UConn Wins First Big East Game

The Connecticut Huskies won their first Big East game, a 29-17 victory over Pittsburgh, Thursday night at East Hartford's sold-out Rentschler Field and before a national television audience on ESPN2.

The Huskies were paced by senior OB Dan Orlovsky's leadership, sophomore Cornell Brockington's rushing prowess and senior Alfred Fincher's defense as they raised their 2004 record to 4-1, 1-1 in Big East play. The Panthers are now 2-2, 0-1 in the league.

Orlovsky was 23-of-43 for 237 yards and one touchdown. Brockington led the ground attack with 185 yards and a TD on 31 carries. Keron Henry caught seven passes for 86 yards with a touchdown. Fincher led the defense with 17 tackles and a forced fumble.

Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko threw for 267 yards (11-31) with one touchdown. He also was the Panthers' leading rusher with 78, mostly scrambling, yards, on 11 carries. (Four sacks reduced his net yardage to 49.) Greg Lee caught two passes for 129 yards and one TD. H.B. Blades recorded 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.

UConn was first on the scoreboard on Justin Perkins' nine-yard interception return of Palko's pass for Lee. The Panthers had started the series deep in their own territory on Shane Hussar's punt to the two-yard line.

Pitt tied the score on the last play of the first quarter when Palko and Lee teamed up for a 77-yard touchdown.

In the second quarter, Pitt, its offense stymied with four procedure-type penalties on two series, salvaged decent defensive field position via two long punts by Adam Graessle, one for 74 yards from the back of the end zone.

A 13-yard Brockington run and two Orlovsky passes to Henry set up Matt Nuzie's 24-yard field goal, putting UConn back up, 10-7.

Pitt knotted the game at 10-10 on Josh Cummings' 30-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the half. But UConn wasn't satisfied with a tie.

Starting off on Pitt's 49, an 18-yard Orlovsky pass to Henry enabled Nuzie to can a 49-yard field goal as time expired that gave UConn regained the lead, 13-10.

Larry Taylor's 22-yard punt return set up UConn at the Panthers' 30 yard line and Nuzie's third field goal extended the Huskies' edge to 16-10.

Pitt captured their first lead on Palko's one-yard touchdown rush, set up by his 32 yard pass to Joe Delsardo. UConn responded 2:16 minutes later with a six-play 62-yard drive. Orlovsky hit Henry for an eight-yard TD that put UConn back on top, 23-17.

Strong defensive plays highlighted the next two series.

A 52-yard juggling catch by Lee ended the third period. On the first play of the fourth, Fincher forced the ball from Palko on his four-yard run around right end. The fumble was recovered by Tyler King.

Brockington took the ball 35 yards and then Orlovsky hit Sam Dorvil for nine yards but Reggie Carter stripped the fullback of the ball as he was heading out of bounds. Blades recovered the fumble.

A couple fudged long snaps, one that passed Orlovsky in the shotgun formation and the other grounded to Hussar, gave the ball to the Panthers at their 45. But UConn's defense held and Cummings, the Big East's special team's player of the week, missed a 51-yard FG attempt. (Cummings had been perfect prior to Thursday's game where he also missed a 42-yarder at the end of the first quarter.)

Connecticut got some breathing room when Orlovsky engineered a 67-yard drive capped by Brockington's 11-yard touchdown run. Orlovsky checked the defense and audibled the play, a slant off left tackle. The two-point conversion was broken up, keeping the score 29-17.

UConn's defense shut down the Panthers' passing game on their next two series to control the game and enure the Huskies' first league win.

UConn has a week off before hosting West Virginia on Wednesday, October 13th at Rentschler. The game will also be televised nationally, by ESPN with the kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

Notes:

  • King was carted off the field after suffering a right leg injury as he grabbed Palko in the end zone with two minutes left in the game.
  • Graessle suffered a concussion and missed the second half.


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