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Mensah finally enjoyed productive day for Huskies

There were some flashes of the old hard-to-contain Kevin Mensah on Saturday.

Remember him?

Mensah was UConn's top running back in 2018 and 2019, piling up over 1,000 yards in each season. The Huskies elected to sit out the 2020 season due to the pandemic.

His production has dropped off considerably this fall as a senior. He lost his starting job to freshman Nate Carter and has 219 yards in limited action through eight games for the Huskies (1-7).

Prior to Saturday's win over Yale, Mensah had only 20 carries and 64 yards in the previous five games.

But he showed signs of coming out of his funk in UConn's 21-15 win, rushing for 58 yards on 12 carries, his best output since going for a season-high 66 yards on 21 carries in a loss to Holy Cross on Sept. 2.

"We're team players and everyone has a role and everyone has accepted it," interim head coach Lou Spanos said Monday during his weekly Zoom session. "Kevin is one of our leaders and he embraces it. And you saw what he did Saturday. He's embracing it and maximizing his reps."

Carter is the team's leading rusher with 439 yards. He's averaging a team-best 4.6 yards per carry. He ended his streak of 100-yard plus rushing games at two straight, finishing with 39 yards against Yale.

Mensah can add to his impressive resume with a strong finish. He's ranked fourth in program history in career rushing yards with 2,838.

The Huskies will be a much more effective offense if both Mensah and Carter can provide a consistent one-two punch.

"It would help our team immensely because the defense would be off the field and we would be moving the sticks and obviously scoring," Spanos said. "If we have success running the ball, it will help our chances of winning."

Pep in their step

UConn returned to practice coming off an emotional victory, the program's first win in two years.

"We came in (Sunday) and their energy was good and they were focused and locked in," Spanos said.

Safety Malik Dixon, a redshirt freshman, enjoyed the post-game celebration, but said now it's time to move on and prepare to play Middle Tennessee (2-4) at 6 p.m. Friday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

"It was a great feeling," Dixon said. "We all came together in the locker room and celebrated as a team. We hope to get some more wins, for sure."

On Friday, the Huskies (1-7) will be trying to win two straight for the first time since October 2017 when they won at Temple (28-24) and against Tulsa (20-14). They finished 3-9 overall that season.

News and notes

Game balls from Saturday's win went to Spanos, place kicker/punter Joe McFadden (special teams), junior cornerback Tre Wortham (defense) and quarterback Steve Krajewski (offense). Wortham had his first two interceptions of the season while McFadden averaged 41.7 yards on 11 punts and hit four inside the 20-yard line and Krajewski accounted for all three touchdowns — two in the air and one on the ground.. ... Two starters are back on the depth chart for Friday's game — offensive tackle Ryan Van Demark, who's been cleared after passing through COVID-19 protocols, and junior cornerback Jeremy Lucien (concussion). "It's a good possibility that he will be playing on Friday," Spanos said of Lucien.  ... Freshman tight end Brandon Niemenski had a career day vs. Yale while filling in for Jay Rose (COVID protocols), finishing three catches for 50 yards. "Seeing him progress the way he is and his upside, it's amazing," Spanos said. "And he puts the work in and he's making catches." Rose is not listed on the depth chart for Friday's game.

g.keefe@theday.com

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