For most, watching a UConn football game is torture and not worth the time or energy. Thanks to several season ending injuries to key offensive players in game one, any promise of a strong season for UConn was over before it began and made the already steep hill to wins an even more difficult climb. Despite all the struggles and now 12 players with season ending injuries, the Huskies are looking to prove themselves and establish some momentum moving forward. On Saturday afternoon, they did just that with a 19-14 victory at home over Fresno State. They entered the game as 23.5 point underdogs and pulled off an improbable victory that is sure to inject confidence in the very young group taking the field right now. Despite all the adversity and the incredible inexperience on roster, Jim Mora’s Huskies aren’t about to roll over and die.
Even for a diehard UConn sports fan like myself, I have found it difficult to carve out time to watch football the last few seasons. While I’ve seen parts of most all games, it’s a serious, and sometimes tortuous existence following this program. What I used to consider appointment television, regardless of the product on the field, has now become painful viewing. I’ve been worn down from all the years of complete trash play. Almost every game against an FBS opponent features 20+ point underdog status (often more like 40+) for the Huskies and I’ve found myself rooting for the Huskies to beat the spread more often than actually rooting for a win. Frankly, it’s significantly more likely they beat the spread most weeks than even come within 2 or 3 touchdowns of their opponent.
As I would any other week, I went into this past week against Fresno State with the same routine: check the spread as soon as it’s available. My first reaction, “Oh, it’s only a 23.5 point spread this week, maybe UConn will only lose by 3 touchdowns.” There is no better time to be wrong than when underestimating the team you love. The Huskies showed grit, determination, and a lack of quit against the Bulldogs and thanks to some good play, and some lucky twists and turns, found themselves with a chance to drive down the field and take the lead late in the 4th quarter. True Freshman QB Zion Turner led the Huskies on a long drive downfield, including a 40-yard pass to WR Kevens Clercius, resulting in the game-winning TD. It was the first time this season we’ve seen Turner step up in a big way in a huge spot.
The W was significant in a plethora of ways. It was UConn’s first win against an FBS opponent in nearly 3 years (UMass in 2019) and was a statement that despite injuries and low expectations, the Huskies were going to come into each game prepared and fight like hell, even with the odds massively against them. Additionally, now with 2 wins on the season, the Huskies have matched their season best number since their 3-win 2017 campaign with 6 games to go. While I’m not expecting a ton more victories given some challenging opponents in their near future, Saturday proved that this team has a chance to hang in there and who knows, maybe even win another game or two this season. Most importantly as a fan, this is the first time in a very long time to have a glimmer of optimism.
Jim Mora came to UConn knowing that a rebuild and turnaround was going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. He was dealt a brutally tough hand in year one with his starting QB and WR1 going down for the season in game one and then subsequently losing starters all over the field over the next few weeks. Despite all those factors, he’s kept his team ready and worked hard to get his young players up to speed and playing, many earlier than expected. It’s only win #2 and the first against an FBS opponent, but it’s a confidence builder and an achievement to be proud of as a head coach given all the challenging conditions.
Hopefully, this is just the first step in a significant rebuild for UConn over the next few years. #BleedBlue