For the first time in seven seasons, after three straight double-digit losing campaigns, UConn football reached bowl eligibility on Saturday afternoon with a 36-33 win over Liberty on Senior Day.
After UConn stuffed Liberty on 4th down to bring the ball down to five, Zion Turner threw a 30-yard strike to Kevens Clercius for the touchdown. The UConn defense tied on three straight Liberty hits to close out the game and send the Huskies bowling.
UConn started the game with an effective opening drive, highlighted by a 15-yard catch and run from Aaron Turner that set up a 16-yard bowling ball touchdown run from Victor Rosa. Liberty moved the ball upfield with equal ease in response, but the Huskies defense tightened up and the Flames had to settle for a field goal.
That’s when things started to get weird. Liberty got the ball back after a UConn punt and was driving again when starting quarterback Johnathan Bennett didn’t see a raging Eric Watts rushing at him, giving up a sack fumble recovered by Jackson Mitchell returned for a touchdown , and the Huskies were up 14-3 early.
Liberty responded by taking advantage of a fumble from UConn on a gimmick play and driving from midfield to make it 14-10, but the Huskies offense kept rolling, coming out of a starting position difficult on his own six-yard line with a 60-yard run by fullback Robert Burns, kicking off a 94-yard drive that ended with Burns hitting him from the 1-yard line.
With just under four minutes left in the second quarter and leading 21-10, the Huskies offense made a costly mistake by throwing the Flames a lifeline before halftime with a Zion Turner interception. That put Liberty in UConn territory, where they hit a TD to cut the lead to 21-17.
The second half was all Liberty, scoring 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to go up 27-21, on two drives consisting of short passes and zone runs on a gassed UConn defense. The Huskies responded with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown that Liberty once again gave them a helping hand, this time via two costly personal fouls to twice extend the drive on third downs.
UConn took a 28-27 lead, but Liberty had found something against a tiresome Huskies defensive unit and responded by attacking the edge of the field with Demario Douglas, who swept home and restarted the Flames, 33-28.
Liberty stopped UConn on the ensuing possession but got a little greedy in the fourth and short, failing to convert thanks to a perfect chase from Jackson Mitchell, returning the ball to the Huskies with a chance to take the lead. After converting their fourth down, they took the lead for good on Clercius’ touchdown and the defense held on to send the Huskies to bowl eligibility.
UConn is 6-5 heading into the final game of the season, at Army on Saturday, Nov. 19. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network at 12 p.m.