It was like déjà vu. The University of Connecticut Huskies closed in on the goal line late in the game while a pass interference call kept them alive. The eventual touchdown, this time to sneak them into the lead. The failed two point conversion. The eventual loss, this time 30 to 28, to a team who was supposed to cream them.
But this time, it was Steven Krajewski who threw the touchdown pass; Krajewski had come in during the first, after an injury to starting quarterback Tyler Phommachanh took him out early. This time the UConn team was inches from their first win in 707 days, before being harshly denied by a 67-second drive that culminated in a field goal and a win for Vanderbilt.
“It stings for sure,” said Krajewski after the game. “We want that one back for sure.” Krajewski had his best game of the season by far. His rushing touchdown with under two minutes to go gave the Huskies a chance late.
Interim head coach Neil Spanos declined to comment much on Phommachanh’s injury, noting that it was to his lower leg and would be re-evaluated this week. Much of the hopes of UConn fans, who have rallied behind the rookie quarterback in recent weeks, hinge on the eventual announcement of his condition.
But Krajewski showed on Saturday that he can be good enough; He ended the game with 264 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We’re getting close,” said Spanos after the game. “Closer and closer.”
But close wasn’t good enough against a Vanderbilt team that was coming off a humiliating 62-0 loss to Georgia, currently ranked two in the nation. Vanderbilt’s quarterback, Ken Seals, had 333 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the game, with two receivers catching over 100 yards.
The star of the game for Vanderbilt was Will Sheppard, who caught eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Sheppard sliced the UConn defense apart alongside teammate Chris Pierce, who had 103 yards but no touchdowns.
UConn, on the other hand, relied on the power of unsung hero Joe McFadden, who got three field goals in the game before missing a fourth that would’ve been the difference. McFadden, who also made an extra point and a 56-yard punt, nailed three over 30 yards in order to give the team a chance.
Now, the Huskies’ eyes turn to their second away game in a row: They’ll be going to Massachusetts to face off against the University of Massachusetts Amherst next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.