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No. 15 Michigan dodges upset, beats UConn 24-21

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 22, 2013 at 12:12 am •  Published: September 22, 2013

"Coming into this game, we knew defense was going to have to win this game," Smallwood said. "We take pride in that."

Michigan had three turnovers in the first half that helped give UConn a 14-7 lead. Turnover No. 4 came on its first possession of the second half and put the Wolverines in a deep hole. Gardner tried to sneak on a third-and-short, but as he slid down the line, he bumped into one of his linemen and the ball popped loose.

Brown picked up the ball and had a couple of teammates escort him into the end zone for a 21-7 lead less than 2 minutes into the half.

Michigan finally responded with a drive, going 75 yards, the final 35 by Toussaint who made it 21-14 with 5:37 left in the third.

The Maize and Blue's visit to Rentschler Field was a major event in these parts. Former UConn basketball stars Kemba Walker and Ray Allen made the trip and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who grew up in Michigan and almost played for the Wolverines, also took in the game from the athletic director's box.

"UConn wants to build its program," said American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco, who was at the game. "They have done a remarkable job over 10 years and want to build its program. These are the kind of games that will help it get there, win or lose and ultimately, that's the goal."

On the field, though, the Huskies didn't appear to be in any condition to challenge Michigan, having already lost at home to Towson and Maryland — at least without help, and Michigan gave it to the Huskies.

Gardner threw a first-quarter interception deep in UConn territory. He redeemed himself later with a 17-yard touchdown run to give Michigan a 7-0 lead with 1:52 left in the first. UConn ended the quarter with one first down.

But Michigan couldn't take advantage as the Huskies' offense sputtered, and the Huskies tied it at 7 with 3:54 left in the half when Whitmer found Spencer Parker, a former walk-on, for an 11-yard touchdown pass.

The third Michigan turnover of the half, a bouncing punt that hit off the leg of Da'Mario Jones while he was looking the other way, gave UConn the ball at the Wolverines 9 and two plays later Whitmer floated a 7-yard TD pass to Lyle McCombs that put the Huskies up 14-7.

Gardner didn't complete a pass in the second quarter and for the second straight week Michigan looked disjointed against a heavy underdog.