For two years under coach Paul Pasqualoni, the UConn football team has looked for a win that made you think things were going in the right direction.
The current two years in the Pasqualini era have been a frustrating experience in inconsistency. The Huskies do things you like, especially on defense, and even have shown some explosiveness in the passing game over time. But, for every rousing win over Maryland was a loss against Western Michigan. That's kind of how the Pasqualoni era has gone.
One step forward, 1 1/4 steps back.
UConn beat Pittsburgh two weeks ago, so a win over No. 20 Louisville was going to be a loss. That's what everyone expected.
UConn football has never won this type of game in program history. The Huskies playing a ranked team that is one of the top teams in the conference on the road? Never happened. UConn under Randy Edsall had plenty of success, including winning two Big East titles, but those teams, even when they went to the Fiesta Bowl, never beat a ranked team on the road. In fact, in program history, the only time UConn beat a ranked foe was a fraud of a USF team in 2007.
That streak has ended. The Huskies knocked off Louisville 23-20 in triple OT to keep their bowl hopes alive.
The bottom line? The Huskies are still alive.
It wasn't some rousing performance from the Huskies. The Huskies scored 10 points in regulation, didn't score a point in the third and fourth quarters and looked over matched. UConn then allowed Louisville to go 92 yards to tie the score and send it to overtime with 26 seconds left.
That makes UConn's win all the more satisfying. This wasn't a stars aligned, once in a generation upset. The Huskies didn't catch Louisville off guard. This was like nearly every UConn game this year, a defensive slog and frustrating and at times ugly. And, UConn won.
It was a remarkable game in that standpoint. The Huskies got a big-time game out of DE Trevardo Williams and LB Sio Moore and had to go to backup quarterback Johnny McEntee in the fourth quarter and overtime with Chandler Whitmer out after a shot to the head. Whitmer had a nightmare game, and the Huskies still won. UConn is 2-0 when their quarterbacks throw for less than 100 yards, go figure. That's UConn, and winning ugly.
So what does this mean?
The one notion that needs to be scrapped is the idea that Paul Pasqualoni had ever lost this team. There were a lot of questions about giving up in the Syracuse game (it was only one play, but fit the narrative) but the team has responded to the coach. The Huskies put in big efforts in a 13-6 loss to USF and a 24-17 win over Pittsburgh. Its performance against Louisville was something special.
Who thought UConn was capable of this?
No one except Sio Moore, who chaffed at a question on Tuesday about UConn not being a football school. There was a growing media consensus going into this game that Louisville is a superior option for the ACC because UConn can't play good enough football. Several articles stated that Louisville was far superior to UConn it wasn't worth examining. The dismissal of UConn's football team is shocking, as if four bowl games and two Big East titles -- even convoluted as they were-- were somehow accidents.
It's an argument that doesn't hold under scrutiny, but sometimes conventional wisdom becomes fact. Just even mentioning that brought a reaction from Moore.
"We are not a great football school?," Moore said Tuesday. "We've been to bowl games and we've been to BCS games. I think we are a great school and we have come a long way from where we've been. It's about collecting wins along the way. We will be good and the future of the program is bright. There are guys you don't even know about that are going to pop up when the time is right, they will pop up and you will go 'oh crap.'"
The Huskies, who were 3-6 three weeks ago coming back from a dispiriting loss at South Florida are now 5-6, 2-4 in conference and a win away from Cincinnati to get to a bowl game.
Huskies fans are now allowed to speculate on bowl games. A win over Cincinnati could put UConn in the Pinstripe Bowl - -UConn 6-6, Cincy 8-4 or possibly Pitt at 6-6 would be the candidates. Cincinnati is most likely even with a loss, the bowl lineups do open up and the Bearcats could slide into another game if it's deemed a superior matchup.
It's not a great position to be. Problems remain with the UConn offense that don't seem fixable this season. That's disappointing and whether it's a talent problem or a coaching problem, both will need to be upgraded for next season.
But, for the first time in Pasqualoni's two years there is something to grab onto, something to proud of and something to get excited about.
Does it excuse losses to WMU and Temple? No. But, at this point in time the Huskies have something to play outside of personal pride heading into the final game of the season.
They did it by winning against a ranked team on the road that needed the win as badly as UConn did.
That's something the school has never done before.