Published November 24. 2013 4:00AM
Philadelphia - UConn has its first football victory of the season, courtesy of a furious second-half comeback.
Yawin Smallwood returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown with 4 minutes, 20 seconds remaining as the Huskies overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit to beat Temple 28-21 on Saturday night in an American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Huskies (1-9, 1-6) avoided setting a program record for consecutive losses (11 dating back to last season) and presented interim head coach T.J. Weist with his first win in dramatic fashion.
Freshman quarterback Casey Cochran, the former New London and Masuk star, tied the game on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 6:52 to play and Smallwood won it when he intercepted Temple quarterback P.J. Walker and sprinted untouched for the go-ahead score.
Smallwood (eight tackles) also came up with a huge sack of Walker on the game's final drive, forcing the Owls (1-10, 0-7) to have Walker throw a desperation fourth-down pass into the end zone with 38 seconds left that was broken up by the UConn secondary.
It marked the sixth time this season that Temple has relinquished a second-half lead and fourth time the Owls couldn't hold onto a fourth-quarter lead.
Temple hopped out to an early lead and took a 21-0 advantage into the half, but allowed UConn to make it a one score game with two third-quarter touchdowns - a 33-yard Geremy Davis TD reception from Cochran and a seven-yard run by Max DeLorenzo.
The Owls' defense tried to keep UConn and Cochran from tying the game, but came up short on two key fourth-and-goals. Temple actually stopped UConn on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line but cornerback Anthony Robey was called for pass interference on fourth-and-goal, allowing UConn a fresh set of downs at the goal line.
Temple then proceeded to stop three straight rushes at the 1-yard line but could not stop Cochran on the Huskies' second fourth down from the goal line.
Two minutes and 32 seconds later, Walker couldn't catch Smallwood on his touchdown return.
Temple opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 6-yard Walker run up the middle that was set up by an Abdul Smith interception of Cochran. For Smith, a senior, it was his first career interception and only Temple's third pick this season.
Temple proceeded to score on its next two possessions - on an eight-yard Walker touchdown pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson and an 18-yard Zaire Williams rush - and took a 21-0 lead into the break.
Cochran finished 8-for-18 for 111 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while Davis had four receptions for 83 yards and a TD and DeLorenzo had 61 rushing yards on 18 carries.