Fifth-year senior Bryant Shirreffs came off the bench to lead UConn on three second-half scoring drives and the Huskies came from behind to beat Holy Cross 27-20 on Thursday night in Randy Edsall's return as head coach.
Sophomore running back Nate Hopkins ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns in his UConn debut and receiver Hergy Mayala caught nine balls for 106 yards and a score.
Peter Pujals threw for 358 yards and a touchdown for Holy Cross, from the Football Championship Subdivision, which led 20-7 late in the third quarter.
Shirreffs replaced David Pindell, a junior college transfer who could not get the Husky offense going despite throwing for 154 yards.
Shirreffs immediately led UConn on a five-play, 53-yard touchdown drive, capped by Hopkins' 3-yard run.
The Huskies got the lead back on an 11-yard pass from Shirreffs to Mayala in the front left corner of the end zone that capped a 59-yard fourth-quarter drive. The final score came after defensive back Tre Bull knocked the ball out of the arms of Holy Cross receiver Blaise Bell. UConn drove 47 yards and Hopkins punched the ball in from a yard out.
UConn's defense ended a late Crusaders scoring threat, stopping Pujals run on fourth down at the UConn 15.
Bell caught 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown for Holy Cross.
HOLY CROSS: The Crusaders, playing their first game against an FBS opponent since 2002, gave UConn a scare. They led by 13 points at the half after two UConn fumbles set up two touchdowns.
UCONN: Edsall, rehired in the offseason after a six-year absence, is now 75-70 at UConn. His last game as UConn coach was a 48-20 loss in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl
HOLY CROSS: The Crusaders play a second consecutive road game to start the season, traveling to Pennsylvania to face Bucknell on Sept. 9
UCONN: It does not get easier for the Huskies, who are back at home on Sept. 9, hosting No. 19 South Florida in the team's first conference game of the season.