Casey Cochran passed for 461 yards and four touchdowns to lead the University of Connecticut over Memphis 45-10 before a paltry crowd of 17,086 Husky diehards at frigid Rentschler Field in East Hartford on Saturday afternoon. Cochran, a reshirt freshman who led both New London High and Masuk to state titles, completed 36 of 54 passes without throwing a pick in leading the Huskies, who opened the season by dropping nine straight games, to its third straight victory.
The 461 yards broke UConn's single-game record previously held by another Connecticut native, Dan Orlovsky of Shelton, who threw for 445 yards against Syracuse in 2004. The opposing coach in that game? Paul Pasqualoni, who was relieved of his duties at Connecticut mid-season.
Cochran's favorite target was Geremy Davis, a reshirt junior wideout from Lawrenceville, Ga., who hauled in 15 passes—another school record—for 207 yards and one touchdown. Davis finished the season with 1,085 receiving yards—sixth most in school history and the most since Connecticut became an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, otherwise known as Division 1-A) in 2000.
After Memphis fired the first salvo when Jake Elliot booted a 43-yard field goal with 5:34 left in the first quarter, UConn took the lead when Cochran teamed with junior wideout Deshon Foxx for the UConn's first score—an 18-yard pass to the back of the end zone. The point-after by Chad Christen gave Connecticut a 7-3 lead a buck fifty into the second period—a lead the Huskies would not relinquish.
The Husky D held Memphis and Cochran and his talented cast of receivers went on a 13-play, 86-yard scoring drive culminating with a 15-yard TD pass to Davis. The point after was good, and UConn had a 14-3 lead with 4:13 left in the half.
After the Huskies got the ball back on their own 37 with 1:03 remaining, Connecticut once again took to the air as Cochran engineered a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive culminating with an 11-yard back to tailback Lyle McCombs, a redshirt junior from Staten Island. After the point-after by Christen, the Huskies took a 21-3 lead into the locker room at intermission.
All-in-all, the Huskies outgained the Tigers 538-257 in total yards. After the game, UConn interim head coach T.J. Weist was asked if the offense should be coined “Air Cochran” or “Air Weist.” “It's neither,” said Weist, who turned the season around but none-the-less is expected to be replaced next season by a “big name” coach. “It's Air UConn. This was a team effort.”
Cochran, meanwhile, certainly put himself in the driver's seat regarding starting QB status for next season. While a new coach may be inclined to put in his own starter—it's hard to argue with the maturity Cochran has shown, and his decision-making process that resulted in a four-touchdown zero-interception performance against Memphis.
“At any school there is always competition, and I'm going to be ready to go back and compete when we start workouts again,” said the Monroe resident. “I don't feel comfortable with having the job yet... I'm going to have to keep working.”
Indeed, Cochran sees plenty of room for personal improvement.
“I'm not comfortable with the season I had,: he continued. “There are a lot of things that I can improve on and as soon as I can recuperate a little from these last three games I'm going to get going on that.”
“I give [the receivers] most of the credit for being able to do as much as they did with the ball,” said the humble Cochran. “Deshon was great with those bubble screens and Geremy was able to go up and make plays. I give them credit for that. The offensive line protected me and gave me a lot of time. If you go back and look at the film, I had quite a bit of time to sit there and examine the defense.”
So now the offseason begins, and the search for a full-time head coach. But while a “big name” might be what Connecticut AD Warde Manuel wants, one can't discount Weist's accomplishments this season—totally turning around a lost year and instilling a positive attitude to a team that could have easily cashed it in. Besides, let us not forget the last time a “big name” was brought in—Pasqualoni, who came to Storrs as the winningest head coach in the history of Big East football, but who won only 10 games in 28 outings with the Huskies.
Connecticut will open the 2014 season on Sat., Aug. 28, with a home game against BYU.