EAST HARTFORD, Conn.—The UFL made its first foray into Connecticut Thursday night and fans at Rentschler Field got see the best of what the league has to offer.
They also saw the worst. The Tuskers, who have already clinched a spot in the league title game, faced the winless New York Sentinels.
The Tuskers clung to a 10-6 halftime lead before putting the game away with two touchdowns in the second half.
But it was an interception in the end zone by Florida cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. with 22 seconds left in the first half that changed the tide. The Sentinels were marching downfield late in the half when starting quarterback Quinn Gray was injured with the ball on the Florida 14.
Enter former Florida Gator Ingle Martin, who promptly threw one incomplete pass and then an interception in the end zone.
That proved to be New York's best chance. At halftime, a stream of cars left the stadium and those who remained saw the best team in the league seize control.
Florida made it 17-6 when Tatum Bell capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run at 8:20 of the third quarter. New York had possession to start the second half, but Martin threw three incomplete passes and the Tuskers took over 31 seconds into the half.
The Tuskers also scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brooks Bollinger to Paris Warren in the fourth quarter. In the first half, Florida scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bollinger to Jayson Foster and on a 38-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
Bollinger was 19-of-27 for 215 yards. Michael Pittman caught five passes, leading a balanced attack 10 players caught passes.
The game was a homecoming for Tuskers fullback Andrew Pinnock, who grew up in nearby Bloomfield, Conn., and was playing his first game in the state in 10 years. Pinnock (one reception) had about 50 friends and family at the game.
"This was special," Pinnock said. "This was a homecoming. It was just a blessing to be back out here in front of my family, friends and come out and have fun. Just the feeling, the atmosphere, it brought back so many memories."
It was also a homecoming for UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, who grew up in the Hartford suburb of Windsor. Huyghue has been touting the market as an expansion spot and nothing he saw Thursday changed his view.
There were 10,460 tickets distributed, but about half the tickets were used in the 40,000-seat home of University of Connecticut. The game was up against a Miley Cyrus concert in downtown Hartford and a memorial service for slain Connecticut football player Jasper Howard on the school's Storrs campus.
"Markets like Hartford appeal to us because I think we have the opportunity to come in here, not have a lot of competition and to put a good quality product on the field," Huyghue said. "There's just a lot of things here that give us a good feel and make us excited about the prospect."