8:00 PM ET, October 7, 2005
Rentschler Field, EAST HARTFORD, CT
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- D.J. Hernandez prepared all season for this moment.
The backup quarterback rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown after replacing injured starter Matt Bonislawski and Connecticut beat Syracuse 26-7 on Friday night.
"Coach always said 'Be ready, you never know,"' said Hernandez, a redshirt freshman. "I've been preparing like I was the starter even though I was the No. 2."
Terry Caulley had touchdown runs of 4 and 8 yards for the Huskies (4-1, 1-0) in their Big East opener. The UConn defense dominated the Orange (1-4, 0-2), forcing three turnovers and shutting out Syracuse, Connecticut coach Randy Edsall's alma mater, until the closing minutes.
Bonislawski, a junior, broke his left collarbone in the first half during the Huskies' first scoring drive.
The 10-play, 80-yard march was capped by Caulley's 4-yard run with 3:00 left in the quarter. Bonislawski was hit hard on the third play of the drive by linebacker Kelvin Smith and the ball popped loose. Smith recovered what appeared to be a fumble, but it was overturned after a tape review and ruled an incomplete pass.
Bonislawski hit Jason Williams on the next play for a 12-yard gain. Bonislawski also had runs of 8 and 4 yards in the drive. Bonislawski, who was 2-of-7 for 14 yards and rushed for 53 yards, did not return after Caulley's touchdown.
Two possessions later, Hernandez led UConn on a 38-yard scoring drive that culminated with Matt Nuzie's 50-yard field goal with 8:20 left in the second quarter. Nuzie added a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"I was very pleased with D.J. to go in, in that situation, and to do what he did. He's a competitor," Edsall said. "He's a winner."
Hernandez's 1-yard scoring run with 6:58 left in the third quarter gave UConn a 23-0 lead.
With a big lead and a driving rain that made footing slippery, the Huskies were content to run the ball for most of the second half. The Huskies finished with 297 yards rushing with Hernandez and Caulley each getting 86. The Huskies finished with 45 yards passing.
"I give [Hernandez] credit, but I didn't like our tackling either," Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said. "I thought we were too busy trying to grab instead of tackle."
Danny Lansanah and Dahna Deleston each had an interception for Connecticut and James Hargrave recovered a fumble.
Syracuse finally got on the board with 9:24 to play when Perry Patterson hit Nicholas Chestnut for a 33-yard TD pass. It was the first points scored on UConn at home since Oct. 23, 2004, in a 45-31 victory over Temple.
Damien Rhodes rushed for 82 yards on 20 carries and became the 17th player in Syracuse history to rush for 2,000 or more yards. UConn held Syracuse to 148 yards on the ground and 125 yards passing.
It was no secret the UConn defense set out to corral Rhodes from the start.
"Our defensive backs were basically on their own and our focus was on stopping him," Deleston said.
Patterson was 10-of-28 for 125 yards with one interception. Reserve quarterback Joe Fields was 0-of-3 and was picked off once.
Bonislawski will be further evaluated on Saturday, Edsall said. Hernandez, meanwhile, will be busy studying film of Cincinnati, UConn's next opponent. He credited his offensive line with keeping him calm in his debut.
"The whole line was just like a father figure out there, just reminding me what to do," Hernandez said. "It was a great team win."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-15||3-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-2||0-0|
|TD||3:00||TERRY CAULLEY 4 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||8:20||MATT NUZIE 50 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 38 yards.
|TD||9:11||TERRY CAULLEY 8 YD RUN (MATT NUZIE KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 20 yards.
|TD||6:58||D.J. HERNANDEZ 1 YD RUN (MATT NUZIE KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 31 yards.
|FG||3:53||MATT NUZIE 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 22 yards.
|TD||9:24||NICHOLAS CHESTNUT 33 YD PASS FROM PERRY PATTERSON (RICKY KRAUTMAN KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 54 yards.