Any victory counts the same on paper. Any player in the UConn locker room will tell you that. Especially for a team that spent the past decade doing so much losing, each win feels that much better and it becomes hard to discriminate. But maybe the context around this specific win means a bit more.
In recent UConn football history, they’ve whiffed against Boston College. From 2000-2021, the teams played a half-dozen times, with the Eagles winning all six. Interestingly enough, Boston College is supposed to be a rival and a team that UConn is on an even playing field with. Saturday was Coach Jim Mora’s first time playing the Eagles as the Huskies’ head coach and he made the most of the opportunity, winning in an impressive fashion, 13-3.
The first play of the game was reversed by a holding penalty. As he has done throughout the year, quarterback Zion Turner showed his developing maturity by making a big 23 yard scramble on the next play to get the first down. The play after, Turner whipped the ball to fellow freshman Justin Joly, who mossed the defender for the grab. He made it a few yards before tossing another defensive back aside and taking it to the house untouched — a play that never would have happened a year ago.
Then, the Husky defense stopped Boston College on fourth down, cashing in on a field goal eight short plays later. Another Eagle drive ended in a UConn pick and the one after that was a punt. Even when Boston College threatened with a touchdown and drove down to the UConn red zone the next time out, the Husky defense didn’t relent. They forced an errant pass by NFL prospect Phil Jurkovec and intercepted it. Their next time out? A forced fumble after the line collapsed the pocket.
This defense is different from any of the defenses that have shown up for the Huskies in recent years. They have swagger.
“We decided at halftime that they didn’t need to score another point,” noted freshman DL Pryce Yates, who recorded 2.5 sacks. That is the attitude your team needs to have to win games. That says a lot about this team’s grit and energy. No player on a Randy Edsall (second-stint Edsall) roster is saying that. Not just that, no player on a Randy Edsall roster is keeping an opponent scoreless for a half.
And they followed through. The Huskies forced four straight punts to start the half and finished it off with a pick and a fumble.
Although the Huskies struggled to get things going offensively, the defense knew they needed to step up to keep the game locked down.
“We love that kind of pressure,” noted star LB Jackson Mitchell, who finished the game with 12 tackles, two fumble recoveries, a pick and a sack. “I think we got close to our full potential today.”
Mitchell could have left for the NFL after a stellar season last year. But he chose to stay and fight with his teammates to make the program better.
“Anytime you go through ups and downs like we have, it makes it feel that much sweeter,” Mitchell said of his decision to stay. “Those guys in the locker room, I could not leave. There’s not a guy in the locker room that’s not all in.”
Perhaps the most impressive feat in the game was the job UConn did containing Eagles wide receiver (WR) Zay Flowers. The star WR had NFL scouts watching him at the game, but did virtually nothing. He posted his worst game of the season by far, posting just two receptions for 35 yards with a pair of fumbles. His previous low this year was four grabs against Virginia Tech and in another game he managed just 45 yards. Flowers has averaged nine catches for 105 yards against ranked teams, a far cry from Saturday’s line. UConn keeping him quiet says a lot about their energy and effort.
“You’re never going to take a kid like that out of the game,” Mora noted of the Huskies’ job on Flowers. “The key is not letting him get big plays.”
Broadly, this result is massive for the Northeast football landscape. There are three FBS teams in New England and all three are fighting for the same pool of recruits. Boston College, one of the three, is no longer atop New England college football with this loss, even as an ACC member. UMass ranks below UConn in every metric and the teams play this Friday to demonstrate that.
What argument is there against UConn being the premiere football team in New England? This hasn’t even been a possibility since the early 2010s, the importance of which can’t be understated. Mora has done a phenomenal job turning the program around and will look to keep the momentum going in the coming days…