EAST HARTFORD — For the past two seasons, UConn has been searching for a quarterback that could lead their offense: someone who would offer them stability, leadership and wins. And finally, it seems like the team may have found its guy.
Sophomore quarterback Bryant Shirreffs was 19 for 25 and threw for 270 yards and sophomore Arkeel Newsome rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown to lead UConn over Army 22-15 on Saturday afternoon at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
The 19 completions was a career-high for Shirreffs.
For the first time since 2008, UConn is 2-0. Army is 0-2 for the first time since 2012.
“It feels great,” Diaco said about winning the first two games of the season. “It feels great to be in the locker room with the guys and to feel like we’re winners, because we are winners. And to see these guys win and feel winning and get back to winning, I mean that’s the best. We just love it.”
It wasn’t easy for the Huskies, however, having to play from behind in the first half.
After the first quarter ended with the score tied 3-3, Army took the lead in the second quarter on a 56-yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw.
But the Huskies responded immediately.
The next drive, UConn (2-0) put together an impressive drive of five plays and 90 yards in just 1:50 of game time. Arkeel Newsome scored on a 10-yard run, the first running touchdown of his career.
The Huskies would add a field goal before half time to lead 12-10 at the break.
On the first possession of the second half, UConn would lengthen its lead to 19-10.
After a 32-yard pass from Shirreffs to freshman Tyraiq Beals to get the Huskies inside the 5-yard line, Ron Johnson did the rest and scored from two yards on the next play.
Beals made a career-high three catches for 45 yards on Saturday.
UConn would add to its lead with 5:33 left in the game when kicker Bobby Puyol connected on a 39-yard field goal to put the Huskies up 22-10.
Army, in an effort to mount a comeback, scored on a 71-yard touchdown pass by A.J. Schurr to Joe Walker with 4:51 remaining but it was all they could get.
Photo Gallery: UConn vs. Army, Sept. 12, 2015
All game long, the Huskies’ defense was able to limit Army’s triple-option offense, something that they struggled with last season. Playing Army the second time in as many years, the UConn defense felt more comfortable Saturday, captain Andrew Adams said.
“I think tackling and playing fast was the main thing,” Adams said of UConn’s defensive effort. “Last year we were a little shaky because it was our first time seeing them. This time guys were able to pin their ears back and just go. I think that was the big difference.”
The Huskies defense also didn’t allow the Black Knights to run a play in the red zone all game long. UConn had 39 minutes of possession time compared to Army’s 21 minutes.
Diaco noted many of the team’s changes from last year’s game against Army.
“I felt like the game slowed down for them, I felt that collectively as a team they bought into the keys to victory,” Diaco said. “So there was a shared vision, I felt that the preparation was at a whole other level.”
Other than Army’s two touchdowns, the Huskies held the Black Knights to 138 yards of offense. Army only ran 41 plays.
Army head coach Jeff Monken was disappointed in his team’s effort after the game.
“We didn’t tackle very well, [we] missed a lot of tackles again and that was disappointing,” he said. “There was several times we had the guy in our arms and had the chance to stop them on third down, had a chance to stop them before they scored a touchdown during the first half. They just kind of beat through us and we have to do a better job of that.”