HARTFORD, CT –The University at Buffalo football team rebounded from an early 14-point deficit but could not continue the momentum in the second half in dropping a 45-21 decision to the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on Saturday.
The Huskies offense got untracked in the second half, as UConn broke a 14-14 halftime tie and used several big plays on both offense and special teams to pull away. The loss spoiled a career game for junior wide receiver Ed Young, who had a career-best three touchdown receptions in the game – from 60, one and seven yards out.
"Not the kind of outcome we expected," head coach Jeff Quinn said following the game. "Going into halftime tied, 14-14, I felt our kids were adjusted to the things UConn was doing. But then some big plays took place, turnovers, things that have been hampering us all year. It just wasn't our day but we're going to get this thing right."
The Huskies took control of the game early in the third quarter, notching a field goal on their opening drive of the half before quarterback Cory Endres, who replaced Zach Frazer at halftime, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Michael Smith to open up a 24-14 lead.
The Bulls would rally one more time after getting a critical turnover. Outside linebacker Justin Winters recovered a fumble by Endres at the UConn 10-yard line, setting up Young's third touchdown pass from Jerry Davis from seven yards out. That pulled the Bulls to within 24-21 with 7:48 left in the third but that was as close as Buffalo would get.
Things started badly for the Bulls when on the third play from scrimmage, quarterback Jerry Davis' screen pass for Terrell Jackson was deflected and intercepted by Jerome Junior, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. With just 1:26 gone in the game, Buffalo found itself trailing, 7-0.
The Huskies added to their lead on their first offensive possession, driving 80 yards in 10 plays with D.J. Shoemate going the final four yards to put UConn up 14-0 after the PAT. The key play in the drive was a third-and-11 reception of 17 yards by Michael Smith, on a pass thrown behind him, that kept the drive alive.
On their next possession, the Bulls drove to the UConn 38-yard line, courtesy of Davis connections of 20 yards to Marcus Rivers and 11 yards to Alex Neutz. However, on a fourth-and-two play, Davis was intercepted – again on a tipped ball – to end the drive.
Buffalo's defense – and in particular defensive end Steven Means – had several bright spots in the first half, recording two sacks and a quarterback pressure in the first quarter alone. It was the third time in Means' brief career he has had multiple sacks in a game. Buffalo allowed only 117 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Bulls got right back in the game early in the second quarter on a quick strike from Davis. After a pretty 13-yard completion to Terrell Jackson for a first down, the sophomore quarterback went up top and connected on a bomb with junior wideout Ed Young for 60 yards and a score. It was Young's longest reception of his career. After an A.J. Principe PAT, Buffalo trailed 14-7 with 12:49 left in the half.
The Bulls tied the game in the final minute of the half after a critical turnover. Cornerback Josh Thomas deflected a pass from UConn quarterback Zach Frazer and cornerback Davonte Shannon picked it off and returned it to the Huskies 20-yard line.
Davis made a clutch 13-yard hook-up with Rivers to move the Bulls inside the 10-yard line. From there, on third and goal, Davis connected with Young again for a one-yard touchdown pass that Young cradled just inside the sideline in the front right corner of the end zone. The teams went to halftime tied at 14-14.
• Former Bulls Dahnel Singfield and Ray Norell were both in attendance at the game.
• Davonte Shannon recorded the seventh interception of his career in the first half.
• Defensive end Steven Means recorded a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss in the game, including a pair of sacks. It was the third time in his career that the sophomore from Buffalo has recorded multiple sacks in a game.
• Ed Young's three touchdowns in the game were the most since Naaman Roosevelt had a hat trick of scores versus Ohio on Nov. 10, 2009. Young came into the game with one career touchdown in the opener versus Rhode Island this year.
• Senior safety Domonic Cook had two pass breakups in the game, bringing his career total to 28, tying him for sixth all-time with Dave Short.
• Cook also recovered the sixth fumble of his career, putting him into a tie for sixth place all-time in that category with Kareem Byrom, Vince Canosa, Craig Guest and Bryan Cummings. Cook has already accounted for three turnovers this year (two fumble recoveries and an interception).
• Quarterback Jerry Davis not only threw for three touchdowns, but also ran for a career-high 57 yards on 12 carries (4.8 per play).
• Freshman defensive end Colby Way recorded a blocked field goal in the second half. It was Buffalo's first blocked field goal since Davonte Shannon recorded one against Connecticut in the International Bowl.
• Buffalo ran 90 plays on offense, the most this season. It was the second time that Buffalo has recorded 90 or more offensive plays at Connecticut. On October 4, 1997, the Bulls ran a school-record 115 plays at UConn.