The food trucks and the tailgaters assembled outside Rentschler Field on Saturday as 22,442 students and spectators gathered to watch UConn football host Central Connecticut State in its home opener. After a slow start, the Huskies began to wear the Blue Devil defense down in the second half on their way to a 28-3 victory, the first of the “Husky Revolution” under new head coach Jim Mora.
It took awhile, but after two punts, a fumble and a blocked field goal, the UConn offense was able to find the end zone. Facing a third down and 6 yards to go in the second quarter, true freshman quarterback Zion Turner found tight end Brandon Niemenski in the end zone to give the Huskies a lead with six minutes on the clock.
That drive, highlighted by the first chunk play of the game for the Huskies – a 24-yard run from Brian Brewton – looked similar to the way UConn opened its season-opener, only a quarter later.
Central, an FCS school, kept the game close in the first half by allowing just 199 yards and forcing two Husky turnovers. The Blue Devils even blocked a Noe Ruelas 54-yard field goal attempt. Early on, the flashbacks from UConn’s 38-28 loss to FCS Holy Cross in last season’s home opener became increasingly relevant.
Turner had his first chance at a two-minute drill with halftime approaching. He looked comfortable in the pass game, completing two straight to get the Huskies near midfield. On third-and-6, with nine seconds to go before the half and UConn with one chance at the end zone, Turner dropped back and took his time before firing a laser to tight end Justin Joly. That pass, however, was tipped and intercepted by Harold Miles for a Blue Devil touchback.
Turner completed 14 of 22 passes in what was his first collegiate start for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns – good for a 150.2 passer rating.
UConn finished the first half with 199 yards compared to CCSU’s 122, though two giveaways in CCSU territory and a blocked field goal attempt kept the Huskies out of the end zone.
In the latter stages of the opening drive in the second half, Dal’mont Gourdine made the defensive play of the game for UConn. A 17-yard completion to Everett Wormley gave the Blue Devils the ball at the UConn two yard line. One play later, Gourdine bull-rushed the line and got to quarterback Romelo Williams, taking him down for a nine-yard loss. A few plays later, CCSU’s 17-yard field goal attempt by Cristiano Rosa clanked off the left upright, no good.
Nate Carter established himself on the ensuing drive as he rumbled into a tiring CCSU defensive line, picking up yards in small handfuls. Eventually, after a 15-yard passing completion from Zion Turner to Aaron Turner, Carter found open space in front of him. Seventeen yards later he was in the end zone with his first touchdown of the season and gave UConn a 14-3 lead.
Carter’s 123 yards on 23 attempts Saturday give him 313 on the season.
Jacob Flynn, who filled in injured Keelan Marion’s spot on the depth chart, caught the first pass of his career, a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that made the game 21-3 and gave UConn the flexibility to rotate backups into the game.
With 36 seconds to go, Zion Turner handed the ball off to Bristol Central alum Victor Rosa, who raced into the end zone from 11 yards out for the first score of his college career – capping off an in-state matchup with a score from a local.
UConn (1-1) will host Syracuse on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.