STORRS, Conn. (AP) Tim Boyle was 13 years old in 2007 when he first ran onto Rentschler Field.
He was celebrating, along with a stadium full of fans, after Connecticut upset No. 11 South Florida, 22-15, the Huskies first-ever win over a ranked opponent. It was a victory that vaulted the program into the Top 25 for the first time.
On Saturday, the 6-foot-4 freshman from Middlefield will again run onto the field at a USF-UConn game, this time as UConn's starting quarterback.
"It's cool," he said. "It's ironic. But, I don't really want to think about it too much. I'm just a quarterback trying to play football. And I just want to play the next game and get a `W' for this team."
Interim coach T.J. Weist, who was promoted from offensive coordinator last week following the firing of Paul Pasqualoni, made the switch to Boyle from junior Chandler Whitmer shortly after getting the job.
Whitmer completed 71 of 129 passes for 896 yards, with five touchdowns and six interceptions this season, but also led an offense that ranked 119th out of 123 bowl subdivision teams and gave up 20 sacks.
Boyle becomes the first true freshman to start a game for Connecticut since Dan Orlovsky, now a backup with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, did it in 2001. Orlovsky went on to lose 12 of his first 15 starts. But the team went 9-3 and 8-4 in his last two years, winning its first bowl along the way.
"I followed him a little bit," Boyle said. "I remember being young and hearing his name, but I don't think I was conscious enough to really follow him."
Boyle turned 19 last Thursday. He led Xavier High to a state championship just 10 months ago, throwing for almost 2,500 yards as a senior. But he has played just one football game - a high school all-star contest - since.
He was a highly sought-after recruit, though, and should be a spark, regardless. Boyle originally committed to Boston College, but decided to come to UConn after the Eagles hired Steve Addazio, who prefers a dual-threat quarterback for his offense.
Pasqualoni said he had wanted to have Boyle sit out this year, learn the offense and have four seasons of eligibility left when UConn needed him. But he said the staff decided, before the Buffalo game, that it would play Boyle this year. And Weist made it official last week.
"I want to play football. I'm a football player," Boyle said. "I didn't come to UConn to redshirt my freshman year."
Senior receiver Geremy Davis said it will be up to the rest of the offense to make the transition from Whitmer to Boyle as easy as possible. That means the line needs to do a better job blocking. The running game needs to get going. And he and the other receivers need to run better routes.
"We want to keep Tim up and upright, as much as possible," he said. "He can't do this alone, and we need keep him encouraged as much as possible."
Boyle had entered the summer in a group of quarterbacks vying for to be Whitmer's backup. Junior Scott McCummings, who was transitioning to receiver, tore an Achilles tendon early in camp. Fellow freshman Richard Lagow, a top recruit from Texas, transferred to Oklahoma State.
Weist said there is not much that separates Boyle athletically from the remaining quarterbacks on the roster - Whitmer, redshirt freshman Casey Cochran and freshman Kivon Taylor. He won the job, Weist said, by demonstrating in practice a mental command of the offense, and an ability to lead.
That's exactly what these Huskies need right now.
"Tim's ready," Weist said. "He's shown the maturity that we saw in him coming out of high school and that we've seen in him since stepping onto campus.
"Every day, he knows he's got to get better."