It was a windy and rainy Nor'easter that dumped raw cold on New England.
After slogging through 60 minutes of football, however, UMass may call it the best day of the calendar year.
The much-maligned UMass defense made several big stops, including a late interception by Lee Moses to defeat rival UConn, 22-17.
For UConn, the dismal weather embodied the now 1-7 season. The nation’s most giving defense, however, only allowed 22 points - a far cry from the 51 they have averaged allowing.
The victory for UMass marked by far the most impressive and significant win. Technically, they still are alive for a bowl (still need to run the table, including a win at Georgia), but more importantly, they showed some guts late in the game on both sides of the ball.
Late drive pushes UMass ahead
Ross Comis bounced back from a second half interception pretty fast.
Following the Comis INT, UConn kicked a field goal to go ahead 17-9 early in the fourth quarter. On the very next play from scrimmage, Comis lofted a slant pass to Zak Simon, who sprinted home for a 67-yard touchdown.
The offense could not find the end zone on the two-point conversion, but got back to work following a three-and-out. UMass drove 81 yards on 11 plays that spanned almost seven minutes.
Marquis Young accounted for 48 yards on seven touches during the drive, including the one-yard rushing touchdown to pull UMass ahead.
Young was steady all afternoon. Behind the UMass offensive line, Young piled up 148 yards on the ground. The biggest two, however, came when Young found just enough daylight on fourth down and one at the UConn 36-yard-line with under two minutes to play.
Nothing but kneel downs and high fives from there.
UMass defense responds
Yes, the weather was brutal.
Gusty and cold aside, the Minutemen clamped down, especially after UConn went 82 yards on the opening drive, when running back Kevin Mensah opened the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run.
The Minutemen held UConn to 265 total yards from scrimmage, including only 15 yards through the air on 4-for-6 passing by quarterback David Pindell.
UMass also stopped Pindell on two fourth down runs in the first half to keep the score 7-3 going into halftime. The Minutemen made a handful of stops on third and short throughout the game as well.
And then Lee Moses plucked UConn’s last chance out of the air. Moses intercepted Pindell on a leaping catch on the next play from scrimmage after UMass took the lead.
Bryton Barr, who to no one’s surprise, was all over the field, including a sack on third down before the Minutemen marched downfield on the final scoring drive to keep UConn within arm’s reach.
The Minutemen defense stepped up when needed - storm or no storm.
UConn travels to Tulsa next Saturday.
UMass hosts FBS newcomer Liberty on Saturday.