EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- On a day Connecticut wanted badly to win for slain teammate Jasper Howard, one of Howard's best friends won it for Rutgers.
Receiver Tim Brown, who grew up with Howard in Miami, scored on an 81-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to give the Scarlet Knights an improbable 28-24 victory over the Huskies in UConn's first home game since Howard was stabbed to death outside a school dance on Oct. 18.
"I just went out there and played that game for my friend," Brown said. "He was a special guy to me and I just went out there and dedicated that game to him."
Connecticut had just scored to take a 24-21 lead with under a minute left, and the crowd was roaring, when Brown got behind cornerback Robert McClain, and outraced the entire UConn secondary to the end zone.
His friend Howard, he said, might have had the speed to catch him, but he's not sure.
"We was ready to play [each other]," he said "It would have been a great game for me if I'd had my other friend on the other side."
It was the first conference win of the season for Rutgers (6-2, 1-2 Big East) and the second consecutive defeat for Connecticut (4-4, 1-3), which has lost four games by a total of 13 points this season, all of them after holding second-half leads.
UConn also lost 28-24 last week to West Virginia after a late 56-yard touchdown run by Noel Devine.
"Could we be [undefeated]? Yeah, but the reality of it is that we're four and four," Edsall said. "And the reality of it is, we've got to understand how to finish these games off and make the plays at the end in order to win."
Rutgers freshman Tom Savage threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in his first Big East road game. But he gave all the credit to Brown, who finished with 162 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
"He made one of the best plays you could probably make in college football," Savage said. "I know he was down all week, and he was down during the game, but he just made the play and I'm sure Jazz is proud of him."
Backup quarterback Zach Frazer, who entered the game in the first quarter after Cody Endres went down with an injury to his left shoulder, threw for 333 yards and a touchdown. He led UConn on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives after they trailed 21-10.
UConn's Marcus Easley cut the lead to 21-17 when he caught a pass over the middle, bounced off linebacker Ryan D'Imperio and went in for a 32-yard touchdown with just over 10 minutes left. It was Easley's fourth straight game with a touchdown after going without a score in the first 26 games of his college career.
The Huskies tried an unorthodox two-point conversion, hitting tackle Mike Ryan on what was supposed to be a lateral screen. The 320-pound lineman dove into the end zone, stretching the ball over the left pylon. But Ryan was ruled an ineligible receiver, and UConn had to settle for an extra point after the penalty.
Connecticut got the ball back for a final time with just under 3 1/2 minutes left. A 31-yard diving catch by Michael Smith got the ball into Rutgers' territory, and a 32-yard catch by Kashif Moore on fourth down got the Huskies in scoring position. When Jordan Todman ran it in from 2-yards out on another fourth down with 38 seconds to go, the home crowd erupted, thinking the Huskies had completed the comeback.
Edsall said Endres is likely done for the season. He was driven down onto his left shoulder by Rutgers' Blair Bines and spent the rest of the game wearing a sling on the sideline. He is scheduled to have surgery on Sunday.
Frazer, who lost the starting job after he suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season, completed 21 of 46 passes, but also threw three interceptions.
There were numerous tributes to Howard before the game and fans lined up three-deep to great the Huskies as they made their way into the stadium wearing T-shirts with his number "6" on it.
A lot of that emotion seemed to drain from the building after Rutgers' Delvin McCourty took the opening kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown.
A week ago West Virginia's Tavon Austin went 98 yards with the opening kick in another 28-24 UConn loss.
Joe Lefeged's interception set up a 7 play, 81 yard Rutgers drive that ended with Brown's first touchdown catch, a 37-yarder.
Robby Frey brought the crowd back into the game by taking the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, cutting across the field behind the blocking of Todman and diving into the end zone.
But UConn senior cornerback Robert McClain limped off the field late in the second quarter, leaving the Huskies with three redshirt freshmen in the secondary.
Savage took advantage, finding Mark Harrison over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown that made it 21-10 at the half. McClain returned in the second half.
UConn's Dave Teggart had a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter, but missed a 36-yarder and a 49-yarder wide left just before halftime.
After the game, Edsall was asked how much adversity one team can take.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll just keep fighting. That's all I know to do."