REVENGE OVER RANDY
UConn defeats Maryland on the road to improve to 2-1
Red shirt sophmore running back Lyle McCombs advances the ball down the field in a game against UMass at Rentschler Field on Aug. 30. MCombs rushed for 97 yards this weekend against Maryland. JESS CONDON
COLLEGE PARK- In a game with a long, dramatic build up, UConn nearly saw their shot at revenge over former coach Randy Edsall disappear in a flash. Suddenly, at the final gun on a hot day in Byrd Stadium, the dish best served cold was all theirs.
Backed by another dominant defensive effort, the Huskies (2-1, 0-0) topped Maryland (2-1, 0-0) 24-21 for their first road win of the year. Linebackers Yawin Smallwood and Sio Moore each collected two and a half sacks as the UConn defense hounded Terrapins freshman quarterback Perry Hills' all afternoon. The Terrapins were held to 205 yards of offense, with half of their total output coming in the first three quarters.
"We're out there saying just make the plays, make the tackles and get off the field," Smallwood said.
The Huskies' current top-five defense got off the field for the final time with 19 seconds remaining on a 4th and 17 incompletion from Hills Kerry Boykins. Maryland had scored on their previous drive to cut the Husky lead from ten to three. When the UConn offense couldn't answer, Maryland took over with 3:29 to go.
Playing without cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, outside linebacker Jory Johnson and newly injured defensive end Jesse Joseph, the Huskies stood tall when it counted most. Smallwood, Moore and cornerback Taylor Mack all made plays in their teammates' absence to stop the final Maryland possession. It has since been revealed that the senior Joseph will be out for the season with an Achilles injury.
Many Huskies, even those on the field, were not at 100 percent in College Park, as the team had been hit with the flu while still in Storrs. Battling illness and the media circus surrounding the "Edsall Bowl," coach Paul Pasqualoni was effusive in his praise of his club's gameday effort.
"Our guys are pretty grounded," Pasqualoni said. "It was a great team win, exhausting, but I think they handled things the right way.... They handled adversity very well last week. They handled victory very well this week."
UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer completed 10 of 16 pass attempts for 68 yards without a touchdown or interception on the day. Running back Lyle McCombs carried the ball 28 times en route to 97 total yards, both season-highs. McCombs finished an impressive 10-play, 76-yard drive early in the fourth quarter with his second score of the season. The touchdown proved to be the game winner.
However, the early headline came in the first frame, courtesy of senior wide receiver/returner Nick Williams. After picking up a bouncing Nick Renfro punt, Williams weaved his way through the Maryland special teams 58 yards the other way for the first points of the game.
"It ignited us," Pasqualoni said.
The opening quarter score put the UConn up 7-0 before they doubled their lead in the second. Scott McCummings powered his way through on a designed quarterback run from four yards out, shortly after Edsall had called timeout. The Huskies had broken out in their 'Wildcat' formation on third down and returned to it after the stoppage in play.
Maryland then responded with their first points via a 19-yard touchdown scamper by back up running back Wes Brown. Hills completed an impressive fourth down pass to freshman Stefon Diggs, who ran for extra yards to set up the Brown touchdown. Diggs, the no. 13 ranked recruit in the country a year ago, finished with 166 total returning yards and 57 yards receiving with one score.
The 14-7 score held until halftime when a 34-yard Chad Christen field goal was knocked in as the long highlight of a very brief third quarter. Facing a two-score deficit to open the final fifteen minutes, Hills and the Maryland offense began to stall just outside of field goal range. Scrambling to his right on a key third down, Hills heaved a prayer pass towards top receiver Marcus Leak who, tangled with Mack at the two-yard line, tipped the ball behind him.
Snatching the tumbling ball out of the air, Diggs tapped his left foot inside the end zone to score an improbable six points for the Terps. With their backs against the wall as much as they had been all afternoon, the UConn offense answered with their best series of the season. Minutes later, the victory was held on to by the defense, which set the table for the entire team to celebrate.
The Huskies return to action next Saturday when they travel to Kalamazoo, MI for a clash with Western Michigan. Last year, the Broncos left Rentschler Field with a win after a heartbreaking 35-28 October shootout. This year's contest is scheduled to kick off at 2:00 p.m. and can be seen in its entirety on SNY.
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