East Hartford, CT – For the second straight week, No. 15 Michigan flirted with disaster against an inferior opponent but ultimately prevailed with a 24-21 victory over Connecticut in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a game at Rentschler Field.
Fresh off a narrow 28-24 win at home against Akron, Michigan (4-0) traveled to Hartford looking to get back on track, but trailed 21-7 before responding with 17 unanswered points to finish the game.
"We've got a major league problem and we've got to fix it," Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said.
Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for two scores while Brendan Gibbons kicked the decisive 21-yard field goal with 4:36 remaining in the contest.
Turnovers were an issues for the Wolverines, who coughed it up four times. They will have a much-needed week off before returning home to face Minnesota and begin Big Ten conference play.
Connecticut (0-3) had a chance to win late despite gaining just 206 yards and converting 1-of-11 on third down. After receiving the kickoff following Gibbons' field goal, Martin Hyppolite ran for a first down to the Michigan 48. But on 4th-and-29 following Frank Clark's second sack of the contest, Chandler Whitmer hooked up with Deshon Foxx for 26 yards, just shy of the first down marker.
"We contained them for a long time but not long enough," UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
Devin Gardner completed 11-for-23 for 97 yards and two interceptions. The Michigan signal caller also lost a fumble but ran for 64 yards and a score. Toussaint netted 120 yards on the ground.
Whitmer threw for 159 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 16-of-32 for the Huskies, who will play away from home for the first time next week when they travel to Buffalo.
Gardner completed his first four passes on an early promising Michigan drive, but his fifth pass was high for Jeremy Gallon and ultimately intercepted by Jhavon Williams.
After forcing a Connecticut punt, Gardner redeemed himself for the pick by orchestrating an 11-play drive, capping it with his 17-yard touchdown scamper up the middle.
The Huskies had mustered just two first downs midway through the second quarter when Whitmer looked deep for Geremy Davis, who dove and appeared to haul in a 39-yard touchdown pass to knot the score. But after a lengthy review, referees determined the ball hit the carpet before Davis maintained possession, resulting in an incomplete pass.
The Huskies kept their composure and a few plays later, Whitmer and Spencer Parker hooked up for an 11-yard score. The reception was Parker's first on the season.
Another costly Michigan turnover, its third of the half, came late when a UConn punt hit Da'Mario Jones' leg inside the Michigan 10. Obi Melifonwu pounced on the ball, setting up a 1st-and-goal with a little over two minutes before halftime. Two plays later, the Huskies took the lead when Whitmer found Lyle McCombs wide open out of the backfield on the left side of the end zone.
Michigan's woes continued on its first drive of the second half when on 3rd- and-1, Gardner tried a sneak but fumbled when he bumped into an offensive lineman. Ty-Meer Brown recovered the loose ball and sprinted 34 yards untouched to the end zone, giving Connecticut an improbable 21-7 edge.
Toussaint finally injected some life into the Maize and Blue when he took an option pitch from Gardner and made multiple defenders miss en route to his 35- yard touchdown run.
Early in the fourth period, Gardner was stopped on a quarterback keeper on 4th-and-2 to give the ball back to Connecticut, but Desmond Morgan made a one- handed interception on the ensuing UConn possession and one play later, Toussaint trotted in from 12 yards out to tie the score at 21-21.
Michigan then forced a three-and-out, setting up Gibbons' game-winning field goal.
The announced crowd was 42,704 ... Michigan improved to 7-0 all-time against current members of the AAC ... The Wolverines had been 3-6 under Brady Hoke when trailing after three quarters ... Connecticut gained just 1.9 yards per rush on 25 attempts.