by Rob Joyce
The conference opener was a rough one for the Huskies. At Navy, UConn fell behind 21-0 before halftime before staging a comeback and appeared poised to win the game in the final seconds. After scoring 24 unanswered points, the Huskies fell behind 28-24, needing a touchdown to win the game. After a near-perfect drive down the field Hergy Mayala caught a pass at the one-yard line with 17 seconds left. However, the offense couldn’t get a play called in time, forcing them to burn their final timeout. So when Ron Johnson was stuffed on the ensuing play, time ran out before everyone could get lined up for one final play, and the Midshipmen survived.
As exhilarating as the comeback was, it made the defeat hurt that much more, and in the still-short FBS history of UConn football, it joins the ranks of these games as the biggest gut-punch losses ever:
5) UConn @ NC State, 10/11/03:
The 2003 version of the Huskies entered Raleigh at 4-2, with a chance to put another significant notch in their belts in their second true season in FBS. Against Philip Rivers and company the Huskies erased a 14-point deficit and were tied at 24 in the final seconds with a chance to win the game. UConn needed another chunk of yardage to reach field goal range, but Dan Orlovsky’s pass was intercepted by Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay and returned 56 yards for the game-winning touchdown with five seconds left. That would be UConn’s last loss of the season, but the still-independent Huskies didn’t go bowling despite a 9-3 record.
4) UConn @ Rutgers, 10/18/08:
Both programs were coming off memorable years – the Huskies were co-Big East champions in 2007 while the Scarlet Knights nearly made it to a BCS game, but were just 1-5 entering the contest. UConn had multiple chances in Piscataway to improve their record to 6-1, but Tony Ciaravino missed field goal tries of 43, 25 and 42 yards, the latter of which clanged off the right upright with 1:09 to secure a 12-10 Rutgers victory.
3) UConn @ West Virginia, 11/24/07:
It was the most-hyped game in program history to that point, and although they were fairly big underdogs going into the game, the beatdown the Huskies took from the Mountaineers was astounding. With the winner receiving the Big East title, Pat White, Noel Devine and the rest of the WVU offense ran roughshod through the UConn defense, to the tune of 517 rushing yards in a 66-21 win. Though they’d ultimately be considered co-Big East champions, it showed how much separation there was to be made up between the two programs.
For the final two, it’s nearly impossible to isolate one from the other, since they shared the same unfortunate circumstance – the aftermath of Jasper Howard’s death. So they’ll be called 1a and 1b:
1b) UConn @ West Virginia, 10/24/09:
The first game after Howard’s death the first trip to Morgantown since the ’07 loss, and obviously emotions were high. The two teams honored Howard before the game, and during it UConn looked poised to finally, for the first time ever, topple WVU. Marcus Easley’s 88-yard touchdown reception put the Huskies up 24-21 with under four minutes to go. UConn needed one stop to secure the most emotional win in program history, but it wasn’t meant to be. Noel Devine, for whom UConn never had an answer during his career, burst through the secondary for a 56-yard score less than two minutes later to give the Mountaineers a 28-24 win.
1a) UConn vs. Rutgers, 10/31/09:
The next week was just as brutal. In the first home game since Howard’s death, with a sold-out Rentschler Field mostly decked out in blue “6” t-shirts. The game got off to a rocky start, as Devin McCourtey returned the opening kick for a touchdown. However, the Rent was rocking after a 15-play, 87-yard drive capped by a fourth-down touchdown run by Jordan Todman with 38 seconds left to give UConn the 24-21 lead. All they had to do was not give up a big play.
And then they did. The first play of Rutgers’ final drive, Tom Savage found Tim Brown behind the UConn secondary, and Brown (a high school friend of Howard’s) scampered the final bit of the 81 yards to the end zone for a 28-24 Scarlet Knights win.