UConn comeback thwarted by Wyoming on 2-point conversion

EAST HARTFORD — Close, but not close enough.

UConn football fell agonizingly short of its first win in two seasons, losing 24-22 to Wyoming Saturday at Rentschler Field after its two-point conversion try was stymied in the final seconds.

“We’re getting closer to getting our first win,” interim coach Lou Spanos said. “We fought to the end. We just have to finish the next opportunity.”

Freshman Nate Carter scored on a 2-yard run with four seconds remaining, capping a 14-play, 64-yard drive that was extended by three pass interference penalties on Wyoming. That score pulled UConn within two, but on the two-point try that would’ve forced overtime, Tyler Phommachanh’s pass was batted down by safety Rome Weber.

“There’s a fine line in this business,” Spanos said. “Hopefully next week we’ll make the catch.”

It was hardly a consolation for the Huskies, who dropped to 0-5 this season and lost for the 30th time in the last 31 games to FBS opponents.

After trailing 13-0 in the first half and by three points entering the fourth, Wyoming, a 30.5-point favorite, grabbed the lead with 6:31 left on a 1-yard run by Xazavian Valladay. Instead of answering right back, Phommachanh was intercepted on the next play.

The Cowboys promptly took advantage of that turnover as Travis Swen scored from 2 yards out.

“It stings,” Spanos said. “But we’ll have another one next week.”

A 28-yard field goal by freshman Joe McFadden on the game’s opening drive gave UConn its first lead against an FBS opponent this season.

The Huskies then extended it to 10-0 thanks to some creative play calling. A double flea-flicker resulted in Phommachanh finding tight end Jay Rose wide open for a 42-yard touchdown.

Carter said it was a play they had worked on all week in practice, adding, “It brought the team a lot of confidence.”

More Information

Wyoming 24, UConn 22

Wyoming

3

7

14

-

24

UConn

10

3

9

-

22

First quarter

UCONN: FG McFadden 28, 11:39.

UCONN: Rose 42 pass from Phommachanh (McFadden kick), 1:25.

Second quarter

UCONN: FG McFadden 29, 12:54.

WYO: FG Hoyland 24, 4:44.

Third quarter

WYO: Neyor 18 pass from Chambers (Hoyland kick), 10:15.

Fourth quarter

UCONN: FG McFadden 34, 11:16.

WYO: Valladay 1 run (Hoyland kick), 6:31.

WYO: Swen 2 run (Hoyland kick), 3:34.

UCONN: N.Carter 2 run (pass failed), :04.

WYO

UCONN

First downs

22

18

Total Net Yards

352

273

Rushes-yards

45-203

29-103

Passing

149

170

Punt Returns

1-2

1-31

Kickoff Returns

4-77

4-106

Interceptions Ret.

1-7

2-10

Comp-Att-Int

15-26-2

19-39-1

Sacked-Yards Lost

0-0

3-32

Punts

4-41.25

5-33.0

Fumbles-Lost

1-0

0-0

Penalties-Yards

10-100

5-30

Time of Possession

35:38

24:16

Individual statistics

Rushing: Wyoming, Valladay 22-101, Swen 15-84, Chambers 6-20, (Team) 1-(minus 1), McNeely 1-(minus 1). UConn, Carter 11-58, Phommachanh 12-14, Maurisseau 1-11, Brewton 3-11, Mensah 2-9.

Passing: Wyoming, Chambers 15-26-2-149. UConn, Phommachanh 19-39-1-170.

Receiving: Wyoming, Eberhardt 3-40, Valladay 3-33, Christensen 3-30, Cobbs 3-15, Neyor 2-24, Swen 1-7. UConn, Turner 6-48, Marion 3-25, Clercius 3-23, Gill 3-17, Rose 1-42, Carter 1-14, Niemenski 1-1, Brewton 1-0.

Missed field goals: Wyoming, Hoyland 43.

Phommachanh, making his second straight start, was 19 of 39 passing for 171 yards.

“He definitely energizes the offense,” UConn cornerback Jeremy Lucien said. “He does a great job being comfortable in the pocket. When the pressure’s coming to him, he can move around while still keeping his eyes downfield and keeping his poise. … Above all else, it’s just awesome to see a freshman coming from the scout team doing the things that he’s doing.”

The teams traded field goals in the second quarter, with McFadden good from 29 yards and Wyoming’s John Hoyland 24, as UConn took a 13-3 lead into halftime.

Wyoming opened the second half with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with Sean Chambers hitting Isaiah Neyor for an 18-yard touchdown.

A 35-yard field goal by McFadden, his third of the day, extended UConn’s lead to 16-10 early in the fourth.

Despite the absences of defensive tackle Travis Jones and linebacker Omar Fortt, UConn’s defense delivered its best performance to date. The 24 points allowed were easily a season low, and the Huskies intercepted Chambers (15-26, 149 yards) twice.

“We have to keep on eliminating long drives, long drives,” Spanos said. “Worst-case scenario, you try to get field goals. … We’re getting better.”

“We did take a lot of steps forward,” Lucien added. “Our communication was at a much higher level than it has been for the last couple of weeks. Everybody was tuned into their assignments and tuned into reading their keys, pre-snap and post-snap.”

Spanos hopes they can build on that next Saturday at Vanderbilt.

“Each game is special because of only X amount we have,” he said, adding, “We’re looking forward to next week.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour