EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Terrance West rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns and Sterlin Phifer scored two touchdowns on Thursday night as Towson claimed its first-ever win over an FBS opponent with a 33-18 upset of Connecticut at Rentschler Field.
Towson, ranked No. 11 in the FCS preseason poll, intercepted Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer once and sacked him five times as UConn lost its season opener for the first time since 2010.
Coach Paul Pasqualoni, coming off 5-7 records in his first two seasons at UConn, was already on the hot seat. With upcoming games against Maryland and Michigan, the pressure on Pasqualoni will increase dramatically.
UConn's last loss to a team at the FCS or I-AA level had been a 38-14 setback at Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 17, 2001. A home crowd of 30,689 booed the Huskies throughout the game and many left after the third quarter.
Rob Ambrose, in his fifth season as Towson coach, enjoyed a triumphant return to Connecticut, where he was an assistant coach under current Maryland coach Randy Edsall for seven seasons at a time when the Huskies made the transition from I-AA to FBS.
The Tigers were 7-4 last season and shared the Colonial Athletic Association title but did not receive a bid to the FCS playoffs.
Towson quarterback Peter Athens scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:35 left in the third quarter, capping a 13-play, 95-yard drive to give the Tigers a 19-10 lead. A 6-yard run by West with 6:02 left in the fourth increased the lead to 26-10.
UConn wide receiver Shakim Phillips caught his second TD pass from Whitmer with 3:29 left in the game. Whitmer then passed to Spencer Parker for the two-point conversion to make it 26-18.
The UConn defense forced Towson to punt with 3:04 remaining, but freshman Brian Lemelle fumbled the return and Tanner Vallely recovered at the UConn 30. West completed the scoring with a 5-yard run with 16 seconds remaining.
Towson led 13-10 at halftime, taking advantage of an interception at the UConn 29 as well as the Huskies' inability to score a touchdown with a first-and-goal on the Towson 1 late in the second quarter. The Huskies, coming off consecutive 5-7 seasons, left the field a chorus of boos from the home crowd.
Towson defensive tackle Jon Desir tipped a Chandler Whitmer pass but held on to the ball as it dropped between his legs for the interception that gave the Tigers possession at the UConn 29. Towson needed only two plays to score. Phifer ran around right end for 24 yards, then picked up 5 yards to the left for his second touchdown of the game with 7:04 left in the half. D.J. Soven's point-after attempt was wide right and the Tigers led 13-7.
Whitmer bounced back with completions of 20 and 22 yards to wide receiver Geremy Davis on UConn's drive. A 22-yard run by tailback Lyle McCombs came up 1-yard short of the end zone but gave the Huskies a first down. A 1-yard loss by McCombs and an illegal substitution pushed UConn back to the 5. After an incomplete pass intended for Deshon Foxx, the Huskies settled for a 22-yard field goal from Chad Christen to make it 13-10.
UConn opened the scoring with a nine-play, 92-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Whitmer to Phillips with 4:01 left in the first quarter. Towson tied the score at 7 on a 23-yard screen pass from Athens to Phifer with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter.
NOTES: UConn redshirt freshman Obi Melifonwu started at strong safety after sophomore Andrew Adams injured his right shoulder late in preseason camp. Melifonwu intercepted Towson's Peter Athens in the first quarter, leading to UConn's first TD drive. Adams had surgery and is expected to miss up to eight weeks. ... UConn reserve receiver Kabal Abrams was injured in pregame warmups and was taken to the locker room. It appeared to be an injury to his left knee, but there was no immediate word on Abrams' status. ... Connecticut had a minus-14 turnover margin in 2012.