It wasn’t pretty, but the UConn football team secured a big win Thursday night, beating the Wagner Seahawks 24-21 and picking up their first W since Sept. 15, 2018.
The Huskies established the run game early, as they carried the ball an even 30 times in the first half compared to just 10 passing attempts. Both Kevin Mensah and Art Thompkins had big impacts, combining for 142 yards of total offense in the first half alone, with 130 of it coming on the ground.
“We came in and said that’s what we’re gonna do, we wanted to run the football,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “We had to run the football because we were limited with some of the things that we could do, but we tried to play to those guys’ strengths … When you have issues, you gotta just play to your personnel and take advantage of what you can and find a way to make it all work.”
Mensah finished the game with 36 carries for 144 yards, and Thompkins added another 17 rushes for 91 yards. For Mensah, that was the first time since Arkeel Newsome in 2015 that a back had over 30 carries in one game. They each reached the end zone once, as the two of them formed a dynamic duo in the backfield that Wagner was unable to stop.
Thompkins and Mensah each gave praise to the offensive line as well as each other, talking about how they complement one another in the backfield with their different styles of running – with Mensah being more of a power back and Thompkins having a great ability to make some guys miss. They both felt it was truly a team effort that helped them get the job done.
“I feel like as an offense, we’ve been working so hard,” Mensah said. “Even though I did my job, the o-line did their job, the wide receivers did their job, Art did his job, we all did our jobs together and I think that’s how we won.”
However, it was quarterback Mike Beaudry who picked up the first touchdown of the season, scrambling for the corner of the end zone and diving in to put the Huskies up 7-0 with about four and a half minutes left in the first quarter. The score capped off a 12 play, 80-yard drive for the Huskies as they took a lead that they would hold onto for the remainder of the game.
Overall, it wasn’t the most encouraging night for Beaudry, who went 14-21 for 158 passing yards and a pick-six. He showed he has the arm talent to throw it deep, but, the accuracy just wasn’t there. However, the offense was dealing with some key injuries to two of its top wide receivers, which limited what they were able to do through the air.
The second half started off rough for the Huskies, who had a big opening drive killed by a Kevin Mensah fumble right outside the end zone. After forcing a punt, the Huskies proceeded to go for it on fourth down with three yards to go, but Beaudry was intercepted along the sideline. Wagner would take that interception to the house for seven points and cut the UConn lead to just three.
The story of the game was the defense. Even though they struggled a bit in the fourth quarter they only gave up 14 points overall. After setting a record points given up per game last season, they made a huge step forward.
They only gave up 185 yards of total offense, and Lwal Uguak, a sophomore, came up with two huge sacks on third down that forced Wagner into two punts.
Yes, this was just against Wagner, who is a Football Championship Subdivision school. However, last year against their FCS opponent, URI, the Huskies gave up 49 points and narrowly escaped with a seven-point win.
The Huskies now improve to 1-0 on the young season and get a much-needed win against what should be their weakest opponent of the season. They host the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, Sept, 7th at 3:30 pm as they look to win their second straight game for the first time since 2017.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.