Since the UConn vs Wyoming Football game ended in dramatic fashion earlier this evening, I have been trying to put into words the rollercoaster of emotion that I’ve felt since the game kicked off at 3:30pm in East Hartford. Coming into the game there was reason for a glimmer of hope following a strong 2nd half at Army, but realism sets in quickly when you see the -30.5 betting line and remember that the game was already out of hand during the 2nd half last week. The Huskies started strong on both sides of the ball, but as a fan, I’m sitting on my couch waiting for the big mistake and the irreversible change in momentum that crushes my spirit.
The game stayed close and winded towards halftime at 13-3. The UConn defense held strong against a Wyoming offense that scored 95 points in their last 2 games and the glimmer of hope in me grew a bit with each passing minute. The Cowboys grabbed a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to make it a 3pt game and just like that, the hope dwindled and the dread of inevitable doom crept back into my mind. The clock ticked down and the 4th quarter began with UConn still in front. I asked myself “Is this actually possible? Nah, they will still lose by 20+.”
A UConn field goal extended the lead to 6 with just over 11 minutes remaining and the hope grew a tiny bit. Then, 10 plays, 77 yards and 4:39 of clock time later, the UConn lead was erased with a Cowboys touchdown. It felt like that was the moment it would all unravel and in my head I believed the final score would be ugly and not reflect how close this game was in reality. My fears were unfortunately proven legitimate when on the first play of the next drive for UConn, Tyler Phommachanh is intercepted and under 3 minutes later, Wyoming scores a touchdown and is up 8 with 3:34 remaining in the game. I’m reasoning with myself at this moment that a close loss is still an incredible accomplishment, and it is given the state of the program, but I’m dejected.
Then comes a gutsy, penalty-aided drive down the field by a freshman QB playing in just his second game ever at the collegiate level in an attempt to tie the score and send the game into OT. There were a lot of incomplete passes and less-than-ideal throws, but the confidence to grab the game by the cajones and try to drag the offense down the field for the tie was amazing to watch. Every member of the bench was cheering and jumping and engaged in every second, a new feeling at UConn. When fellow freshman Nate Carter crossed the goal line with :04 on the clock, I ran around like someone just lit me on fire. The Huskies were just a 2pt conversion try away from tying Wyoming and sending the game into OT. This was a game the Huskies were not supposed to even be competitive in according to, well, everyone. The only people that truly believed this was possible were the players and coaches and even some of them I bet doubted it at times.
The screen pass on the 2pt try was tipped and read perfectly by the Cowboys defense, ending what would have been a miracle finish. Although the loss stings and was absolutely heartbreaking, the biggest takeaway was a massive heaping bowlful of hope, something that has been completely missing from this UConn Huskies program for years. There is definitely still a rebuild afoot, but maybe, just maybe, they have found a QB to build around. Tyler Phommachanh showed some real moxy and skill and rebounded from mistakes well. Oh yeah, and he’s only a freshman with 120 minutes of collegiate football on his resume. He will continue to improve and grow, hopefully avoiding some of the ‘young’ mistakes he made today into the future.
For tonight, I’m going to bed a proud UConn alum and fan with more hope that the last 3 halves of football are an indicator of a future trajectory that isn’t straight into the ground. There will be a lot more to say about this team that isn’t just doom-and-gloom over the next several weeks and for that, I’m grateful.