EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) West Virginia had plenty of chances to beat Connecticut, but left a lot of them on the ground.
West Virginia fumbled seven times Friday night and UConn recovered four of them, including one in overtime that helped the Huskies to a 16-13 victory, their first ever over the Mountaineers.
“You cannot win any games if you can’t take care of the ball,” West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. “We gave a valiant effort, but I am not proud of how we handled the ball.”
The Mountaineers (5-3, 1-2 Big East) got the ball first in overtime and moved to the 1 before Ryan Clarke fumbled a handoff in the backfield and UConn linebacker Lawrence Wilson picked it up.
“We knew we had to come up the a big play and that’s what the game came down to, who made the last play,” said UConn linebacker Sio Moore, who had 17 tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. “I knew we would get it done.”
UConn’s Dave Teggart ended the game on UConn’s possession from 27-yards out, his third field goal of the game.
“I just wanted to have true form and obviously not overkick it,” he said. “All it needed to be was straight, I knew it had the distance, obviously.”
Jordan Todman tied a career high with 33 carries, running for 113 yards and a touchdown that helped the Huskies (4-4, 1-2) come back from an early 10-0 deficit.
Connecticut quarterback Zach Frazer, starting after a head injury sidelined redshirt freshman Mike Box, threw for 166 yards without an interception.
“I’m proud of everyone, and it feels good to beat West Virginia for the first time in seven years,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said.
Geno Smith threw for 160 yards and ran for 64 for the Mountaineers. Noel Devine had 67 yards rushing.
With the game tied at 13 with less than 2 minutes left in regulation, West Virginia coach Bill Stewart opted to punt on a fourth-and-9 from UConn’s 33, rather than attempt a field goal into the wind or go for it. UConn got the ball on the 1, and was able to run out the clock.
West Virginia had 414 yards of offense, but scored just three points after the first quarter.
“That just shows how good UConn is, said West Virginia receiver Brad Starks. “They played with us, then they outplayed us.”
Moore stripped Smith at the UConn 44 with just under 13 minutes left in the game.
Frazer hit Kashif Moore for 40 yards on the next play, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Teggart that tied it at 13.
Tyler Bitancurt had two field goals for West Virginia, including a 42-yarder that made it 13-10 West Virginia late in the third quarter.
After rushing for just 31 yards on 13 carries in the first half, Todman broke loose in the second. His 24-yard run up the middle with just over 6 minutes left in the third quarter it at 10, and capped a 14-play, 71-yard drive.
“You keep getting knocked down and knocked out and people might give up or quit,” Todman said. “My team showed up and we won, we did it.”
West Virginia shut down the UConn offense early, forcing the Huskies into three consecutive three-and-out drives to start the game.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, had no problem moving the ball. Starks made it 7-0 when he took a handoff 53 yards untouched down the left side 5 minutes into the game.
When Bitancurt hit a 36-yard field goal, the Mountaineers had more points (10) than UConn had yards (8).
West Virginia held UConn without a first down until an 11-yard scramble by Frazer with 11:30 left in the second quarter.
The Huskies put together their first sustained drive just before the half, and Teggart’s 39-yard field goal made it 10-3 at halftime.
Frazer, who was benched at halftime of UConn’s 45-21 win over Buffalo on Sept. 25, was forced back into service when a head injury sidelined redshirt freshman Mike Box. Box had taken over the job from Cody Endres, who was kicked off the team last week.
The strong wind didn’t seem to affect the quarterbacks or kickers, though it caused two of the four skydivers who brought in game balls to land in the stadium parking lot.
It was the first conference win for the Huskies, who had dropped their last two games at Rutgers and Louisville. UConn is 1-6 against West Virginia and 4-0 at home this season.
The Mountaineers have lost two in row for the first time since 2008.
“It’s new and different territory for us,” defensive lineman Chris Neild said. “This never happened to us.”
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