Syracuse ends string of 12 league losses

By Associated PRess
Published November 19, 2006

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - After watching his Syracuse Orange get whipped a week ago by South Florida, coach Greg Robinson wasn't certain what to expect in the final two games of the season.

After an uncustomary scrimmage on Thursday in the Carrier Dome, he knew.

"I wanted to find out, and they didn't blink. They got it on," Robinson said. "I'm proud of them."

Curtis Brinkley scored two touchdowns, the Syracuse defense shut down Connecticut's running game, and the Orange beat the Huskies 20-14 on Saturday to snap a 12-game Big East losing streak.

It was Robinson's first conference victory in two years on the job, and he was relieved.

"It's great, it really is," Robinson said. "I know just in that locker room that feeling for those seniors is special."

Syracuse (4-7, 1-5 Big East), which had lost its previous five games, probably spoiled any chance Connecticut (4-6, 1-4) had of playing in the postseason. The Huskies still have games against Cincinnati and No. 10 Louisville and need to win both for the required six victories.

"It's pretty frustrating," Connecticut quarterback D.J. Hernandez said. "We had our chances."

The Orange had five sacks and three interceptions, two by safety Joe Fields, and squashed UConn's ground game.

Connecticut, which entered the game ranked ninth nationally in rushing offense with 206 yards per game, had 70 yards on 39 carries. Freshman Donald Brown, who had gained 199 yards against No. 7 Rutgers and 205 in a double-overtime win a week ago over Pitt, managed just 67 yards on 18 carries.

When the game was on the line in the third quarter, the Huskies had 29 yards of total offense, 16 of it rushing against a defense that had allowed 193 rushing yards a game - 113th of the 119 teams that play in Division I-A.

Syracuse, which led 10-7 at halftime, gained a 17-7 lead midway through the third when Brinkley scored untouched on an 18-yard screen pass to the left. It was the first time the Orange had scored in the third quarter in five games, and they did so after converting three straight third downs.

"It was timely, and it was about time," Robinson said.

Each team scored on its first possession. The Orange began by driving 86 yards in nine plays. The Huskies tied it with an 81-yard, 16-play drive.

"They have clawed and scratched and had some disappointments and frustrations," Robinson said of his players. "I like the way they hung tough. That is what this is all about."