By Chris Elsberry
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Coming into the game, the UConn defense was ranked No. 9 in the country. Against Louisville Saturday, they played like they were ranked No. 1.
Holding the Cardinals, who were averaging 33.2 points a game, scoreless through three quarters, the Huskies shocked 19th ranked Louisville, 23-20 in triple overtime before 45,618 Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
The win improved UConn to 5-6 overall, 2-4 in the Big East and kept their bowl eligibility hopes alive. The Huskies play Cincinnati next Saturday at Rentschler Field. Louisville, which won nine straight to open the season, lost for the second straight time and fell to 9-2, 4-2 in the Big East.
This was the 20th time the Huskies have faced off against an opponent ranked in the Top 25. UConn was 1-18 overall before with that lone win coming on Oct. 27, 2007 against No. 11 South Florida at Rentschler Field.
Louisville tied the game with 21 seconds left as Teddy Bridgewater connected with DeVante Parker for a six-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left in regulation. The Cardinals went 92 yards in 2:40 to force overtime.
John Wallace made a 37-yard field goal in overtime to give the Cardinals the lead.
Midway in the fourth quarter, Louisville safety Preston Brown delivered a massive hit to UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer that shook up the UConn quarterback, who was taken to the locker room for evaluation. He did not return. Johnny McEntee had to led the offense in the overtime. McEntee threw two very shaky passes before Chad Christen answered with a 37-yard field goal of his own to tied matters at 13-13 after the first overtime.
UConn got the ball to open the second OT and McEntree connected with Lyle McCombs for a 17-yard gain to the Cardinals 4. Two plays later, he found Shakim Phillips for a three-yard TD catch to put UConn in front.
But it took Bridgewater one play to tie matters as he hit Parker, beating Dwayne Gratz, for a 25-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-20. However, Bridgewater was intercepted by Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the end zone in the third OT to set up the Huskies for victory.
Lyle McCombs gained 11 yards to set up Christen’s 30-yard field goal to win the game.
With McCombs (29 carries, 132 yards) leading the way on the ground, the Huskies went 51 yards in eight plays to take a 3-0 lead thanks to a 39-yard field goal from Chad Christen that deflected through the goalposts after banging off the right upright with 5:28 left in the first quarter. Starting at their own 27, McCombs ripped off gains of eight, 29 yards, five and four yards – showing the kind of moves that allowed him to gain 1,151 yards as a freshman, and that he hadn’t shown this season — to get the ball down to Cardinals 22, before Christen caught that lucky bounce on his kick.
UConn kept that momentum going to open the second quarter, going 66 yards in 10 plays grab a 10-0 lead, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Nick Williams. Whitmer found tight end John Delahunt for a nine-yard completion and Williams for another 15 yards. Williams added a 12-yard gain from the Wildcat and McCombs contributed 21 yards before Williams took a handoff from Scott McCummings and found the end zone with 4:40 left in the half.
Meantime, while the offense was finding some consistency, the Huskies defense was making life miserable for Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Unable to find the end zone, it was the first time all season that the Cardinals were held scoreless in the first half, allowing just 88 total yards.
Louisville’s previous lowest scoring first half was 12 points in a 21-17 victory over Southern Mississippi back on Sept. 29.
Bridgewater had just 11 completions in 21 attempts for 75 yards in the first half, while the Cardinals ground game managed just 13 yards in 13 carries. Senior DE Trevardo Williams caught Bridgewater for back-to-back sacks in the second quarter, one of three sacks by the UConn defense. Those two gave Williams, who played his high school football at Bridgeport Central, 10½ sacks for the season and 29½ for his career. He is the school’s all-time sack leader.
McCombs finished the half with 75 yards on 13 carries while Whitmer was six of 13 passing for 68 yards.
Louisville finally got on the scoreboard on a 19-yard field goal from John Wallace with 11:40 left to play. The Cardinals went 75 yards but the drive stalled at the UConn 2.
UConn upsets Louisville in 3OT
By Chris Elsberry