EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Cincinnati got inside UConn’s 20-yard line three times in the second quarter on Saturday, but was forced to settle for a field goal on each drive as the Huskies’ defense stiffened.
UConn responded with 20 unanswered points to snap a two-game losing streak with a 20-9 win over the Bearcats, who never made it into the end zone.
Arkeel Newsome ran for 116 yards and Bryant Shirreffs threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns to lead UConn (3-3, 1-2 American).
Hayden Moore, coming back from an ankle injury, threw for 315 yards, but was picked off twice for the Bearcats (3-3, 0-3), who were held to just two rushing yards.
“We have a great defensive line,” said UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, who had one of those interceptions. “We just ended up stopping them, stopping them in the run game.”
The Huskies switched the game’s momentum with a TD on their last drive before intermission and another on their first after halftime. Tyraiq Beals got the first, outjumping a defender and breaking a 59-yard catch and run, the longest of his career.
“That energized everybody,” Beals said. “Everybody stood up. We got our heads back in the game and we went rolling from there.”
They took the lead when Noel Thomas won a battle for the ball with Cincinnati’s Grant Coleman and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown catch. Thomas made nine catches for 108 yards.
Newsome broke off a 67-yard run, the Huskies longest play from scrimmage this year, which set up a 30-yard field goal to give the Huskies a 17-9 lead. It was the first time the Huskies have led entering a fourth quarter since last November.
The Huskies used up more than 6 ½ minutes of the fourth on a 16-play drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal from Bobby Puyol to make it a two-score ballgame.
“We took off a lot of time, I would say that’s a big improvement over what we’ve done in the past,” said Shirreffs, who also ran for 48 yards.
UConn’s last win over Cincinnati came in November, 2010, the season the Huskies ended up in the Fiesta Bowl. Its only other win in the 13-game series came in 2008.
“When you go on the road and they give you an opportunity to score points early and you don’t take advantange of it, it usually comes back to haunt you,” Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said.
UConn: The Huskies revived their bowl hopes with their first conference win, but had to overcome another slow start. UConn’s Puyol missed a 52-yard field goal late in the first quarter, leaving the Huskies without a first-quarter point this season. UConn has just 45 points in first halves.
Cincinnati: Cincinnati was hoping the return of Moore would help revive their offense, which had struggled with him on the sideline. But the Bearcats must find an answer to the running game. They came in averaging just under 150 yards a game on the ground. The Bearcats fall to 0-3 in conference for the first time since 1999 and have a lot of work to do to reach a bowl game for the sixth straight season.
SUSPENSION: Newsome ran 14 times, all in the final three quarters. He was held out of the first quarter, because of what head coach Bob Diaco referred to as a “late Friday.”
UConn: The Huskies head back on the road for a game next Saturday night against South Florida.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have an off week before returning home to face East Carolina on Oct. 22.