UConn football stuns Boston College, 13-3, for first win over Eagles in program history
East Hartford — The UConn football team saw Saturday’s stunning upset coming.
The Huskies really did.
Even though they had never beaten Boston College prior to a statement-making 13-3 victory before 25,527 fans at Rentschler Field.
Even though few people outside the UConn football family thought the Huskies had progressed enough in the program’s first year with Jim Mora in charge to end Boston College’s 34-game winning streak against New England competition that dated back to the late 1970s.
They’re living up to and have faith in Mora’s vision.
“To beat a Power Five team and a team that we haven’t beaten yet in history is huge,” said junior linebacker Jackson Mitchell. “For this team to really do it, the team that’s trying to flip the switch and change this program, for us to do this year is obviously exciting. I’m so proud of those guys.
“... We’re not shocked at all, to be honest.”
Jackson helped ignite a relentless defense that forced five turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles — and registered five sacks against their Atlantic Coast Conference foe.
The Huskies tied a season low for points allowed this season while improving to 4-5 overall and posting their highest win total in a season since going 6-7 in 2015.
Entering the game, they were 0-12-2 in the previous meetings in the series, losing the last three each by 20 points or more. The Eagles fell to 2-6.
Prior to Mora being hired, UConn had hit rock bottom and couldn’t beat Holy Cross.
Now the Huskies have their first win over a Power Five program since beating Virginia in 2016.
“I’m happy for the players, happy for the staff and happy for UConn Nation,” Mora said. “It felt really good for everybody. This program has been through a lot over the last several years and these players have been through a lot. They’ve struggled on the field. COVID canceled a season. A coaching change last year.
“Through it all, they’ve just never wavered. … It’s just the way they’re built. And I felt that when I first got here and I felt that even more today. They worked to earn it and they deserve it and it’s a step in the right direction.”
UConn never trailed after quarterback Zion Turner (11 for 19, 173 yards) connected with fellow freshman Justin Joly for a 62-yard scoring strike on the game’s second play. And they made several momentum-changing defensive stops.
“We played hard,” Turner said. “We really wanted it more. When you want it more, it’s definitely going to happen. … It’s just one more step closer to where we want to be, which is a bowl game.”
Sophomore Noe Ruelas booted two field goals — 31 and 43 yards — the latter kick handing UConn a 13-3 lead with six minutes, 26 seconds remaining.
The fourth quarter field goal was set up when linebacker Ian Swenson forced a fumble and redshirt freshman Carter Hooper recovered it at the BC 32.
Mitchell’s interception and his fumble recovery off a muffed punt return catch — both plays came a minute apart late in the fourth quarter — sealed the win. He also had a team-high 12 tackles and a sack.
“It speaks volumes about him,” Mora said. “It’s a big moment.”
The Huskies took advantage of a banged-up BC offensive line and the Eagles also had to rely on their backup quarterback after veteran starter Phil Jurkovec left the game with an injury in the third quarter.
Right from the start, UConn’s aggressive defense dominated action.
On BC’s first drive, the Huskies stuffed Jurkovec’s sneak attempt on fourth down and one from the BC 34-yard line to get the ball back.
The Huskies cashed in with Ruelas’ 31-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The defense continued to excel, as redshirt sophomore Chris Shearin made an interception, setting up the Huskies at the BC 39. But Ruelas missed a 41-yard field goal try.
The Huskies controlled the first quarter, holding a 136-16 edge in total yards, but bogged down after that and finished with just 280 yards overall.
But the Eagles managed just three points on Connor Lytton’s 19-yard field goal in the second quarter, cutting the gap to 10-3.
Sophomore Durante Jones stopped another BC drive with an interception in the end zone.
Determined to finish off the upset, the Huskies maintained their intensity in the second half. But could only manage three points. Ten penalties overall helped derail the offense.
It didn’t matter with the way the defense was playing.
“It was fun, really, because we just decided that it was in our hands,” said defensive lineman Pryce Yates, who had 2.5 sacks and seven tackles overall.
Good fortune played a role, too, as BC star receiver Zay Flowers dropped a potential touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.
UConn has a short week, as it hosts UMass on Friday night.
The Huskies want to continue on the upward trajectory.
“We had some tough games during that three game stretch,” said Mora, referring to losses against Syracuse, Michigan and North Carolina State. “I told you guys I felt like we were making some hidden progress. Today, they played well.
“I felt this coming.”