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No. 15 Michigan rallies late to edge upset-minded UConn

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published September 22. 2013 4:00AM
Charles Krupa/AP Photo
UConn tight end Spener Parker (96) celebrates with Deshon Foxx after catching a touchdown pass in the second quarter of Saturday night's game against No. 15 Michigan at Rentschler Field. The Wolverines rallied from a 21-7 deficit to beat the Huskies 24-21.

East Hartford - The upset script was just about written and ready to go to the printers.

UConn just had to finish the last chapter of a riveting story. That's when college football heavyweight Michigan stepped in and rewrote the ending.

The upset bid was denied, as UConn first lost a 14-point second half lead and then the game, 24-21, before a Rentschler Field record crowd of 42,704 and a nationally-televised audience.

Michigan's Brendan Gibbons kicked a 21-yard field goal with four minutes, 36 seconds remaining to prevent the upset.

UConn put forth an inspired effort in one of the biggest home games in the program's history.

It wasn't enough as the 15th-ranked Wolverines (4-0) scored the game's final 17 points. The Huskies fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2001 and now 2-19 against FBS top 25 teams.

"Obviously, I'm proud of the team's effort," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I admire the approach the kids took, their attitude about it and how hard they worked and played. They made a couple more plays than we made.

"… It's a disappointing outcome."

A swarming UConn forced four turnovers, two leading to touchdowns, had a season high three sacks.

But the Huskies couldn't stop the Wolverines in the game's key stages. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 120 yards and two second half touchdowns.

UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer had his moments, throwing two touchdown passes and passing for 159 yards, but his interception led to Michigan's game-tying touchdown.

The Huskies appeared to be in great shape at the start of the second half, taking a 21-7 advantage.

Quarterback Devin Gardner plowed into a pile at the line and the football squirted out. Opportunistic free safety Ty-Meer Brown scooped up the loose ball and ran 34 yards for a UConn touchdown.

There was still a lot of time left in the game.

Michigan responded.

Toussaint took a pitch, dodged a few defenders and went 35 yards for a touchdown, cutting UConn's lead to 21-14 with still 5:37 left in the third quarter.

On UConn's next drive, Chad Christen missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.

The Huskies owed a 21-14 lead heading into the final quarter. The Wolverines owned the momentum.

What happened next took the wind out of the Huskies.

After stopping Michigan on fourth down at the UConn 22, Whitmer threw an interception. Junior Desmond Morgan took the turnover to the 12. Toussaint raced around the corner for a game-tying 12-yard touchdown run with 9:49 left

The Wolverines weren't finished, scoring the game-winning points on their next possession on Gibbons' 21-yard field goal.

On UConn's final drive, junior Frank Clark sacked Whitmer on third down for a big loss. Whitmer threw a 26-yard pass to Foxx but left the Huskies short of the first down.

Michigan ran out clock.

"It was just a great night for football," Pasqualoni said. "Fans were great. The stadium was great. There were a lot of good things that happened… It would have been great to win."

For the first time this season, UConn led at halftime, 14-7.

An active and attacking defense made two interceptions and had two sacks before intermission. The Huskies entered the game without a sack and two interceptions in two games. Their special teams also recovered a fumble on a punt return, leading to their second touchdown.

Cole Wagner's punt rolled freely inside the Michigan 10 and bounced off the leg of a Wolverine player. Obi Melifonwu dove on the loose ball at the nine.

Three plays later, running back Lyle McCombs slipped behind a defender and caught a 7-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 lead with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.

Whitmer found tight end Spencer Parker over the middle for an 11-yard scoring play for UConn's other first half touchdown. It was Parker's first reception this season.

Michigan tried to quickly answer but Bryon Jones out-battled receiver Jehu Chesson and intercepted the long pass attempt. Jhavon Williams, a back-up cornerback who replaced injured starter Taylor Mack, also made an interception in the first half.

Michigan opened the scoring. Gardner bolted 17 yards for a touchdown with 5:43 left in the first quarter.


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