummings ran for two touchdowns apiece as the University of Connecticut crushed Rutgers 40-22 before a Senior Day crowd of 37,857 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Connecticut improved to 5-6 overall and 3-3 in Big East play, and kept its postseason hopes alive. Rutgers ends its season 8-4, 4-3.
Traditionally slow starters, the Huskies reversed that trend by jumping out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. After winning the coin toss and opting to kick, a jarring hit by Huskies’ linebacker Sio Moore forced Rutgers tailback Jawan Jamison to fumble on the Scarlet Knights‘ third play from scrimmage, with Jesse Joseph recovering the ball on the Rutgers 24.
Two handoffs to McCombs later, the redshirt freshman tailback was in the end zone, and the Huskies were up 6-0. Dave Teggart added the point after, and UConn led 7-0 just over two minutes into the contest.
On the Scarlet Knights’ next possession the Huskies once again forced a turnover–this time a pick by safety Ty-Meer Brown.
Overall, the Huskies forced six Rutgers’ turnovers, three leading directly to touchdowns, including a nine-yard fumble return by senior defensive tackle Kendall Reyes in the second period. In addition, junior Nick Williams had 158 return yards (128 kick off return yards; 30 punt return yards) for Connecticut, giving the Huskies excellent field condition for much of the afternoon.
Trailing 40-10 entering the fourth quarter, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano replaced Dodd with freshman Gary Nova over center, and the move paid dividends. Nova completed 11-of-18 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns–all in the final period.
Rutgers’ junior wideout Mark Harrison, the former Bunnell High of Stratford star who at one point was projected as a high-round NFL draft pick, did not catch a pass.
McCombs, who finished with 95 yards rushing on 20 carries, now has 1,109 yards on the season. It is the fourth straight season a Husky runner has broken the 1,000-yard barrier. Starting quarterback Johnny McEntee was 10-for-16 with 90 yards passing, while McCummings, who directs the Huskies’ run package, ran the ball 10 times for 47 yards.
Up next for the Huskies is a trip to Cincinnati and a date with the Bearcats. Kick-off is at noon, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
UConn’s mission is simple: Win and be eligible for a postseason bowl invitation, or lose and begin to prepare for next season. Meanwhile, the Bearcats (8-3 overall, 4-2 in conference play) can clinch a tie for the Big East title with a win, and remain in contention for a BCS Bowl Game. With the loss, while Rutgers will playing in a bowl game, it just won’t be a BCS Bowl.
“[The performance against Rutgers is] good motivation for the Cincinnati game as we try to make a bowl game,” said senior wideout Kashif Moore, one of 11 Husky seniors who played their last game at The Rent. “It was important to beat one of the top teams that was looking to make a BCS game.”