By PAT EATON-ROBB. Associated Press Writer
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut gave the Big East just its second win against a BCS conference team this season.
Jordan Todman ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lead the Huskies (3-2) to a 40-21 victory over Vanderbilt (1-3).
“Any time you can beat another BCS conference it’s important,” coach Randy Edsall said. “It’s not only important for us, but it’s important for our league, for the Big East. At least we won’t get hammered tonight on ESPN”
Todman, who carried the ball 37 times, has now rushed for over 100 yards in seven of his last eight games. He missed last week’s win over Buffalo with an injured left elbow, and played with a pad on that arm.
The Huskies outscored the Commodores 19-0 in the second half, after being tied 21-21 at halftime.
“It’s just a mindset and more heart, and who wants it more,” Todman said. “I felt like we went out there in the second half and proved that we really wanted it.”
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson put the game away when he stepped in front of Commodores receiver Akeem Dunham, returning the interception 44 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to put the Huskies up 38-21.
Larry Smith threw for 157 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards to lead Vanderbilt. But he was picked off twice and sacked five times. Running back Warren Norman had just 27 yards rushing, but 162 yards on kick returns.
“UConn made some good adjustments,” Smith said. “I had a couple of poor throws and the rest was history. They just came out there and hit us in the mouth on both sides of the ball. They dominated the entire second half.”
The Huskies’ Nick Williams took the opening kick of the second half 54 yards, setting up a touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Endres to reserve tight end Corey Manning that gave the Huskies a 28-21 lead.
A 25-yard field goal put UConn up by 10 with just under 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
Connecticut played for field position the rest of the game, content to run Todman, look for short passes and pin Vanderbilt deep when drives stalled.
An errant snap through the end zone by the Commodores gave UConn its final points.
Endres, making his first start of the season, completed 21 of 30 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
Connecticut took a 7-0 lead just 1 1/2 minutes into the game.
Vanderbilt receiver Jonathan Krause fumbled the ball on the game’s first play, and Wreh-Wilson took it back to the Commodores 12-yard line. Todman then caught an 11-yard pass and ran it in from a yard out.
Todman scored on an 11-run in the second quarter, after it appeared he was caught in the backfield.
But the momentum swung on the kickoff, which Norman returned 72 yards, and Vanderbilt scored three touchdowns in the next 4 minutes.
“For about 57 minutes, they scored nothing,” said Wreh-Wilson.
“The second half the didn’t score anything. So when we executed, we were a great defense.”
An 8-yard touchdown pass from Smith to tight end Brandon Barden, was followed by 48-yard scoring pass from Smith to Udom Umoh after a 24-yard UConn punt.
Endres threw an interception on UConn’s next play, setting up a touchdown from Krause, who took a pitch on a reverse and ran 44 yards for the score.
Endres led UConn on a 9-play, 73-yard drive late in the half, hitting Kashif Moore in the back of the end zone from 6-yards out and the teams went into halftime tied.
Connecticut has a short week, opening Big East play at Rutgers on Friday night.
They are expected to be without starting tackle Jimmy Bennett, who left the game with a knee injury in the first half.
This was the first visit for Vanderbilt to the state of Connecticut since 1948, when they beat Yale. Vandy last played UConn in 2002, winning 27-24 in Tennessee.
The Big East came into the game with a 6-13 record againstfellow NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams and 1-10 mark against teams which play in Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifier conferences.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)