At the beginning of the season, UConn running back Cam Edwards’ name did not appear anywhere on the depth chart. When the Huskies went on the road following a disastrous three-game homestand a month later, Edwards became the team’s secondary rusher behind fellow sophomore Victor Rosa. With Rosa down for the count following an undisclosed injury sustained on a fumble loss early in the first quarter, the Norwalk native stepped up and put on a show.
Getting the ball in his hands 22 times and recording more carries than he had in the previous two contests combined, Edwards rumbled for 149 yards, caught four passes for an additional 15 yards and scored two total touchdowns. Despite his career performance, UConn blew an 11-point lead and a prime chance at their second victory of the season in a stinging 24-21 defeat versus the South Florida Bulls.
“That was a gut-wrencher there,” head coach Jim Mora stated about the tough loss. “When you play your ass off, when the players played as hard as they could play, when it came down to it, we did not do enough as a team to win it.”
The gut punch hit nearly immediately when Rosa required assistance getting off the field following the fumble, but the Huskies absorbed the jab and struck back throughout the first half. From the moment USF running back Nay’Quan Wright scored two plays after the turnover until halftime, Connecticut outscored their former Big East foe 14-3 and garnered more yards per play (seven to South Florida’s 4.8) despite having the ball less often.
Still down seven when Bulls kicker John Cannon’s 45-yarder landed nowhere near the uprights, Edwards ended the first quarter with two rushes of 20+ yards and UConn quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson started the second by collecting the next 38. Facing second-and-10, the redshirt junior gunslinger kept his feet inches away from the sidelines and tied the game at seven with a 24-yard score.
Burning a timeout before the play, USF turned the ball over on downs a second time when Huskies’ defensive lineman Pryce Yates and linebacker Jackson Mitchell pounced for an eight-yard sack. When kicker Joe McFadden’s 48-yarder sailed wide left of the uprights, Cannon redeemed his miss from the previous frame with a 45-yard field goal down the middle.
Scampering 39 yards down the left sideline two plays earlier on the ensuing possession, Edwards brought in Roberson’s high pass on third down, maintaining possession and keeping five toes inbounds for his first career touchdown that put Connecticut ahead. Cannon’s second miss gave UConn one final chance at extending their four-point halftime advantage, but Bulls defensive back Jaelen Stokes intercepted Roberson’s pass and ran out the clock on the return. Despite the pick, the Huskies led at the break in their third straight contest.
Both teams struggled in the opening minutes of the second half, combining for three first downs in the third quarter’s first four drives. All of those downs came on South Florida’s second possession of the half, but they did not score a point on it when Connecticut linebacker Tui Faumuina-Brown brought down defensive lineman Dal’Mont Gourdine’s deflection for his second career pick.
After temporarily leaving the field toward the end of the third quarter, Edwards showed no signs of injury two minutes into the fourth. Proving his point with a 14-yard sprint on the first snap of the final frame, the 5-foot-10 sophomore zipped away from multiple Bulls for a 33-yard house call. UConn seemingly held the upper hand as they led 21-10 with 12:45 remaining, but the defense started cracking under South Florida’s intense pressure.
In the red zone following wide receiver Michael Brown-Stephens’ 18-yard reception, USF pulled within one score when quarterback Byrum Brown faked the handoff and rushed into the end zone for six, gaining more momentum when the defense tightened following Huskies tight end Justin Joly’s 31-yard reception. Brown completed two 17-yard connections within his team’s own 20, but South Florida quickly reached the red zone when Wright sprinted 47 yards down the right sideline. On the next play, the veteran running back dashed past the pylon and put the Bulls ahead for the first time in the second half.
Roberson nearly got something going on Connecticut’s ensuing possession down three, but as he crossed the first down marker on third-and-6, USF defensive back Daquan Evans recovered the fumble that linebacker Mac Harris caused. Despite having time left to pull off a miracle, nine seconds became too little too late as a series of laterals and another turnover iced UConn’s third one-score loss.
Wright finished with a career-best 186 rushing yards, marking the third time he crossed the century mark in 2023 after not doing so once in four years with the Florida Gators, and found paydirt twice. Brown-Stephens and wide receiver Sean Atkins combined for 152 receiving yards while catching 17 of Brown’s 27 completed passes. On the Bulls’ two fourth-quarter touchdown drives alone, the Huskies’ defense stayed on the field for 5:50, committed an illegal substitution penalty in the red zone, surrendered 165 yards, seven first downs and 14 points on 18 plays.
“That is an incredible offense,” Mora said about South Florida, which racked up 466 total yards. “We had done a really good job of containing them and those last few drives we turned the ball over, we did not perform.”
UConn (1-6) begins a three-game road trip by trekking east for a New England battle against the Boston College Eagles (4-3) in their homecoming contest on Saturday. While the latter two legs involve Top-25 competition, the mentality heading into the first challenge versus a local rival remains simple.
“We are going to work,” Edwards explained. “We have got to keep the same attitude we had coming into this game.”
Kickoff in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts commences at 12 p.m. on the ACC Network.