Upcoming Fenway Park game sparks memories of Peart's Big Papi moment

Storrs — Matt Peart's memorable Fenway Park moment happened on Senior Skip Day in high school.

Instead of attending Governor's Academy (Byfield, Mass.) that day, the senior class took the roughly 40-mile trip to watch the Red Sox.

Thanks to a well-connected friend, Peart sat behind the Red Sox dugout.

"It was the Red Sox and I can't remember against who," Peart said. "But I do remember Big Papi pointing at me one time, so it was pretty cool."

Peart, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman, and his UConn football teammates will be at historic Fenway Park on Saturday to play Boston College (5-5) as part of the Gridiron Series (7 p.m., CBSSN).

Many of his fellow Governor's Academy classmates rooted for either Boston College or UMass. Peart understands the New England rivalry with UConn.

"We just love the rivalry that's been built between UConn and BC and we just want to keep that going," Peart said. "We're really looking forward to it. Should be a good time."

Peart, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound left tackle, is part of an improved offensive line that also features senior Trey Rutherford, redshirt senior Brendan Vechery, redshirt freshman Cam DeGeorge and freshman Ryan Van Demark. They've grown into a tight, cohesive unit throughout the course of the season.

"A lot of camaraderie and we just know we have each others' backs all the time," Peart said.

Peart also has grown into his role. He's matured from his experience and gained confidence in his ability.

Coach Randy Edsall would like to see Peart develop more of a dominant mindset. Or as Peart put it, "A Kobe Mentality," referring to former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out, because you tell that I'm just a naturally smiley guy and just always laughing all the time," Peart said with a laugh. "It's something that I have to get advice on from the older guys. ... to develop that true Kobe Mentality."

Shirreffs ends career

• Veteran quarterback Bryant Shirreffs' UConn career is over.

Sidelined with a concussion, Shirreffs informed Edsall about his decision on Tuesday morning. He came on in relief in the season opener and started eight straight games before suffering his injury in a loss to South Florida on Nov. 4.

He's still in concussion protocol and not ready to play. The Huskies (3-7) have only two games remaining.

"I just told him that I appreciate everything that he's done here this year and appreciate how competitive he is and how much he tried to do everything he could to help the team win," Edsall said. "It's unfortunate, but he's at peace with himself."

Shirreffs, a three-year starter, passed for 2,287 yards and 14 touchdowns this season while completing 65.8 percent of his passes. He's also rushed for 200 yards.

"He's one of the guys that I really admire on the team when it comes to toughness," linebacker Junior Joseph said. "He's a guy who had a lot of concussions here through the years. He's looking out for his health. He's a guy I respect a whole lot. I wish nothing but the best for him."

David Pindell will start for the second straight week. In Saturday's 49-24 loss at Central Florida, Pindell completed 18 of 31 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns and also had an interception. He also had a team-best 96 yards rushing and a touchdown.

"I thought David did some really good things," Edsall said. "I saw a guy that was more confident in terms of what he was doing out there. ... There's still things that he's got to work on, just like all the guys do. But I was very pleased with what he was able to bring to the table."

BC lost its starting quarterback Anthony Brown to a season-ending leg injury. Darius Wade will start Saturday against the Huskies.

News and notes

While breaking down Boston College, Edsall mentioned kick returner Michael Walker, who's from Naples, Fla., but has relatives in southeastern Connecticut. "Michael Walker is a really good return guy for them." Walker, who also has 17 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown as receiver, leads the teams with 111.3 all-purpose yards per game. He's first in the nation in combined kick returns with 973 yards and 11th with a 14.2 punt return average. ... Edsall is open to playing BC in the future. "I'd have no problem playing Boston College on a yearly basis. ... But I'm not the guy who makes those decisions." ... Junior Santana Sterling will make his first career start vs. BC, replacing Chris Britton (concussion).

g.keefe@theday.com

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