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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Football

Looking for revenge, Cougars tame Huskies in 2016


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The Cougars accumulated 498 yards of offense in their 42-7 defeat of the UConn Huskies. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

In front of the second largest crowd in TDECU Stadium history, the Cougars atoned for last season’s lone loss with a 42-14 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies Thursday night.

“I’m very proud of the way our guys responded,” head coach Tom Herman said. “It’s the fourth game in 19 days and to come out with that kind of energy and juice was good to see.”

The win marks the 18th win in a row for the Cougars when senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. starts under center.

Ward’s toughness was on display Thursday when the already ailing quarterback took a beating from UConn defenders.

After running a flea-flicker trick play early in the second quarter, Ward was hit after he threw the ball and was slow to get up. Visibly in pain in front of a silenced stadium, the senior labored to get off the turf.

Ward popped to his feet after what probably seemed like hours to Cougar fans

“I wasn’t worried at all,” Ward said. “I just got hit under the ribs and got the wind knocked out of me. I was good.”

‘Good’ may have been an understatement.

He then ran to the sideline, sat out a single play and returned to the field. Under his leadership the team marched down the field and scored a touchdown just three plays later thanks to a one-yard rush by junior running back Dillon Birden.

The offensive captain’s execution was not limited to just his throwing, as he finished with 65 yards and two scores on the ground. Ward was also nearly perfect through the air by completing 32 of his 38 passes for a career high 389 yards.

Junior wide receiver Linell Bonner III had a breakout performance with a career high 12 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. Bonner’s third quarter one-handed snag in the back of the end zone to put the Cougars up 41-7 will go down as one of the top catches of college football season.

“When I was running the route, I knew it was man press coverage,” Bonner said. “The corner was playing with leverage to the inside. As soon as I turned around, the ball was already over there. I just dove for it.”

For the second consecutive week, sophomore cornerback Garrett Davis wreaked havoc on the opposing team’s offense.

Davis finished the game with five tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss and one sack.

“This is one of the teams we play that likes to run the ball more,” Davis said. “We pride ourselves on stopping the run and it was possible for the back end to come up and make plays.”

Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver added five tackles and a sack in the defensive rout of UConn.

The win improves Herman’s career record to 18-1 and the Cougars win streak at TDECU Stadium extends to 11 games.

Football dominated on both sides of the ball in what appears to be a testament to the team’s improvement between last season and this season.

The Cougars were looking to make a statement on national television and they did just that.

“The whole team had a pep in their step knowing what this opponent did to last year’s team,” Herman said. “And they wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.”

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