Ridley: I have to do better holding on to the ball

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Ridley: I have to do better holding on to the ball

FOXBORO -- This has been Stevan Ridley's year. He's become a bona fide No. 1 back, rushed for over 1000 yards, and somehow even pulled off wearing a onesie in a local car dealership commercial.

But for all his success, his Achilles heel has been his inability to hold onto the football.

It cropped up at the end of last season when he fumbled twice in two games and then didn't play in the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl. Then it reared its ugly head in a win against the Denver Broncos in Week 5.

It was a topic of conversation yet again after New England's 41-34 loss on Sunday night to the 49ers. Ridley lost a fumble in the third quarter that set up the Niners for an easy score. He also almost lost another on his first carry of the game but was ruled down by contact when the play was reviewed.

Ridley fumbled last week against the Texans as well.

"No one is harder on myself than me," Ridley said. "Nobody is more upset when I fumble than Stevan is. For me, I just have to keep working. There is a lot of football left to be played. You can't look back, and that's something we haven't done all year, wins or losses. We have moved forward. So for me that is just what I have to continue to do. But I have to be better. I have to do better in game situations holding onto the football. We can't have mistakes like that."

Ridley has proven to be an important part of the Patriots offense so when he fumbles, he won't necessarily lose all his snaps as if he were a rookie with no NFL resume.

Still, he needs to be more reliable. As does fellow second-year back Shane Vereen, who fumbled at the end of the first quarter and did not have an offensive touch thereafter.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the miscues can be traced to what's going on between those players' ears.

"Mental toughness," Brady said. "I think that's what you show. It's not every game is going to be perfect. Not every carry is going to be a 50-yard touchdown. Not every pass is going to be a 50-yard touchdown. It's a matter of understanding what you need to do to help the team win and being selfless and doing your job. We did a better job of that in the second half. We just didn't do a very good job in the first half."

Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

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Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final year of college eligibility.

The graduate transfer from Maryland caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Orange beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing skid.

Etta-Tawo scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).

It was his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.

"It goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches trusting me," Etta-Tawo said. "They trust that I'll make the plays and they keep on giving me opportunities to make the plays."

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.

"We had to do it," said Etta-Tawo. "We had to drive down the field and try to put the game out, and that's exactly what we did. Everybody dug in, dug a little deeper."

Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2). Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It took Syracuse just 51 seconds on its first drive and 92 seconds on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.

"I think he's already passed his previous career high as a collegian in the first four games with us, (more than) his whole entire career he had at the other school," coach Dino Babers said. "I think, if you asked him, I think he might have made a good choice (to transfer)."

The Huskies responded by scoring twice in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.

"We can't just go up 14-0, 17-0 in the beginning of the game and then put ourselves back in a dog fight," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who was in on 14 tackles. "Some of these games we've got to have it over by the beginning of the second quarter."

Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.

But Syracuse's defense held, and linebacker Franklin stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left. The Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away.

"Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the end zone," said Shirreffs, who threw a 24-yard touchdown to Davis with 33 seconds left to make the final score close. "I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn't."