EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut got a boost in confidence on Saturday night. Not enough, however, to prevent the school's worst start in a dozen years.
The Huskies couldn't hold a 14-point second-half lead and lost to No. 15 Michigan 24-21, falling to 0-3 for the first time since 2001.
"We played well, but it's a 60-mintute game and you have to play for 60 minutes," safety Obi Melifonwu said. "Everyone thought we were going to get blown out. We proved to everybody that we can play with anyone in the country."
Chandler Whitmer threw two touchdown passes and Ty-Meer Brown returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that put UConn (0-3) up 21-7.
The Huskies, who lost their first two games decisively to Towson, a FCS team, and Maryland, led much of this one and were tied with Wolverines (4-0) until Brendan Gibbons kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:36 left.
"We contained them for a long time, but not long enough," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
Quarterback Devin Gardner turned the ball over three times and the Wolverines also muffed a punt inside their 10 that led to a UConn touchdown. Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the offense with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Toussaint broke a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and scored from 12 yards out right after linebacker Desmond Morgan's one-handed interception with 9:56 left.
Gardner finished 11 for 23 for 97 yards. He ran for 64 yards and a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter. But his defense had to bail him out, specifically Morgan.
After star Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood stopped Gardner short on a fourth-and-2 at the Huskies 22 with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter, the record crowd of 42,704 at Rentschler Field was rocking and starting to believe an upset was in the making.
But Morgan returned the interception 29 yards and one play later Toussaint swept untouched around the left side to make it 21-21 with 9:49 left.
"We made plays as a defense, but they just stole this game from us," said Smallwood, who had 13 tackles and a sack.
Michigan forced a three-and-out on the next series and got the ball back around midfield, but its drive stalled at the 4 and Gibbons made the short kick to give Michigan a three-point lead with 4:36 left.
UConn's last drive never had a chance. Michigan pushed the Huskies backward and then they came up a few yards short on a fourth-and-29.
UConn, playing without leading receiver Shakim Phillips, managed only 206 yards, 159 passing from Whitmer.