Stoops was Oklahoma's head coach during the Sooners' 48-20 thumping of UConn in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Edsall, of course, was the Huskies' coach in that game who boarded a plane and headed to College Park Maryland immediately after that travesty to assume the head coaching duties at Maryland. On Saturday, it was Edsall on the flip side of the same coin as his Terrapins totally dismantled an overwhelmed Connecticut contigent, 32-21 before an announced crowd of 38,916 fans at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
The vast majority of attendees were apparently still in the parking lots, tailgating and partying until midway through the first period. Once inside The Rent, the likely wish they had continued to tailgate. The game was not nearly as close as the 32-21 score may indicate.
At half, Maryland had outgained Connecticut by a total of 151 yards (197-145 yards in the air; 122-13 on the ground—that's right, the Huskies had just 13 rushing yards at intermission). And still, amazingly, Connecticut trailed by just three, 13-10, at intermission.
“We just didn't create enough open space and keep the guys up front moving,” said UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni, attempting to explain his team's rushing woes. “We were unable to move their defense backwards. We just were not able to get it going tonight and that was frustrating.” For the game, the Huskies ended with 79 yards on the ground (although just 34 net rushing yards).
So how did the Huskies manage to keep the game close for two and a-half periods? One huge factor in the game's illusionary competitiveness came on one play just 1:39 into the contest.
After Maryland won the opening toss and deferred to Connecticut, the Huskies went three and out and punted to the Terps. After gaining nine yards on their first three offensive plays of the game, Edsall gave what amounted to a figurative middle finger to UConn when he opted to go for it on fourth-and-one at the Husky 43. The Connecticut 'D' game up big this time, however, stuffing Maryland tailback Brandon Ross with a three-yard loss—an unofficial turnover that gave the Huskies a first-and-10 at midfield. Six plays later, UConn tailback Lyle McCombs seemed stopped at the five yard line, but literally carried half the Maryland defense on his back, crossing the goal line for a Connecticut touchdown. After a successful point-after attempt by placekicker Chad Christen, UConn took a 7-0 lead, much to the delight of the Husky faithful
Another reason Connecticut kept it close for two and a-half quarters was the play of UConn wideout Shakim Phillips . The Paterson, NJ, native caught 10 passes for 178 yards—both career bests for the redshirt junior who capped his evening with a 75-yard touchdown reception from Chandler Whitmer with just 4:26 remaining in the the contest. A two-point conversion—a two-yard pass from Chandler to redshirt junior wide receiver Geremy Davis—cut a 19-point Maryland advantage to the final 11-point margin. Whitmer was the Huskies' sole offensive standout, throwing for 349 yards and one touchdown.
That play did not come without cost, however, as Phillips, a redshirt junior, immediately came up lame, clutching the back of his thigh. He suffered what was later described as “a hamstring type of thing” by UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni. His availability for next week's matchup with Michigan, currently tied with UCLA for 14th place in Examiner.com's weekly college football rankings, is unknown.
The Wolverines, who were sloppy in Saturday's 28-24 win over Akron at The Big House in Ann Arbor, nonetheless improved to 3-0. In order for Connecticut to compete, the Huskies need to come up with a plan to rush for more than 13 yards, develop a feasible “Plan B” in the passing department in the event that Phillips cannot play (or, best case scenario, is less than 100 percent), and come up with a defensive effort that will hold Michigan to significantly less than 500 total yards of offense.
In other words, an improbable, if not impossible, task.
Kickoff on Saturday night is slated for 8 p.m. At Rentschler Field. The game will be televised nationally on ABC-TV and broadcast throughout the state on the UConn/IMG Radio Network.
Odds & Ends
Maryland, which improves to 3-0, and gained 501 total yards—the third straight time the Terps have gained in excess of 500 total yards.
Terps QB CJ Brown was a one-man wrecking crew, accounting for 80 percent of the Maryland offense by (277 yards passing; 122 rushing).
Brown's favorite target, Stephon Diggs, caught five passes for 110 yards.
On the bright side, Connecticut forced three Maryland fumbles, recovering two, and picked off one pass.