Football: UConn resolves 'ConFLiCT,' blows out UCF for first conference win

Connecticut cornerback Jhavon Williams (6) runs with the ball past Central Florida wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (80) and offensive lineman Tyler Hudanick (72) after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/AP)

The Conflict trophy will be staying in Storrs for one more year.

Bryant Shirreffs threw for 256 yards and Arkeel Newsome added 257 all-purpose yards as UConn football (3-3) rolled past Central Florida (0-6) 40-13 on the road for their first American Athletic Conference victory of 2015. 

UCF got on the board first, ending a 13-play, 73-yard drive with a 19-yard field goal 4:54 into the first quarter to to take a 3-0 lead. 

After that, the UConn offense used their most dynamic offensive performance of the year, scoring 40 unanswered points to defeat the Knights for the second-straight year.

Almost four minutes later, Newsome capped off an eight-play, 77-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give UConn a 7-3 lead. The score was Newsome’s fourth overall touchdown of the season.

On the ensuing UConn kickoff, UCF’s Hayden Jones stepped out of the end zone and came back in to take a knee, resulting in a safety. The blunder gave UConn a 9-3 lead and was the first safety against the Huskies since 2010.

UConn knocked on the door early in the second half with the ball on the UCF 1-yard line, but Shirreffs’ quarterback sneak on 4th and 1 was stopped short, causing a turnover on downs. 

Jhavon Williams picked off Knights quarterback Justin Holman with 2:20 left in the first half for the first turnover of the game. The Huskies would capitalize on the Knight’ turnover on a one-yard touchdown run from Shirreffs to take a 16-3 lead. The interception was Williams’ third of the season.

The Knights would turn the ball over yet again on another Holman interception, this time by Obi Melifonwu. After Shirreffs found tight end Alec Bloom to bring the Huskies to the UCF’s 16-yard line, Shirreffs found Noel Thomas in the end zone to head into the half with a 23-3 lead.

UConn’s 23 first half points marked their highest total of the season and nearly double their previous high of 12 first half points against Army. It was also the highest since the Huskies scored 24 first half points against Pittsburgh in 2012.

The Huskies carried their momentum into the second half, as Arkeel Newsome took the opening kickoff of the second half for a season-long 71 yards to give the Huskies the ball on the UCF 29-yard line. The Huskies would cash in on Newsome’s long return with a 21-yard field goal from Bobby Puyol to go up 26-3.

On their next possession, UConn scored their first touchdown of the half on a 12-yard touchdown rush from Ron Johnson. Johnson’s touchdown run was set up on a 58-yard pass from Shirreffs to Newsome 

After forcing a UCF punt, the Knights managed to stop the Huskies for the first time in the second half. UCF then muffed Justin Wain’s punt, and UConn’s Ellis Marder recovered the ball on the UCF 16-yard line.

Newsome finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run for his second score of the day to give the Huskies a 40-3 lead with 1:53 to play in the third quarter.

Backup quarterback Tim Boyle took over for Shirreffs in the fourth quarter, completing both of his passes for a total of seven yards.

The Knights finally managed to answer with a 45-yard field goal from Matthew Wright to cut UConn’s lead to 34 with 9:22 left to play in the fourth quarter. UCF scored their first touchdown of the game on an 11-yard pass from Holman to Nick Patti to make it 40-13 UConn.

The win marked the largest margin of victory for the Huskies under head coach Bob Diaco, and gave the Huskies a 2-1 all-time record against UCF in The Conflict. After two weeks on the road, UConn returns home for a noon kickoff next Saturday against South Florida at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.


Dan Madigan is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.