Rutgers 28, Connecticut 24
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)On a day Connecticut honored slain teammate Jasper Howard, one of his best friends won the game for Rutgers.
Tim Brown, who grew up with Howard in Miami, scored on an 81-yard touchdown pass from Tom Savage with 22 seconds left to give the Scarlet Knights a 28-24 victory over the Huskies in UConn's first home game since Howard was stabbed to death.
"I just went out there and played that game for my friend," Brown said. "He was a special guy to me and I just went out there and dedicated that game to him."
Connecticut (4-4, 1-3 Big East) scored to take a 24-21 lead with 38 seconds left and the crowd was roaring, when Brown got behind cornerback Robert McClain and outraced the entire UConn secondary to the end zone.
Howard, Brown said, might have had the speed to catch him.
"We was ready to play (each other)," he said "It would have been a great game for me if I'd had my other friend on the other side."
There were numerous tributes to Howard before the game and fans lined up three-deep to greet the Huskies as they made their way into the stadium wearing T-shirts with his number "6" on it.
Howard was killed outside a school dance on Oct. 18. Since the Huskies have played twice and taken two tough losses.
Last week, UConn lost 28-24 at West Virginia when Noel Devine broke a 56-yard touchdown run with 2:10 left in the game. The Huskies' four losses are by a total of 13 points.
"Could we be (undefeated)? Yeah, but the reality of it is that we're 4-4," coach Randy Edsall said. "And the reality of it is, we've got to understand how to finish these games off and make the plays at the end in order to win."
Savage, the freshman quarterback, threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns for Rutgers (6-2, 1-2) in his first Big East road game. But he gave all the credit to Brown, who finished with 162 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
"He made one of the best plays you could probably make in college football," Savage said. "I know he was down all week, and he was down during the game, but he just made the play and I'm sure Jazz is proud of him."
Backup quarterback Zach Frazer, who entered the game in the first quarter after Cody Endres went down with an injury to his left shoulder, threw for 333 yards and a touchdown for UConn. He led the Huskies on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives after they trailed 21-10.
UConn's Marcus Easley cut the lead to 21-17 when he caught a pass over the middle, bounced off linebacker Ryan D'Imperio and went in for a 32-yard touchdown with just over 10 minutes left.
The Huskies tried an unorthodox 2-point conversion, hitting tackle Mike Ryan on what was supposed to be a lateral screen. The 320-pound lineman dove into the end zone, stretching the ball over the left pylon. But Ryan was ruled an ineligible receiver, and UConn had to settle for a kick after the penalty.
Connecticut got the ball back for a final time with about 3 1/2 minutes left. A 31-yard diving catch by Michael Smith got the ball into Rutgers' territory, and a 32-yard catch by Kashif Moore on fourth down got the Huskies into the red zone. When Jordan Todman ran it in from 2 yards out on another fourth down, the home crowd erupted, thinking the Huskies had completed the comeback.
Edsall said Endres is likely done for the season. He is scheduled to have surgery on Sunday.
Frazer, who lost the starting job after he suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season, completed 21 of 46 passes, but also threw three interceptions.
The game started with the stadium buzzing and the UConn crowd energetic on an emotional day for the school.
A lot of that energy seemed to drain from the building after Delvin McCourty took the opening kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown for Rutgers.
A week ago, West Virginia's Tavon Austin went 98 yards for a score with the opening kick.
Joe Lefeged's interception set up a seven-play, 81-yard Rutgers drive that ended with Brown's first touchdown catch, a 37-yarder.
Robby Frey brought the crowd back into the game by taking the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, cutting across the field behind the blocking of Todman and diving into the end zone.
But UConn senior cornerback Robert McClain limped off the field late in the second quarter, leaving the Huskies with three redshirt freshmen in the secondary.
Savage took advantage, finding Mark Harrison over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown that made it 21-10 at the half. McClain returned in the second half.
UConn gamely came back, but for the second consecutive week a victory the Huskies wanted so badly wasn't to be.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll just keep fighting. That's all I know to do."