There’s a saying in sports that defense wins championships. Although the UConn football team is not contending for a national championship, the defense took care of business as it won its first-ever game against the Boston College Eagles 13-3.
UConn’s defense gained offensive support before stepping onto the field. Zion Turner found Justin Joly on the third play of the game, and he deked multiple defenders close to the right sideline and stayed in bounds for a 62-yard touchdown, the longest-offensive and scoring play of the season.
The Huskies’ defense immediately got to work protecting that lead, forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs on their first drive in four plays. UConn took advantage of the generous field position by marching deep into the redzone but settled for a 31-yard field goal from Noe Ruelas.
With the two-score advantage, the Husky defense continued to bring the pressure, especially to Boston College’s star wide receiver Zay Flowers. Phil Jurkovec hoped to convert on third and 19 for the Eagles halfway through the first quarter, but his pass bounced off Jaelen Gill and landed in Chris Shearin’s hands for his first career interception. UConn could have added on to its double-digit advantage, but Ruelas’ second field goal try veered to the left.
Boston College got on the board in the second quarter after slowing down UConn’s offensive game. Two plays of over 20 yards helped the Eagles get deep into the redzone, but they had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Connor Lytton instead.
Following a 45-yard pass on their next offensive drive, Boston College had a chance to tie the game as they soared to the red zone again. Facing a third down, Jurkovec threw a wobbly pass to the endzone that Durante Jones read the whole way for his first pick of the season. The Huskies could not capitalize again after Turner got sacked, and the Eagles ran out the clock to end the half. Although UConn had a 10-3 lead, there were still doubts that it would hang on after allowing 15 unanswered points against the Ball State Cardinals just last game.
The fourth quarter belonged to Jackson Mitchell following a quiet third frame. Boston College looked to tie the contest with less than 10 minutes left, but Mitchell forced a fumble that Carter Hooper, a true freshman, recovered. The Huskies could not pick up a first down, but they did settle for a booming 43-yard field goal from Ruelas for their second double-digit lead.
The Eagles still had time to make things interesting as they made it to UConn territory on their next drive, but they could not capitalize. Emmett Morehead, who came in for Jurkovec after he went down with an injury in the third quarter, threw the ball right to Mitchell for his first interception of the season. He terrorized the special team’s unit a little over a minute later, picking up the muffed punt from Flowers and giving the Huskies the ball back.
UConn turned the ball over on downs during that drive, which gave the Eagles one last chance to cut into the deficit, but Lytton’s 43-yard field goal missed to the left and the Huskies ran out the clock for the victory.
Mitchell got his name on every major type of defensive play possible, finishing with 12 total tackles, one tackle for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
“He is a great football player, and he wants to leave a legacy,” head coach Jim Mora said after the game. “That is how you leave a legacy right there.”
Mitchell was not the only star on defense. Pryce Yates recorded 2.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss and forced a fumble for the game of his career. Despite the milestone performance, Mora notes that this is nothing new for Yates.
“He has been a very, very consistent force all year,” Mora commented. “When it was time for him to have a breakout game, he did that.”
In addition to the interception, Jones finished with eight total tackles while Ian Swenson secured seven tackles and Eric Watts had 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for a loss. The defense fired on all cylinders as a team, allowing their fewest number of points since beating the Tulane Green Wave in 2015 and recording five sacks for the first time since they played the Temple Owls in 2013.
“These kids work hard,” Mora noted. “These guys made a bit of a declaration today that they were going to play a certain way and they played that way.”
Although the UConn offense struggled to score after its first two drives and committed eight false start penalties, it did enough to get the job done. Turner went 11-19 for 173 yards and a touchdown while picking up 32 yards on the ground. In the receiving department, Aaron Turner caught four passes for 70 yards.
Keelan Marion made his return to action Saturday after missing the last seven games with a broken collarbone but sprained his ankle in the first quarter and did not play the rest of the way. Mora believes that there is a possibility he could return for next week’s game.
With each win, the Huskies find themselves snapping losing streaks and reaching marks last achieved over five years ago. UConn’s fourth win marks its first season with at least that many since 2015, when they went 6-7. Their victory over the Eagles ended an eight-game losing streak against the ACC and gave the Huskies their first win against a team from a Power five conference since 2016.
UConn looks to move back to .500 on Friday, Nov. 4, when it takes on the UMass-Amherst Minutemen in the second game of its homestand. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.