Cochran leads UConn to second straight win....
EAST HARTFORD: After two wins in his first three games as the starting quarterback for the University of Connecticut football team, it appears that red shirt freshman Casey Cochran has what coaches and players call ‘IT’.
That intangible that separates one player from the group, even if at first glance you may not think he’s the that much more talented or gifted than his competition.
It has been that unmeasurable quality that has led the Huskies to their first winning streak, albeit towards the end of a very tough season, with an impressive 28-17 win over rival Rutgers in the two team’s last meeting as members of the American Athletic Conference.
“Casey has the trust of his players,” head coach T.J. Weist said during the postgame. “He doesn’t talk much, he just leads by example.”
In front of 22,163 at a cold Rentschler Field, Cochran used six different receivers to pile up 311 yards on a 25-33 performance that included touchdowns to Dhameer Bradley in the first quarter and a game deciding 3-yard pass to Brian Lemelle with 4:53 left in the game.
Junior wide-out Deshon Foxx had a career day with nine catches, good for 117 yards, including a crucial 40-yard catch and run at the end of the third quarter when the Huskies went back on top by a 21-17 score thanks to a one yard run by Max DeLorenzo.
Cochran had said earlier this week that it was important for his team to get off to a good start.
While they may have gotten their first win a week ago with a 28-point comeback against Temple (a 28-21 win), Cochran did not want to have to go back to that approach again.
So when the Scarlet Knights drove 65-yards in 13 plays off the opening kickoff and scored on a ten yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal (Tyler Kraft from J.T. Tartacoff), Cochran knew his team had to answer.
“That was a huge series for us,” Cochran said. “They marched down the field and scored and then when we responded. That was crucial.”
UConn marched 79-yards in eight plays with the fans getting their first look at a quarterback who was getting himself in a zone that would last all day.
His first pass to Foxx went for 14-yards, his next 17-yards to Lemelle off a tipped ball.
Cochran hit his favorite target, Jeremy Davis for a 31-yard gain after the freshman from Monroe, CT saw a blitz and reacted well.
The Bradley touchdown that tied the game was an 18-yarder that showed the Huskies and their leader’s resiliency.
Martin Hyppolite made his presence known on the ensuing kickoff when he forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Steg and the offense was back in business at the Rutgers 31-yard line.
Six plays later, Max DeLorenzo bulled in from 12-yards out for a 14-7 UConn lead.
The Huskies came in knowing Rutgers would try and make Cochran beat them.
“We knew they were going to try and stop the run,” Weist said. “They have been doing it to everybody all year. We also knew that would leave the middle open.”
Cochran responded with a first quarter line that was pretty impressive. 9-10-125 and a touchdown.
The UConn offense would stall some in the second and third quarters and the Scarlet Knights would take advantage of it.
Senior quarterback Chas Dodd (16-35-1 TD-2 Int) put together a 16 play, 56-yard drive in the second quarter that led to a 34-yard field goal by Kyle Federico that took the teams to the half with the home team up 14-10.
Rutgers took advantage on fourth down in the first half, converting on all three tries they attempted.
In the third after two Huskie drives stalled, the visitors used the long ball to set up the go-ahead score.
Dodd hit Max Issaka with an 84-yard catch and run down the left sideline that led to a three yard scoring run by Justin Goodwin to put Rutgers up 17-14.
The Huskie faithful had seen this movie before, UConn had a 21-7 lead over Michigan earlier this year before the bottom fell out in a 24-21 loss.
Where they in for another meltdown?
Not with the ever calm Cochran at the helm.
The former Masuk High star put together another long drive, this one went for 80-yards and included that key 40-yard play by Foxx that led to a one yard run by DeLorenzo and the lead again at 21-17.
Punch taken, punch returned.
With a little under eight minutes left in the fourth, the Huskie went for and got the knockout blow when Cochran found Lemelle, who made an outstanding over the shoulder catch on a three yard touchdown pass that sealed the deal and made it a streak.
Two in a row. Looking for three next Saturday against Memphis in the season finale.
NOTES: Taylor Mack picked off Dodd twice in the second half.
UConn did not commit a turnover.
Bradley’s 18-yard touchdown grab was the first of his career and he finished the day with career highs in receptions (3) and receiving yards (41).
DeLorenzo has now scored four touchdowns this year, all in the last five games.
The Huskies held Rutgers to just 68 yards on 31 carries.
Andrew Adams had a career high eight tackles for the Huskies.
Rutgers put up 326 total yards of offense to UConn’s 287.
Cochran and the offense where 5 of 9 on third down conversions.