EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) After getting off to another slow start on offense, UConn needed a spark.
And Deshon Foxx provided it to lead the Huskies past UCF on Saturday to earn their first conference win since last December.
Foxx ran for 102 yards and a score and Noel Thomas caught two touchdown passes and the last-place Huskies upset the first-place Knights 37-29.
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The win snapped a five-game losing streak for UConn (2-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) and was the first conference loss for UCF (5-3, 3-1) which had won 11 straight since the inception of the AAC last year.
Foxx, who normally plays wide receiver, ran the Huskies option package, carrying the ball 11 times, including a 68-yard touchdown run.
”You always need someone to step up every game and spark the offense and spark the defense,” Foxx said. ”I was able to get it this week and everybody was able to follow behind.”
The Huskies went three-and-out on their first five drives and had been outgained 113 yards to 19 before Foxx’s first carry in the second quarter.
He sprinted 68 yards down the left sideline to tie the game at 7-7. A 20-yard run in the fourth quarter helped the Huskies to a 37-21 lead.
William Stanback had a career-high 141 yards rushing and two touchdowns for UCF. Quarterback Justin Holman threw for 284 yards and two scores. But he also threw four interceptions, three of them to safety Andrew Adams.
”Coach had been stressing to us to finish games, and we came out and finished tonight,” Adams said.
UConn had not scored more than 21 points in a game this season. The Huskies’ only other win came against Stony Brook, an FCS school, 19-16 on Sept. 6.
”I preached all week, I said, `That team’s record is not indicative of the team,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. ”I thought Connecticut took advantage of our mistakes, and that’s what it was, a game of mistakes as far as I can see.”
The win capped an emotional homecoming for UConn, which unveiled a memorial at halftime to Jasper Howard, a cornerback who was stabbed to death on campus in 2009.
Thomas caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Whitmer in the first half and had a 22-yard catch in the third quarter that gave UConn a 10-point lead.
Whitmer completed 13 of 25 passes for 142 yards and those two scores.
UCF’s Stanback had 73 yards in the first quarter and 108 yards by halftime. He scored on a 3-yard run to make it 7-0 after Whitmer fumbled a snap deep in UConn territory. He added a 1-yard plunge that gave the Knights a 14-7 lead.
The Huskies took their first lead at 17-14 when kicker Bobby Puyol hit a 43-yarder at the end of the first half. That was set up by an interception and 43-yard return by Adams.
UCF took the lead back in the third quarter when J.J. Worton caught a pass from Holman in the middle of the field, cut back to his right and outran the UConn defense for a 73-yard touchdown.
But the Huskies responded with a 79-yard drive, scoring on a fourth-down run from Ron Johnson, the first of his two scores.
His second was a 2-yard run that put the Huskies up by 16 points after a missed extra point.
UCF made it a one-score game on a 16-yard pass from Holman to Breshad Perriman and a 2-point conversion with just over 5 minutes left.
But the Huskies’ defense held on a fourth-and-16 at midfield with 37 seconds left to secure the win.
”There has been so much adversity. There has been so much misery. There has been so much pain,” UConn coach Bob Diaco said.
”And they just persevered and grinded through and fought and listened to the message and had faith when you couldn’t necessarily see it.”