EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Michigan was making a mess of another game against a heavy underdog, when Desmond Morgan snatched away Connecticut’s chance for a huge upset.
Morgan’s one-handed interception in the fourth quarter swung the game Michigan’s way and the No. 15 Wolverines dodged a potentially embarrassing loss with a 24-21 victory against Connecticut on Saturday night.
A week after Michigan needed a last-second stand to hold off Akron at the Big House, Brendan Gibbons kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:36 left to give the Wolverines (4-0) their first lead of the second half.
‘‘We’re Michigan. We don’t play to everyone else’s level and for the last two weeks we have. But we’re going to step it up,’’ defensive end Frank Clark said.
Chandler Whitmer threw two touchdown passes and Ty-Meer Brown returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that put UConn (0-3) up, 21-7.
Quarterback Devin Gardner turned the ball over three times for Michigan and the Wolverines also muffed a punt inside their 10 that led to a UConn touchdown. Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the offense with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Toussaint broke a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and scored from 12 yards out right after Morgan’s pick with 9:56 left.
‘‘We contained them for a long time but not long enough,’’ UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
Against the Zips, Gardner threw three interceptions and lost a fumble and the Wolverines came away feeling more relieved than victorious. Gardner wasn’t much better Saturday, going 11 for 23 for 97 yards. He ran for 64 yards and a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter. But his defense had to bail him out, specifically Morgan.
After star UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood stopped Gardner short on a fourth-and-2 at the Huskies 22 with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter, the record crowd of 42,704 at Rentschler Field was rocking and starting to believe an upset was in the making.
But Morgan made the play of the game and one play later Toussaint swept untouched around the left side to make it 21-21 with 9:49 left.
Michigan forced a three-and-out on the next series and got the ball back around midfield, but its drive stalled at the 4 and Gibbons made the short kick to give Michigan a 3-point lead with 4:36 left.
UConn’s last drive never had a chance. Michigan pushed the Huskies backward and then they came up a few yards short on a fourth-and-29.
UConn, playing without leading receiver Shakim Phillips, managed only 206 yards, 159 passing from Whitmer.
The Huskies limped into the most high-profile nonconference home game they have ever played, trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2001 and take some heat off Pasqualoni.
And Michigan helped out with three turnovers in the first half that helped give UConn a 14-7 lead. Turnover No. 4 came on its first possession of the second half. Gardner tried to sneak on a third-and-short, but as he slid down the line, he bumped into a lineman and the ball popped loose.
Brown picked up the ball and had a couple of teammates escort him into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
Michigan finally responded with a drive, going 75 yards, the final 35 by Toussaint who made it 21-14 with 5:37 left in the third.