UConn Offense Leads Way To First Win Huskies Capture 56-49 Shootout Over Rhode Island
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. --- With the UConn and Rhode Island football offenses combining for 105 points, 659 yards passing, 464 yards rushing, and threatening to score on every possession, it still took a big defensive play to secure the Huskies' first victory of the season.
Junior linebacker Eli Thomas sacked Rhode Island quarterback JaJuan Lawson with the ball on the UConn 16-yard line and time running out, clinching a 56-49 victory for the Huskies (1-2) Saturday before 20,691 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
UConn running back Kevin Mensah had barreled into the end zone on a tough 22-yard run to give the Huskies the 56-49 lead with just 0:57 remaining, but the way the game had been played, that was plenty of time for Rhode Island to mount a threat.
The Rams (2-1) drove to a first down on the Husky 16 with 0:11 to go, and after an incomplete pass, had 5 seconds left, and one play, to score the tying TD.
Thomas made sure that didn't happen – producing a huge sigh of relief from the UConn sideline.
"(Defensive end) James Atkins did a real good job all game opening things up for me," Thomas said. "He opened it up and I just did my job and hit the quarterback. The offense did a really good job today. As a defense, we had to step up and we did at the end and that's all that matters."
The offense, led by senior quarterback David Pindell, was nothing short of outstanding, compiling 308 yards passing, 265 yards rushing and scoring the 12th most points in a single game in UConn history, as well as the sixth-most total yards (573).
Pindell's 445 yards of individual total offense (308 yards passing, 137 yards rushing), is the third-best in UConn history and the most since Bryant Shirreffs in 2015 and his four TD passes fell one short of Dan Orlovsky's school record. The rushing of Pindell and Mensah (144 yards) gave UConn two 100-yard runners in the same game for the first time since Jordan Todman and Robbie Frey accomplished the feat in 2010.
"I thought David played extremely well," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "In the second half, I thought he got a little tired, but he went on his reserves and found a way to get it done. As much running around as he had to do --- I mean 137 yards rushing and 308 passing and six TDs, he better get and IV or something. If it wasn't for him, I don't know where we'd be. When we needed things to happen, he made them happen."
The game was a shootout from the outset.
UConn on its opening possession to take the lead, but URI came right back to tie and the horserace was on. The Huskies' offense was in high gear in the first half, scoring six touchdowns – two by receiver Hergy Mayala, one each by Pindell, Mensah, Hero Mauriseau, and Aaron McLean – to take a 42-28 lead into the locker room.
The first half, I don't think our offense could have played any better than what we did," Edsall said.
URI scored twice in the third quarter, however, to climb back into a tie, 42-42. Pindell got the Huskies back in front with a six-yard TD run, but again Rhode Island answered with a 14-yard scoring run by Naim Jones with 3:13 remaining in the game.
"We just had to go out there and keep trying to execute the game plan," Pindell said. "We clicked today. I think we found our mistakes from the first two games – taking care of the ball and scoring when we got to the red zone – and that's what we tried to focus on today."
The final drive began with Zavier Scott's kickoff return to the UConn 31 and eight plays later the Huskies faced a second-and-7 on the URI 22. Mensah took the handoff and would not stop until he hit the end zone for the 56-49 lead.
"Before we went out there, we just said, 'Score,' " Mensah said. "If we all do our job, we'll get it done. I just saw the linebacker go over the top and I just took the opposite hole and scored. That was it."
There were still 57 seconds on the clock and the URI offense – which compiled 550 yards of its own – was ready to come back one more time. In nine plays, the Rams drove the ball to a first down on the UConn 16. Lawson threw the ball away on the first play, bringing the clock down to 0:05 and one last play.
Thomas, however, broke through for the sack and the Huskies had their victory – and perhaps a little more confidence as the y continue their season with a trip to Syracuse and a game in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
"I'm just really happy for our kids to get a win –it doesn't matter how we got it, the bottom line is we won," Edsall said. "It was good to see that when we had to make some plays at the end, on both sides of the ball, we did that.
"You know, why go and play tentative? Just let it fly, what have you got to lose? It's just a game, not life and death. It's a game – have fun."