UConn is bowl-eligible after 36-33 win over No. 19 Liberty

Aaron Turner UConn football blue jersey reacts against Liberty
Aaron Turner UConn football blue jersey reacts against Liberty

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Zion Turner threw a 30-yard scoring pass to Kevens Clercius late in the fourth quarter to lead UConn to a 36-33 win over No. 19 Liberty on Saturday.

With the win, the Huskies (6-5) are bowl-eligible under first-year coach Jim Mora after winning only once last season.

Turner found Clercius for the go-ahead score with 5:43 left and connected with Keelan Marion on a 2-point conversion to put UConn up three.

Turner finished 15 of 21 for 103 yards. Robert Burns led UConn’s rushing attack with 104 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. Victor Rosa finished with 62 yards on 10 carriers with two TDs.

The lead changed hands multiple times in the fourth quarter. UConn’s Victor Rosa bounced off a number of defenders and scampered 27 yards for a TD that gave the Huskies a 28-27 lead. On the next play, Liberty regained the lead 33-28 when Demario Douglas raced 75 yards for a score.

TJ Green led Liberty (8-2) with 119 yards rushing on 24 carries and a touchdown. Quarterback Jackson Bennett went 22 for 36 for 201 yards and a TD.

Liberty’s only other loss came against Top 25-ranked Wake Forest in September.

Burns returned the opening kickoff to midfield. UConn reached the end zone eight plays later, with Rosa scoring from 16 yards out. Turner was perfect on the drive, connecting with Aaron Turner four times for 29 yards, including twice on third down.

The Huskies defense also did their part, intercepting Bennett once and with two sacks in the first half, including one by Eric Watts that resulted in a touchdown. Linebacker Jackson Mitchell scooped up a fumble by Kaidon Salter and returned it 32 yards for a 14-3 lead.

Despite trailing twice by double digits, the Flames seized momentum in the second quarter when linebacker Ahmad Walker picked off Turner near midfield. Malik Caper bulldozed his way into the end zone eight plays later, cutting the deficit to 21-17 with 35 seconds left before halftime.

Liberty then grabbed its first lead on a Green one-yard run, capping a seven-play, 80-yard drive to begin the second half.

THE TAKEAWAY

UConn: The Huskies are now bowl-eligible in their first year under Mora, completing a remarkable turnaround.

Liberty: Losing to the unranked Huskies — no matter how improved they look — is a major dent to Liberty’s resume. They’ll look to bounce back against Virginia Tech at home.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Flames will certainly drop in the polls, it’s just a matter of how far.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies wrap up their regular season Saturday at Army.

Liberty: The Flames host Virginia Tech on Saturday.