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In a turnaround season, UConn football scores its first bowl game invite since 2015

Fans stormed the field and celebrate with players after Connecticut defeated Liberty in an NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
Bryan Woolston
Fans stormed the field and celebrated with players after Connecticut defeated Liberty in an NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

UConn announced it will head to its first bowl game in seven years. The Huskies will face Marshall University on Monday, Dec. 19, at the Myrtle Beach Bowl in South Carolina.

It’s the capstone to a turnaround season for the Huskies, who struggled all through 2021, finishing that season with a 1-11 record.

This year, UConn went 6-6 for the team’s most wins since 2015. UConn athletic director David Benedict said he believes this season is giving people a different outlook on the program.

“There is now a perception that we can be successful,” Benedict said. “I believe we will be.”

But Benedict acknowledged that there are people who believe a 2019 move to make the football program independent from conference affiliation was “program-killing.”

“There were a lot of people that had a perception that we couldn’t be successful at UConn in football,” Benedict recalled Sunday.

“That was something I never felt, but I know there were plenty of people locally and nationally that felt that way,” he said.

UConn’s opponent, Marshall (8-4), is the team that beat the Huskies the last time UConn got invited to a bowl game – the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl. Marshall also pulled off a win against Notre Dame, beating the Fighting Irish 26-21 on Sept. 10.

Benedict said the national name that he and school officials brought in this year to coach the Huskies, Jim Mora, will never quit in any situation. He says that spirit enveloped the Huskies and helped them win games in 2022.

Since UConn football is not affiliated with a conference, it is tougher for the team to be invited to bowl games. Benedict said the university is in talks with ESPN to work out a future broadcasting arrangement that may allow the university more bowl game invites.

But Mora said a bowl invite right now shows that the program is starting to become more successful, which he hopes changes the perception of the program.

“I think that that process has already begun,” Mora said. “We’re going to have a chance now to play a game on national television. We need to go out and play well so people see what we are doing here, what we’re capable of and what the future looks like.”

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Frankie Graziano is the host of 'The Wheelhouse,' focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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