Jeff Jacobs: Huskies Nearly Pull Off The Upset Against Michigan

EAST HARTFORD —If they played like this every game, they wouldn't be 0-3. If they played like this every game, Paul Pasqualoni wouldn't be 10-17 since taking over in 2011 and his job wouldn't be hanging by a thread or two.

   If the Rentschler Field fans were into every game like this one, there wouldn't be eyes rolling when UConn is introduced into the national football conversation. If the atmosphere was like this every game, the Rent could stand with any stadium in the country.

  The biggest home game in UConn history was there for the taking and it sure looked like UConn was going to take it. The Huskies had a two-touchdown lead on No. 15 Michigan in the second half. The crowd of 42,704, the largest in Rentschler history, was whipped into a Saturday night frenzy.

  There were great plays and greater stories being painted all over the Rent. And UConn was going to apply the final brush strokes.

   Derek Jeter, immortal Yankee, famed Michigan fan, got booed when they showed him on the videoboard sitting in a luxury box. There were no favorites on this night, not if they were not pulling for the home team. The Huskies, booed in losing their opening two games at home, were being cheered wildly.

  "Just a great night for football," Pasqualoni said after UConn fell 24-21 to the Wolverines. "It was a tremendous atmosphere. The crowd was just unbelievable. It was big-time college football."

   Yes, it was a big night for UConn football. It was a big night, too, for UConn athletics, which has been kicked around the past few years in conference realignments. The Huskies were playing to the moment. UConn has exactly two wins over ranked teams in its history, but this one would have been incredible, something to put up on the mantel piece and admire for decades to come.

  Beat Michigan?

  Heck, Michigan playing here was amazing enough.

  But beat Michigan?

  It was going to happen.

  And then it didn't.

  When Fitz Toussaint took a pitch from Devin Gardner and zig-zagged 35 yards to pull withing a touchdown, matters got tense. When Desmond Morgan made a terrific one-handed stab to intercept a Chandler Whitmer pass to set up Toussaint's second touchdown it was tied at 21.

"It was disappointing the tailback got out on the stretch play that one play," Pasqualoni said. "We contained it for a long time, but we lost contain on that one. Out of position by just a little bit.

"We were a great defense last year, but our Achilles' heel was the red zone. We thought it could come down to a short-yardage, red-zone deal."

  Let's stop right there. Pasqualoni clearly was deflecting attention from what put UConn in that awful spot. Whitmer's interception was huge. Huge. Yes, Morgan made a great athletic play on the interception to return it 29 yards to the UConn 12. But the mistake was costly. Whitmer's interception that was returned for a touchdown by Maryland was a back-breaker, too. Make no mistake. Desmond Morgan's pick was the turning point.

 "The kid made a great play," Whitmer said. "We got verticals to Geremy [Davis]. You know, I think when I snapped over there he did a great job of redirecting. I tried to hold him in the middle for four steps and snap over there to that place and he grabbed it one hand and brought it down. It's tough, I mean we had the momentum and it felt good but the kid made a play."

  Suddenly, the wheels fell off one of the great stories in UConn football history. A punt return, a 36-yard grinding drive, Gibbons kicked the field goal. Whitmer made a desperation pass to Deshon Foxx for 26 yards, but it was fourth-and-29 after he was sacked for the fourth time and a false-start penalty. It was all over. UConn came up three yards and three points short.

  Great night of football.

  Heart-aching loss. 

Featured Stories



Top Trending Videos