Larry Taylor (gridiron Football) - College Career

College Career

In 2003, UConn ranked 116th-best in punt returns, out of only 117 teams in Division I-A. Taylor played in the first game of the 2004 season, against Murray State, where he returned five punts for 74 total yards, averaging 14.8 yards per punt return. The longest return went 58 yards. Taylor would continue to return punts and a limited number of kickoffs through the game against Temple, where he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown but sprained his ankle, forcing him to miss the next two games. In UConn's final regular season game against Rutgers, Taylor returned a kickoff 43 yards; this return set up the touchdown that gave the Huskies the lead for good in the game. On the regular season, Taylor averaged 12.3 yards per punt return, third-best in the Big East Conference, and 28.7 yards per kickoff return, which would have led the Big East except that Taylor was two returns short of qualifying for the statistical lead. UConn improved from next-to-last in Division I-A in punt returns to 27th overall thanks to Taylor's performance. In the 2004 Motor City Bowl, the first bowl game in Connecticut history, Taylor returned a first-quarter punt 63 yards for a touchdown and averaged 44.5 yards on two kickoff returns.

Taylor was involved in a controversial play during his senior season, in a regular season game against the Louisville Cardinals. With thirteen minutes remaining in the third quarter and UConn trailing Louisville 7–0, Taylor received a 45-yard punt on the Connecticut 26-yard line. He briefly put up his right hand before catching the ball. The Louisville players slowed down and stopped, believing Taylor had made a fair catch and the play was over. Taylor took off, however, and ran all the way down the left sideline 74 yards for the touchdown. Despite the Cardinals' protests, the officials ruled that whether Taylor had signaled for a fair catch or not was not reviewable. The touchdown helped the Huskies win the game 21–17. Interviewed after the game regarding the play, Taylor was quoted as saying:

I talked to the official right before the play. I talked to the officials and he said I had to get my hand high up in the air so he could see it... I didn't really put my hand up. I was just playing a mind game with the defender... As long as it's not over your head, it's fair game. You put it over your head and the referee is going to protect you and stop play.

After the game, Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese publicly apologized to Louisville for the call, calling it a "terrible mistake". The official responsible for making the call was punished. In the offseason, the Big East worked to improve its officiating processes to prevent a call like this from happening again.

Taylor's final game with the Huskies was the 2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl. In the first quarter, he returned a punt for Connecticut's only touchdown of the game. He finished with 75 yards on three punt returns, for an average of 25 yards per return; he also returned one kickoff for 20 yards, and caught two passes for eight yards.

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