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UConn Scores First Shutout Since ’07 In Season Opener

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EAST HARTFORD, CT - AUGUST 30: Chris Burns #24 of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen is tackled by Ty-Meer Brown #15 of the Univeristy of Connecticut Huskies after running with the ball during the game on August 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

EAST HARTFORD, CT – AUGUST 30: Chris Burns #24 of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen is tackled by Ty-Meer Brown #15 of the Univeristy of Connecticut Huskies after running with the ball during the game on August 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

By PAT EATON-ROBB
Associated Press

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut scored touchdowns on
offense defense and special teams Thursday in spoiling
Massachusett’s debut as a bowl subdivision program.

Chandler Whitmer threw for 219 yards in his UConn debut and
receiver Nick Williams had 143 yards in total offense as the
Huskies rolled to a 37-0 win.

Connecticut’s defense dominated the game, holding UMass to just
59 yards of offense and limiting the Minutemen to three first
downs. UMass did not have an offensive snap in UConn territory.

The Huskies rolled up 372 yards of offense and 124 return yards.

“From a defensive standpoint, I think we hit the expectation
from what we thought we could get,” said UConn coach Paul
Pasqualoni. “Special teams, to be perfectly honest with you,
exceeded my expectations a little bit.”

PHOTOS: UConn Beats UMass 37-0 In Season Opener

Lyle McCombs rushed for 82 yards and a first-quarter touchdown,
one of two by the offense. UConn also scored on a 37-yard
interception return by cornerback Dwayne Gratz and on a blocked
punt.

Chad Christen added field goals of 36, 47 and 19 yards.

This was the 72nd meeting between the two programs but the first
since 1999, when both teams were Division I-AA.

“At this point they are probably a little bigger, a little
faster and a little stronger,” said UMass coach Charley Molnar,
who also was making his head coaching debut. “In regards to FBS,
we are where we need to be. We’re going to be successful in it; it
just didn’t show tonight.”

Whitmer, a sophomore transfer who threw for more than 3,000
yards in junior college last year, completed 15 of his 25 passes,
but also threw two interceptions in his first game as a Division I
starter.

He hit his first three passes, including a 16-yarder to Nick
Williams that set up the Huskies’ first score, a 1-yard plunge by
McCombs that capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive.

Williams returned the next punt by the Minutemen 34 yards to the
UMass 30. The 5-foot-10 speedster also had a 37-yard kickoff return
and 24 yards rushing, drawing comparisons to the New England
Patriots’ Wes Welker.

“I do expect to be a factor in the passing game, in the rushing
game and in the return game,” Williams said.

But safety Darren Thellen stopped that UConn drive _ and made a
few highlight shows _ by diving out of bounds and tipping a Whitmer
pass back to linebacker Tom Brandt, who made his first career
interception.

UConn had three drives end with turnovers deep in UMass
territory.

“With some better teams and some closer games, we’re going to
have to be able to finish when we get in the red zone,” said
Whitmer. “We did a pretty good job driving the ball, some nice
plays to get us down there, some conversions on third down. But,
we’ve got to finish.”

Whitmer split time with Scott McCummings, who ran UConn’s
version of the “Wildcat” offense. McCummings ran for 13 yards and
a 1-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that put UConn up 34-0.

The defense got into the scoring column when Gratz stepped in
front of UMass receiver Marken Michel and returned an interception
37 yards for a touchdown with 1:49 left in the first half.

The special teams got their score with just over 4 minutes left
in the third quarter. UConn’s Taylor Mack blocked a punt after
Colter Johnson dropped the snap, and the Huskies’ Max DeLorenzo
recovered in the end zone to give UConn a 27-0 lead.

McCombs, who rushed for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns last
year, had 18 carries, but was unable to break one for more than 12
yards.

UMass never got its offense started, averaging just over 1 yard
per play, and failing to get a first down until just 34 seconds
before halftime.

Trevardo Williams, who had 12.5 sacks a year ago, got his first
of the season late in the third quarter, one of two sacks by the
Huskies on the day.

UMass redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn ran the Minutemen’s new
spread offense, but completed just nine of 22 passes for 56 yards.
The team had only 3 yards rushing.

The game was the first between Football Bowl Subdivision
programs from New England since 2004, when UConn visited Boston
College.

The two teams have no future games scheduled, though both
programs say they would like to resume the series.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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