Rutgers 26, Connecticut 24
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Ryan Hart played only one half for Rutgers, but it was enough.
The Scarlet Knights’ career passing leader threw three touchdowns to lead Rutgers to a 26-24 win over Connecticut on Saturday.
Rutgers (5-2, 3-1 Big East) snapped a three-game losing streak to UConn behind Hart’s veteran leadership and running back Ray Rice, who rushed for a career-high 217 yards. Hart entered the game as the Scarlet Knights’ all-time leader in passing yards and tacked on another record when he finished with 45 career TD passes.
The Huskies (4-3, 1-3) suited up their third starting quarterback of the season because of injuries to Matt Bonislawski and D.J. Hernandez. Freshman Dennis Brown made his first collegiate appearance and threw for two scores, but was under a heavy Rutgers’ rush most of the day. He was unable to field a bad snap midway through the third quarter that resulted in a safety, giving the Scarlet Knights the lead for good at 19-17 en route to their best start ever in the Big East.
Rutgers took advantage of the ensuing free kick and marched 57 yards on six plays, culminating with Hart’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Sam Johnson with 5:42 left.
The Huskies countered in the closing minutes when Brown found Jason Williams for a 15-yard strike but were unable mount a threat the rest of the way.
Hart sat out last week’s 31-9 win over Syracuse when he was lifted for freshman Mike Teel. Although Teel started on Saturday, Hart took over in the second half when Teel was sideline with a shoulder injury.
Hart stepped in with Rutgers trailing 10-3 and began to turn the game around. On Rutgers’ first possession, Hart directed a 91-yard drive that included a 30-yard run by Rice. Hart hit Brian Leonard for a 19-yard score and the tie.
UConn regained the lead briefly 3 minutes later on Cornell Brockington’s 51-yard TD run.
Hart brought Rutgers right back on the next possession, finding Tres Moses for a 31-yard scoring pass on the sixth play of a 79-yard drive.
It was a rare home loss at Rentschler Field for the Huskies, who have dropped only three games since the 40,000-seat stadium opened three years ago. The last home defeat was a 31-19 loss to West Virginia on Oct. 13, 2004.
Rutgers rolled up 508 total yards. Teel threw for 176 yards, completing 10 of 22 passes and was picked off twice in the first half.
Brown finished with 196 yards passing yards for UConn, completing 18 of 35 passes with one interception. Brockington led UConn with 56 yards rushing, getting most on his scoring run. The Huskies were held to 97 yards on the ground and had a season-high 12 penalties.
Neither team could do much offensively in a first quarter defined by solid defense. The Huskies had no first downs and only 13 total yards. Rutgers had 104 total yards, including 96 yards passing by Teel. UConn safety Marvin Taylor stopped one Scarlet Knights drive with a diving interception. Rutgers scored on its next possession, with Jeremy Ito’s 44-yard field goal capping an 11-play, 66-yard drive.
Brown settled into the offense midway through the second quarter and directed a 70-yard, seven-play scoring drive, capped by a 7-yard scoring pass toss to tight end Dan Murray.
Matt Nuzie extended UConn’s lead to 10-7 at halftime with a 44-yard field goal that was set up by Tyvon Branch’s interception on the Rutgers’ 31.