Updated: Sunday, 03 Jan 2010, 5:25 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 02 Jan 2010, 5:12 PM EST
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WTNH) - The Connecticut Huskies beat the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Papajohns.com Bowl 20-7.
The University of Connecticut football team nearly shutout South Carolina earning their first win over a Southeastern Conference opponent in program history in front of a crowd of 45,254 at Legion Field; a Papajohns.com Bowl record attendance.
"I've just got so much emotion," UConn Head Coach Randy Edsall after the Papajohns.com Bowl game to his team. "Because what you guys have been through, what you've done, it's special. Guys, this is something you're going to remember for the rest of your life."
This is UConn's second-straight and third overall bowl victory.
The Huskies shut out South Carolina in the first three quarters of the game and have shut out their bowl opponents in nine of 16 quarters played.
Connecticut now finishes their season with an 8-5 record while South Carolina drops to 7-6 on the season.
"It feels great," said UConn Lineman Zach Hurd. "You know it's been a really long season and we've been through a lot as a team. And, you know, we wanted to come down here and show the nation what the Big East is all about; what UConn is all about."
According to UConnHuskies.com, with his 126 yards on the day, senior tailback and Fred Sington Most Vaulable Player Andre Dixon (New Brunswick, N.J.) reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season becoming the 12th running back in UConn history to reach the mark and joining teammate Jordan Todman (North Dartmouth, Mass.) who accomplished the feat earlier in the season. Todman finished the day with 36 yards.
This is the first time in UConn history that two running backs have rushed for over 1,000 yards in the same season. They join Nevada and Georgia Tech as NCAA Division-I teams that have at least two athletes that have rushed for over 1,000 yards during the 2009 season.
Junior quarterback Zach Frazer (Mechnicsburg, Pa.) was 9 of 21 in the air for 106 yards and connected with sophomore Kashif Moore (Burlington, N.J.) two times for 40 yards and a touchdown.
"It means a lot," said Frazer, following the Papajohns.com Bowl
win. "Not only emotionally, just everything. We've been through a
lot this year and to just end it this way with a victory, it means
Stephen Garcia led South Carolina by passing for 129 yards on a 16 for 38 effort also rushing for 56 yards on the day. Alshon Jeffrey grabbed three passes for 28 yards for the Gamecocks.
The Huskies were the first to get on the board after an unbelievable one-handed 37-yard grab by Kashif Moore who tiptoed along the sidelines and extended into the endzone to put the Huskies up with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter.
"For us to come out here and get a win against USC, that was our goal, to just come out here and win," said Moore after Saturday's win.
South Carolina decided to attempt a fourth and short at its own 32-yard line but senior Lindsey Witten (Cleveland, Ohio) stepped up and stopped the rush as the Huskies took over in Gamecock territory. UConn got the ball down to the 16-yard line but settled for a 33-yard field goal by sophomore Dave Teggart (Northborough, Mass.) to improve their lead to 10-0.
Teggart boosted the lead to 13-0 in the second quarter with 8:26 remaining in the game connecting on his second field goal of the game, a 44-yard boot, setting a new Papajohns.com Bowl record. Later in the quarter, South Carolina earned their first first down of the game with 7:37 left in the half. They only managed four first downs in the entire first half for a net of 84 yards.
After USC fumbled at their own 35-yard line, Dixon used the opportunity to record his first touchdown of the day, a 10-yard run to boost the Huskies lead to 20 with 13:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dixon’s TD capped a 3:53 minute, nine play 35-yard drive.
The Gamecocks got on the board with 3:24 remaining in the game capitalizing on a blocked punt and scoring on a two-play 40-yard drive. But senior Alex Molina (Waterford, Conn.) recovered the onside kick for the Huskies as UConn ran out the clock.
At the end of the game, the UConn Huskies could be seen passing
off the #6 jersey to commemorate CB Jasper Howard, 20, who died
after an on-campus stabbing back in October.
"You see what can be accomplished. If you have that closed fist, you know, it's powerful. And, that's what we did," said Coach Edsall. "We just had that closed fist and hung together...stuck together and no one can penetrate that."