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FREEDY STANDS TALL AS NO-HUDDLE OFFENSE ROLLS OVER UCONN

STORRS, Conn. -- This is what Jim Hofher envisioned when he took over the program at the University at Buffalo: Joe Freedy standing tall in the pocket, calmly running his no-huddle offense and picking his spots while setting up the running game.

Freedy and UB had everything going their way Saturday afternoon when it picked off Connecticut, 37-20, at Memorial Stadium. Freedy played his best game of the season, completing 20 of 36 passes for 218 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

The fifth-year senior started his 25th consecutive game for the Bulls after he nearly lost his job to redshirt freshman Randall Secky, who played early Saturday before relieving Freedy in mop-up duty.

"There wasn't any big trick to it," Freedy said. "The coaches have been talking about it all week: We have to go out and do our assignments right and then execute. What I wasn't doing was executing. In this game, I did what the coaches told me to, I believed in it and it worked."

In losses to Rutgers and Bowling Green, Freedy struggled, completing 25 of 49 passes for 208 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. After throwing two quick interceptions against Bowling Green, Freedy was yanked in favor of Secky. It wasn't until Thursday when Hofher decided Freedy would start.

The main reason for the struggles, Freedy said, was lack of execution on his part.

"I wasn't doing exactly as the coaches said," Freedy said. "I wasn't playing how I was coached. This game, I was able to play how I was coached."

The UB running game, which came into the day with a mere 98 yards rushing, received a huge boost from sophomore tailback Marquis Dwarte, who finished with 151 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

The Bulls had just 11 yards rushing at intermission before Hofher challenged his offensive line to create holes for the lightning-quick Dwarte. So the line of Andy Avery, Tim Hedges, Eric Weber, Erik Zeppuhar and Jeff Mills made certain Dwarte was free to roam.

"They played tremendous," Dwarte said. "I can't take the credit because I was playing in the first half, yet we weren't running the ball that well. When they blocked it right, we were able to run it right."

Maybe Ryan Buttles should fill in more often. The junior linebacker filled in for injured Lamar Wilcher and came through with two of the day's biggest plays on defense.

Following a UB turnover, UConn crawled to the Bulls' 1-yard line. But on fourth down with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter, Huskies tailback Taber Small was stopped cold when he was wrapped up by Buttles and defensive end Chris Shelly for no gain.

Then on UConn's first possession of the second half, Buttles picked off a Keron Henry pass tipped by UB's Duane Williams, which set up a Dallas Pelz field goal. That cut UConn's lead to 13-10 and helped ignite UB's comeback.

Wilcher didn't play in Saturday's game after partially dislocating his right shoulder in practice Tuesday. It was determined Friday that the shoulder was too sore for Wilcher to play.

In the Bulls' game against Bowling Green two weeks ago, Wilcher led the team with a career-best 12 tackles, including two for losses.

UConn will open Rentschler Field, a 40,000-seat football facility, in 2003 against Rutgers. Rentschler Field is a $90 million state-funded project in East Hartford, 20 miles from the UConn campus.

UB junior Scott McMahan's first punt of the game traveled a personal-best 64 yards to the UConn 1-yard line. . . . Pelz, a sophomore who attended St. Francis High School, kicked his first career field goal from 36 yards with 5:04 left in the first quarter, giving UB a 3-0 lead. It was the first time the Bulls had led this season. . . . Featured prominently on the cover of the UConn media guide is quarterback Ryan Tracey, who quit the team during preseason practice. . . . The Huskies' first Division I-A victory came against Buffalo in 1999 (23-0) and their first road victory against a I-A opponent came against the Bulls last season (24-21). . . . The UB defense has not allowed a touchdown in the fourth quarter. . . . Shelly started his 30th consecutive game for UB. . . . Senior linebacker Bobby Johnson had his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
e-mail: r mckissic@buffnews.com

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