When Connecticut defeated South Florida in 2007, Tim Boyle was part of the mob of fans that stormed Rentschler Field to applaud the team that knocked down a giant. It was a moment of jubilation for everyone involved. A moment that Huskies football hadn’t experienced again until this past Saturday against the previously undefeated Houston Cougars.
Just five years later and now the Huskies' quarterback, Boyle found himself trapped in the middle of a crowd on the same field. This time the fans were congratulating him for stepping in for an injured Bryant Shirreffs and guiding the Huskies (6-5) to an upset over the visiting Cougars (10-1).
“It was great. Even if I got trampled, it probably would’ve been the best trampling I ever got,” said the 6-foot-3 junior, who finished 12-of-22 for 110 yards. “Everyone was coming up to me, shaking my hand and taking pictures of me. It’s something I’ve never experienced before so it’s definitely gonna be with me for the rest of my life."
While he didn't throw a touchdown, Boyle was certainly part of the biggest sequence of the game, passing the ball to Garrett Anderson as part of a trick play that resulted in a 45-yard touchdown to Noel Thomas. When the ball landed in Thomas’ hands in the end zone it set the crowd into a frenzy. The UConn sideline waved towels and hollered as the raucous fans followed suit. With a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, it was finally starting to sink in that the Huskies were about to accomplish a tremendous feat.
That celebration lasted all of a minute.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Wilson took the ball 94 yards to the end zone to put Houston back within three. A complete sense of shock quieted the party at Rentschler Field. But the Huskies’ defensive unit, which held the high-scoring Cougars to just 17 points, was ready to step up.
“Once they took that kickoff return to the house we knew on the defensive bench that the game was gonna need to be won on the defensive side,” safety Andrew Adams said. “So we got that in our mind and once we took the field for the last time we knew we were gonna get the victory.
They did exactly that as Jamar Summers' interception of Greg Ward Jr. sent the crowd back into madness, the loudest it had been all night. It was one of those victories that can spark a program, the same program that finished 2-10 last season, anchored by who Adams referred to as a mastermind, coach Bob Diaco.
“You just get the feeling of accomplishment and that you’ve made a great investment, and from that great investment you have a return,” said Diaco after the victory. “So you want to put more in to get more and just keep feeling that feeling of return.”
Rightfully so, Diaco was all smiles and hugs outside of the Huskies’ locker room after the game, although he joked he is a bit claustrophobic and not a fond of being part of a big crowd.
What he is part of now is UConn history. A school that has seen much recent success with both its women's and men’s basketball programs and its field hockey program could now add some football lore to the narrative. Bowl eligibility is substantial for Huskies football and well-deserved for Diaco’s resilient squad. The win is a step in the right direction, a step they were able to enjoy in front of the home crowd in East Hartford and a scene they will never forget.