Huskies improve to 2-0 with 22-17 win over Black Knights.
East Hartford: 2-0 is 2-0 is 2-0.
That can’t be a bad thing and isn’t as it’s the place the UConn football team finds themselves, albeit a strange spot considering what has transpired at the state’s largest University over the past few years but it is what it is.
As they finish their first 10-days of the 2015 campaign, the Bryant Shirreffs led Huskies sport that undefeated mark thanks to a 22-17 win over Army in which they righted a wrong that occurred a year ago after one of the their toughest losses of the year at the hands of the Black Knights.
The Huskies suffered one of their toughest losses of 2014 when they dropped a 35-21 decision to the Academy at Yankee Stadium in a game they gave up 328 yards on the ground to a triple option that had the defense trying to catch up all game.
On Saturday, a couple of things changed.
First, the Black Knights graduated Angel Santiago, the signal caller from a year ago who had far more weapons to choose from in his option arsenal.
Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 129 total yards but 56 came on his second quarter touchdown run that gave the visitors a 10-3 lead.
Aside from the signal caller though, Army gained just 51 additional yards on the ground. The Knights just didn’t have the same weapons this time around.
Second, UConn has a quarterback and his last name is Shirreffs and I’ll refrain from saying that there is a new….never mind.
It is true though. For the first time in many a year, and I know it was against a Division I-A school and Army but it seems as if this kid has a very, very high ceiling.
“He’s kind of a gym rat,” head coach Bob Diaco said, “He loves to study the game of football and he’s a good student.”
All Shirreffs did was complete 19 of 25 passes for 270 yards and run for another 56. He’s got the ability to get away from a rush and make something out of nothing, whether it was with his legs or with his arm.
The Huskies had scoring drives of 69, 75, 67 and 62 on the way to running up 415 total yards of offense.
Former Ansonia Charger great Arkeel Newsome made his mark for the second straight game, scoring on a 10-yard run in the second quarter that featured his signature grinding leg power as he bullied into the end zone.
“I just kept my legs moving at all times,” Newsome said, “I had the mindset that I was going to get in there.”
Diaco had said that the sophomore running back was going to see more time this year if he held onto the ball and so far, so good. Newsome finished with 74 yards rushing, a team high and a pair of catches good for 16 yards.
Newsome was instrumental in the Huskies last scoring drive, a 39-yard field goal by Bobby Puyol, carrying the ball four straight times for 24 yards and a pair of first downs as the home team ran time off the clock.
When asked how he felt about being in that position, Newsome was understandably pleased.
“It definitely feels great,” Newsome said, “I’m just thankful that they are giving me the ball. I’m just going to strive and get the most out of every carry I get.”
The UConn defense, mauled a year ago in the house that Ruth Built by the multi-pronged option, stayed true, for the most part to their assignments and focused on their man on any play.
Playing against an offense like they faced against Army is not typical, nor will their preparation in two weeks when they return home to face Navy.
But it was the defense that stepped up and aside from two mistakes, a 56-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw and a 71-yard late touchdown pass that corner Obi Melifonwu just missed picking off, the Huskies allowed just 138 yards.
The 2-0 start marks the first time UConn has done that since 2008 and while the players and coaches tried to down play it, it has to feel good.
….The announced crowd at the Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field was 28,260.
….Ron Johnson had another strong game, rushing 18 times for 39 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run.
….Punter Justin Wain had a good day with three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
….Noel Thomas set a career high with 83 yards on four catches including back to back grabs of 33 and 26 yards in a drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal be Puyol.
….Freshman Tyraiq Beals broke onto the big stage with four catches, good for 45 yards while tight end Alec Bloom (3-42) and wide out Thomas Lucas (2-42 had big grabs at critical times.
….UConn travels to take on Missouri next Saturday with kickoff scheduled for noon.