Watching the UConn Football game on the ESPN app on an Xbox in my small dorm room, it was hard to ignore how far the Huskies have come in such a short period of time, even if the broadcast was frequently interrupted by inconsistent color displays and full red screens. However, through the sorry ESPN3 production, this Jim Mora-led Huskies squad made the FIU Panthers look like the UConn of old.
FIU started off the game driving with a purpose, taking UConn fans out of the clouds and back to the pain they’ve known for the past decade. It seemed like the Panthers were going to score easily and put UConn behind early-on. Instead, QB Grayson James botched the snap and the ball rolled five yards safely into the hands of UConn star Jackson Mitchell.
UConn capitalized on this error, taking 11 plays to make it down the field, highlighted by a 30 yard Devontae Houston run and finished by a Victor Rosa punch in. The next drive felt like the same story, as FIU made it inside the UConn 30 before throwing a pick to Tre Wortham. Another 11 plays, another Rosa touchdown.
A drive that fell short gave the Huskies a field goal with just a minute left. The Panthers could have taken a knee into the half, but instead decided to throw another pick to Wortham, seemingly James’ favorite target on Saturday. Noe Ruelas struck another one through the uprights to give the Huskies a commanding 20-0 lead into the half.
The Panthers opened the half with a nice drive and were finally able to find the end zone, thanks to a Lexington Joseph 47-yard house call. The next Husky drive was a turning point in the game. Rosa decided to make the moment his own, taking a 61-yard rush all the way to the two yard line.
UConn then executed on a “Philly Special” style trick play, where backup QB Cale Millen, who was lined up as a wide receiver received a pitch from Rosa and sent a dart to starting QB Zion Turner in the end zone. This was the type of play that exuded swagger. The Huskies came into Riccardo Silva Stadium and took control.
FIU was able to respond with a field goal, but the Huskies were good to keep them to just three, as the Panthers made it inside the 10. Midway through the fourth, UConn had another moment where they reverted to their old ways, with a bad safety on a botched snap. Though once again, the Huskies made up for it, forcing a turnover on downs to get the ball back. Up 14 with three minutes left, they didn’t need to do much, but Cale Millen iced the game with a 49-yard run to the house to give the Huskies the 21-point win.
This team may not be amazing or make it to a bowl, but they have fight. When FIU made efforts to come back, UConn didn’t crack. Instead, the errors — forced and unforced — by the Panthers felt like a refreshing role reversal for the Huskies. These plays by FIU that UConn was able to capitalize on made the difference in the game. FIU outgained the Huskies 409-402. The biggest difference was the number of errors they made in key situations. The UConn defense wasn’t air-tight, but they made plays when they needed to. That’s what helped UConn win.
UConn’s defense has now only allowed two touchdowns in their past two games. In these games, Wortham has also been phenomenal, capturing three picks, which puts him in a tie for eighth in the country.
The bottom line is that UConn football is not an embarrassment anymore. They have a 3-4 record through seven games, which is already over Vegas’ 2.5 over/under for the Huskies’ win total this season. There is no game left on the schedule that is definitively unwinnable. The path to a bowl still exists, although unlikely. It’s easy to overreact and get excited when you beat the worst team in the country, but UConn has historically been that team. So is it really that crazy?