Football: Huskies lose Myrtle Beach Bowl against Marshall; finish one game under .500

9/3/2022 FB vs Central by Erin Knapp The UConn football team takes on Central Connecticut State University at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in their second game of the season on Saturday September 4. The Huskies beat the Blue Devils 28-3, and will play their next game against Syracuse on Saturday, September 10.

CONWAY, SOUTH CAROLINA – In 2015, the UConn football team and the Marshall Thundering Herd met in the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field, a 16-10 Marshall victory. Fast forward seven years to the 2022 Myrtle Beach Bowl, which seemed like a rematch almost made in heaven.

With a win, UConn had a chance to both get their revenge against the Herd and clinch their first winning season since going 8-5 in 2010. Instead, Marshall emerged victorious 28-14 and the Huskies fell to 6-7, the same record they had after their last bowl appearance.

UConn, on the first drive, looked ready for a bowl game. Marshall tried to go for it on fourth down as they were one yard short of the marker. On top of not getting the first down, Jelani Stafford forced a fumble that Durante Jones recovered by falling on it.

But then Zion Turner fumbled the ball trying to attempt a lateral. Marshall’s Charlie Gray recovered the ball and took the return 18 yards, setting the team up in the red zone. The Herd got on the board two plays later when Cam Fancher connected with Corey Gammage for a nine-yard touchdown strike. Five possessions later, Marshall’s defense pressured Turner into another costly Husky mishap. Turner’s throw to escape the sack landed in the hands of defensive lineman Damion Barber Jr., who ran down the field for a 34-yard house call.

Following the pick six, head coach Jim Mora put Cale Millen under center for the next two drives, but a delay of game penalty before he even played a snap set the tone for UConn’s early offensive woes. That brought Turner back into the game after the Huskies defense forced the Herd to go three and out twice. Mora mentioned in the postgame presser that he sat Turner to give him a breather, and it seemed to rejuvenate him when he checked back in.

Turner followed a 28-yard rush from Devontae Houston with one for 12 yards, but then the offense stagnated. Noe Ruelas tried to get the Huskies on the board, but his 45-yard kick attempt sailed wide to the left. Marshall capitalized on the missed chance by scoring their third touchdown of the game on four plays. Rasheen Ali put the offense in a great position by breaking multiple tackles for a 38-yard run and Fancher connected with Devin Miller for a 10-yard score.

The Huskies nearly responded heading into halftime as Turner found Keelan Marion for a 37-yard strike to cross into Herd territory. The drive almost abruptly ended when Turner threw an apparent interception, but video review found that the defender did not maintain possession and the pass was ruled incomplete.

Given new life, the Huskies got into the redzone and decided to go for it on fourth down. Turner tried to dial up Marion’s number, but his pass went out of bounds. Marshall could not do anything on their end and both teams went into the locker rooms following Turner’s second interception.

Despite the Herd coming up short on third down following a UConn three-and-out to begin the second half, Swenson got ejected for targeting, leaving him on the sidelines for the remainder of his collegiate career. With their possession still alive, Marshall scored their fourth touchdown as Ali found the endzone for the first time this season.

The Huskies responded with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Marion nearly picked up his second touchdown of the season on a 32-yard reception, but instead set up Rosa to take the ball 14 yards down the left sideline for his 10th of the season.

Given great field position following a 23-yard Herd punt and a defensive stop, Cam Ross caught his first reception of the season before Rosa rumbled 24 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Ruelas missed the first extra point attempt, but an offsides penalty allowed him to make it a two-score game.

To start the fourth quarter, Fancher found Gammage for 34 yards and it looked like Marshall would get another touchdown. But then Malik Dixon-Williams let a near-perfect spiral fall into his hands for his second interception of the season, which gave UConn a much-needed turnover.

The Huskies had all the momentum on their side and looked for their third straight touchdown drive, but then Mora got assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty following an incomplete pass attempt. UConn tried to go for it on fourth down, but another incomplete pass forced a turnover on downs.

After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Huskies had one last chance to try and tie the game. Following two 15-yard Marshall penalties, Turner found Aaron Turner for a 33-yard gain and UConn entered the redzone. On third down however, Z. Turner threw his third interception of the game right to Micah Abraham in the end zone.

The Herd ran out the clock with three first downs, winning their first bowl game since the 2018 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl. Even in defeat, Mora had a lot of positive takeaways from the game and the season.

“I am just proud of the way our guys fought,” Mora said. “We cannot walk around thinking that we got it made because we won 6 games…but I am proud of the progress.”

Z. Turner finished 9-27 with 166 yards and three interceptions while Fancher went 10-20 for 93 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Rosa ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns, and Khalan Laborn ran for 90 yards. Ali took home bowl game MVP honors after rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

But as the 2022 campaign concludes on a chilly Monday night, the revolution is far from over. Jackson Mitchell knows that a new era of UConn football is on the horizon.

“This is just the foundation of what is to come,” Mitchell said. “It is just the start.”

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