Huskies placekicker Tony Ciaravino missed three field goals, including one off the right crossbar with 1:09 left in the contest, which Rutgers (2-5, 1-2) captured, 12-10, before a capacity crowd at Rutgers Stadium.
"I thought they played very well," Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said afterwards. "That's a good offensive football team and a great running back. We've been playing hard the whole season, they've been productive the last few weeks and it's good to see it's starting to click."
Although many of the 42,491 fans arrived late on Homecoming Day, they didn't miss much of the early action.
Both Ciaravino and RU kicker San San Te, combined for the only first-half points, one field goal apiece. But, they required five total attempts, three by Ciaravino and two by Te, who battled blustery and very sunny conditions.
In the second half, the Scarlet Knights, who opened their Big East schedule with two straight road losses, capitalized on good field position and some luck.
"I had enough things go against us," Schiano said. "It all equals out in the end."
Rutgers Teddy Delaganna's initial kickoff after intermission was mishandled and downed on the one. Then he dropped two consecutive punts at the 3 and 2-yard lines in the third quarter, leaving the Huskies with terrible field position.
Rutgers nearly earned safeties on the first two drives, but Brown broke the plane each time.
The third time though defensive tackle Blair Bines notched his first career safety. Bines, a junior, tackled Brown in his own end zone for the two points and 12-3 margin.
"The safety we had was great," Bines said. "Our defense worked so hard today, and we came very close to getting a safety on two other occasions. I guess the third time was a charm, and those two points really energized our team."
Schiano admired Bines' game-changing play afterwards.
"Certainly that is a big play," Schiano said. "He's a very athletic guy. Blair is comfortable and knows what he's doing. He can be a disruptive force because he is a good athlete."
Brown finished with a season-low 107 yards on the ground, just seven after the half and no touchdowns. His counterpart, Scarlet Knights tailback Kordell Young, also struggled; he gained 80 yards on 29 carries. But he ran for a score early in the third quarter and earned an important first down with less than a minute left, sealing the Huskies' fate.
UCONN had regained confidence in the fourth, as backup quarterback Zach Fraser, starting in lieu of injured Tyler Lorenzen, drove 85 yards in just 2:27. He finished it with a 47-yard touchdown to Kashif Moore, who found a gap in the secondary, and shrunk the deficit to 12-10.
"Fortunately, they were in coverages where we should handle the pass," Schiano said of his defensive miscues.
After a Rutgers punt, UCONN drove another 64 yards, but a costly pass interference penalty forced Ciaravino into a 42-yard attempt.
His third and final miss sent the crowd into a frenzy.
"I like them," Schiano said of close games. "It builds your program. You learn how to deal with that pressure and adversity."
Reserve QB Dominic Natale made his first career appearance at 14:09 of the second quarter. He completed two passes for 26 yards. Starter Mike Teel was 17-30 for 193 yards.
Schiano said Kenny Britt "got bumped around a little today. He was in the air so much. I'm sure he'll be sore tomorrow."
Schiano also said Ramy Numani is fine. Numani, a special team player, had suffered an unknown injury, remained down for a few moments but walked off the field.
"He's OK," Schiano said. "It was scary when a guy goes down and doesn't move, when you've been doing this a long time."
Rutgers Wins First Conference Game
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