- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Instant analysis of the Papajohns.com Bowl, which Connecticut won 20-7 over South Carolina:
How the game was won: The Huskies were brutalized defensively in the final month of the regular season, but they played like an iron curtain against the offensively suspect Gamecocks. They shut down the run and got heavy pressure on South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia. UConn took advantage of the Gamecocks' many mistakes, controlled field position and did what it does best on offense: Run the ball and add a few shots downfield in the passing game.
Turning point: Garcia scrambled for a short gain but then coughed the football up while being hit late in the fourth quarter. UConn's Scott Lutrus recovered the loose ball. Eight Andre Dixon rushes later and the Huskies were in the end zone for an insurmountable 20-0 lead.
Stat of the game: While the Gamecocks kept shooting themselves in the foot with dropped passes and turnovers, Connecticut did not commit a penalty.
Player of the game: Dixon had 33 carries for 125 yards and a score. It's not a great per-carry average, but the senior went over 1,000 yards for the season (joining teammate Jordan Todman) and helped UConn control the clock against a pretty stout defense.
Unsung hero: Kendall Reyes. The defensive tackle was dominant up front against the South Carolina offensive line, leading the charge for a Huskies pass rush that overwhelmed Garcia and compared favorably to anything the Gamecocks saw in the SEC.
What it means: In the last Big East game of bowl season, UConn turned in the league's best performance. What a finish for a team that went through so much heartache throughout the middle of the season. The Huskies won their last four games and should go into 2010 receiving heavy consideration for the Top 25 since they return the bulk of their roster. After Cincinnati's terrible showing against Florida, UConn saved a little league face by beating an SEC team for the first time ever, albeit a mediocre one at best.