Arkeel Newsome may have helped redefine UConn's season with one run on Friday night.
He appeared hemmed in at his team's 10-yard line, but he found a seam on the right side and broke free for a 90-yard third-quarter touchdown run that helped propel UConn to a 31-13 win over East Carolina.
"It was almost an arm tackle, but I was like, 'I gotta go, I gotta go,'" Newsome said. "All I saw was green. My eyes got really big."
The Huskies had lost five of their last six games, but have now doubled their win total from a year ago and need just two more to become bowl eligible.
"We took another step forward as a team this week," UConn coach Bob Diaco said. "We got better and we grew."
Newsome, who also had a 2-yard touchdown run, had 244 all-purpose yards, including 179 yards rushing for Connecticut (4-5, 2-3 American).
Bryant Shirreffs completed 12 of 21 passes for 184 yards with one passing touchdown and had a 3-yard dive into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Marquez Grayson ran for a career-high 87 yards on nine carries for East Carolina (4-5, 2-3), which has lost three of its last four.
James Summers, who has been sharing duties with Blake Kemp, started for the third time in his career and played into the fourth quarter. He was 12 of 27 for 87 yards with an interception before giving way to Kemp.
Kemp ran for a 2-yard touchdown after DeShaun Amos recovered a fumble to pull the Pirates to within 11. But he also threw three of East Carolina's four picks.
"We needed some offense and wanted to give James a little bit longer look and some longer reps, and then went with Blake," said East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeil. "Blake came up short."
The Pirates now must win two of their last three to have a chance at a fourth straight bowl bid and ninth in the last 10 years.
The Huskies, who gave up 612 yards in a loss to Cincinnati a week ago, held the Pirates to 340 yards — 137 through the air.
East Carolina's DeShawn Benton stepped in front of Tommy Myers and returned an interception 32 yards for its first score. The extra-point attempt was blocked.
UConn responded by scoring the next 24 points.
The Huskies used their longest drive of the season, 94 yards, to take a 10-6 lead into halftime.
Shirreffs engineered an eight-play, 66-yard drive in the third quarter, hitting Alec Bloom over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass that put the Huskies up 17-6.
On UConn's next possession, one play after the Huskies recovered their own muffed punt, Newsome pushed the lead to three scores with a run that is tied for the third longest in team history.
"That's just the best feeling," Shirreffs said. "We need big plays like that and I feel like that's been something we've been lacking all season."