Friday, November 30, 2007

Randy Edsall staying...or is he?

Randy Edsall met with the team before practice to address the Georgia Tech situation. Despite rumors stating otherwise, sources with knowlegde of the situation said Edsall never definitively told his team he was staying at UConn. Edsall is meeting with recruits tonight, and has not returned phone messages.

That's where we're at, but this is still in development.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Runway Challenge, Final week

Got my trip for Charlotte squared away. Call me a masochist, but I'll be on a 6:20 a.m. flight out of JFK on the morning after Christmas. Fortunately, I imbibe all my cups of holiday cheer on Christmas Eve (along with a lot of fish and pasta). Still, I'm not looking forward to that 3 a.m. wakeup on the morning of the 26th. Can I hit the snooze 'til 4?
I've been to both Toronto and Birmingham, Ala., and UConn fans should be dancing in the streets over a trip to Charlotte (granted, a city I've never seen, aside from the airport). Toronto is actually a cool place, although I was there in June a few years back. Might be a bit chillier in January. But how would it have been possible to get excited after an improbable 9-3 season and second place finish in the Big East to head to the Great White North for a game against Miami-Ohio or Central Michigan?
You can't help but feel bad for Cincinnati and Rutgers, both banished to obscurity. But don't be too upset, 'Cats and Knights' fans. It could have been worse. Here are the alternative bowls that the Big East turned down during last contract negotiations a few years ago:
The Exit 16W Bowl: To be held at Giants Stadium against an opponent from the I-AA Northeast Conference (loaded with New Jersey teams). Among the schedule of events leading up to the game was the Tollbooth Experience, where participating teams had the chance to work the tolls on the Jersey Turnpike for an afternoon, as well as the Jimmy Hoffa dig for charity.

Hey folks, it's on me..EZ-Passes for everyone at the Exit 16W Bowl!!!

The Egghead Bowl: To be held at the Yale Bowl against the Ivy League all-star team. The Ivies can't participate in the I-AA playoffs, but would have been granted a waiver to play this game since it came after exams. The final results of a four-day academic decathlon, modeled after Billy Madison and Old School, would be factored into the game score to even things out.

The academic decathlon is a staple of the Egghead Bowl

The Wire Bowl: Named in honor of the Baltimore-based HBO series and held at Ravens Stadium against an all-star team from the Prince George County Correctional Facility. Panhandlers outside the stadium will donate 50 percent of their take on game day to charity. Halftime entertainment by a dancing Ray Lewis.

Award-winning halftime entertainment at the Wire Bowl.

The Delaware Bowl: Held at the University of Delaware against the Colonial Athletic Association champions. In order to accept a bid, a team must first identify Delaware on a map of the U.S. Pre-bowl events include trips to the Kalmar Nickyl Shipyard and Brandywine Zoo, which is all they've got for tourist attractions in Delaware, at least according to the Things To Do In Delaware website. Still, it can't be any worse than Birmingham as a destination, right?

Imagine how jealous your pals would have been when you sent them this postcard. It could be worse. It could be Birmingham.

Needless to say, the Big East has a lot of work to do when re negotiations come around.

On to the picks. This is it for the Runway Challenge. It's a three-man race, and winner gets the blog for a day. I will also run my second annual bowl game challenge, in which yours truly will look to defend his title.

Game 1: MAC championship, Central Michigan (-3.5) over Miami-OH: If you know anything about either one of these teams, well, you're a better man than I. Rutgers anxiously awaiting the results of this one, however.

Game 2: Army (+14) over Navy: Always a great game to watch, even if the football is dull. Be sure to stand for the national anthem.

Game 3: C-USA championship, Central Florida (+7.5) over Tulsa: Daunte Culpepper returns to play for his alma mater. He didn't make the depth chart.

Game 4: ACC championship, Virginia Tech (-5) over Boston College: Dishonorary captains are Michael Vick and Mark Chmura.

Game 5: SEC championship, LSU (-7.5) over Tennessee: Les Miles believes LSU is still undefeated in regulation. Then why did you let your team even participate in OT? Should have just headed for the locker room after the fourth quarter ended, coach.

Game 6: USC (-20) over UCLA: Mighy Bruins, who lost to Notre Dame, Utah, Arizona and Washington State and has five loses all together this season, can still win the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl. And they laugh at the Big East for being lame?

Game 7: Oregon State (pick 'em) over Oregon: Dennis Dixon was a fairly important cog for the Ducks, yes?

Game 8: Cal (-13.5) over Stanford: Twenty-five years after "The Play", I still can't get enough of that trombone player getting nailed in the end zone. Love it even more that trombone players are commonly referred to as "tromboners".

Game 9: West Virginia (-29) over Pitt: Have a feeling the Mountaineers won't roll up 66 this week. But is there a sadder sight than the Wannstache hobbling around the sidelines on crutches? He looks like he's a week away from being taken for a long ride and dropped of in the country. "Go on boy! You're free now!"

Game 10: Arizona State (-7) over Arizona:

Game 11: Big 12 championship, Missouri (+3) over Oklahoma: That spread is correct. I looked it up several times. The No. 1 team in the nation is an underdog. How's that for respect?

Game 12: Hawaii (-14.5) over Washington: Colt Brennan is legit. Any doubts of that were squashed with his 495 yards against Boise St. last weekend. Can't wait to see him in a BCS game.

Last week's results
1. Will 10-2
2. Pete 9-3
P.J. 9-3
Sammy 9-3
5. Chip 8-4
Vinny 8-4
Kooch 8-4
9. Mitch 7-5
Dan 7-5
Caleb 7-5
12. Sturge-Rock 6-6
13. Jerry 5-7
SeanO's Ghost 5-7

Overall standings
1. Kooch 90
2. Sammy 89
3. SeanO's ghost 88
4. Will L 82
5. Ian 81
6. Chip 79
7. Pete 76
8. Vinny from East Haven 72
9. Caleb Mandrake 68
10. Dan 66
11. Sturge-Rock 48
Mitch Kumpstein 48
13. DetroitTigersHater 47
14. P.J. 38
15. Kevin 37
16. Alex 16
17. Jerry 12
18. Steve P 8
19. Luc 7
Tonto Kowalski 7

Get your pick in by clicking the "comments" key below.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Charlotte-bound: UConn accepts bid to Meineke Bowl

Pretty exciting stuff today. The entire football team attended this afternoon's press conference. Will Webb of the Meineke Car Care Bowl, via speaker phone, offered. Randy Edsall accepted. The players erupted in applause. It's a big deal. Had the Huskies wound up in Birmingham or Toronto, they would have had a team meeting prior to the press conference and been instructed by coaches to sound excited. But genuine enthusiasm to play an ACC team.

Some notes from what's turning into a long day...

  • I talked to Webb after the press conference for perhaps the 15th time in the last two weeks (yes, I think he's sick of me). He sounds as if he's hasn't slept since last Tuesday, and he expects his phone to be blowing up for several more hours. Anyway, Webb said his committee's vote between UConn and Cincinnati wasn't unanimous. "But it was lopsided in favor of UConn," Webb said.

  • I asked Webb why UConn? "The simple fact is they finished in sole possession of second place in the Big East," Webb said. "We've been looking at UConn and had our eye on them for several years. They rated high in fan support, though I don't think it's a significantly higher number than Cincinnati. Maybe a few thousand. But we looked at all kinds of things; head-to-head, overall record, conference record. The fact that the Charlotte Bobcats (of the NBA) play two home games in three days, with (ex-UConn center) Emeka Okafor playing in both those games is an extra draw. The tie-breaker between the two schools was UConn finished higher in the conference."

  • An opponent for the Huskies will be selected and announced on Sunday. Wake Forest seems to be the favorite. Georgia Tech, Florida State and Maryland are also possibilities. If I had to give odds, it would be Wake Forest 3-2; Georgia Tech 5-1; Florida State 8-1 and Maryland 25-1. I have no clue how to determine odds, but I think the pecking order is correct.

  • None of the players seemed to care who the opponent was. Most weren't even sure who was bowl eligible from the conference.

  • Tyler Lorenzen played on two bowl teams while at Iowa State (making the trip to the Independence Bowl and the Houston Bowl). "I wasn't nervous at all," Lorenzen said of the past couple of days. "I knew whatever bowl it was, it would be great. It'll be a fun experience."

  • Dan Davis is too much. Asked if they knew they would end up in Charlotte, he said, "We talked about it on Sunday. Coach had no idea. We talked about it like, where are we going to end up. I know there were a couple of places we didn't want to end up." Jeff Hathaway and Randy Edsall both turned a little pale, and when someone asked which places he didn't want to end up, Edsall took a step forward and whispered something to Davis. I didn't hear it, but guess it was something along the lines of "you better talk your way out of this or you'll be running extra laps this weekend". True to form, the ever quick-witted Davis said, "Here. We didn't want to end up here." Hilarious. Davis is the best.

  • The Meineke Bowl requires schools to sell 12,500 tickets, up from the 8,000 of the Motor City Bowl. Hathaway and Edsall are confident UConn can rattle that off no problem. To be honest, I've received a bunch of emails from readers who mentioned they'd be heading to Charlotte, or anywhere for that matter. Edsall says he expects closer to 20,000 to head down. As Edsall said, this game isn't just for this year. It's for future years. Bowls take note of how well a school travels, and it could lead to bigger and better things. Also, it's an easy trip. Bradley, LaGuardia, JFK, Newark and even White Plains offers direct flights. Hotels are insanely cheap compared to most cities that size. And there's a lot to do. UConn just stresses that if you buy tickets, to purchase them through the school. Call 1-800-GO-UCONN for more info.

  • Edsall admitted there were some anxious moments over the last few days. He said they pretty much knew the Sun Bowl was out, making Charlotte the only real goal. Edsall called Webb and George Johnson to plead his case. Apparently, Webb listened because they chose based on the season. Both played the same conference schedule. UConn finished ahead of Cincinnati. "I was hoping they would do the right thing and look at the total body of work," Edsall said. "Finishing second in the conference is not an easy thing to do, and these guys should be rewarded for it. In the end, good things happen to good people."

  • Nothing is set in stone, but Edsall expects UConn to leave for Charlotte on the evening of the 24th, and spend Christmas in Carolina.

  • Will this help with recruiting? No doubt, Edsall said. "With recruiting, I know how cut throat it can be," Edsall said. "It helps to be going to the third selection Big East bowl as opposed to fourth or fifth when we finished second in the league. I know the competition would have used that against us for sure."

  • Charlotte has treated UConn well over the years. The Huskies men's soccer team twice played in the College Cup (college soccer's version of the Final 4) in Charlotte, winning a national championship in 2000 in the same stadium (then known as Eriksson Stadium). Okafor plays for the Bobcats, and takes on two ex-UConn players the week of the Meineke Bowl. On Wednesday, Washington and Caron Butler will be in town. On Friday, New Orleans and Hilton Armstrong take on the Bobcats.

Carolina on my mind

UConn press conference scheduled for 4:30 today. Sources confirmed its the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Have to hop in the car, but more to come later.

Meineke decision made, announcement soon...

Don't expect to hear anything from the Meineke Car Care Bowl until at least 4 p.m. That's when USF has scheduled its press conference to announce it has accepted a bid to play in the Sun Bowl. Will Webb, exectutive director of the Charlotte-based Meineke Bowl, confirmed a decision has been made. But they will wait until all proper channels have been informed, and they can get max exposure for their announcement. Maybe later today. Most likely, tomorrow.

As to whether it's UConn or Cincinnati who gets the nod...well, nobody's leaking info. UConn hadn't been informed of anything as of 12:30 p.m. Their bowl game prospectus still has a blank front page.

I'd be surprised if UConn isn't the choice. Then again, who knows?

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Take me home...

A few notes and observations after a whipping in Morgantown.
  • Been trying to figure out what this means to UConn's bowl chances. We knew there'd likely be no Sun Bowl with a loss, as John Folmer said as much on the blog a few days ago. But will a 44-point loss on national TV scare away the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which has had a crush on UConn up 'til tonight? It might depend on how Rutgers fares against Louisville Thursday. With USF likely headed to El Paso, I would think UConn is a more attractive option for Charlotte than Cincinnati in terms of fan base and TV ratings. If Rutgers is an option, and they have to win in order to be selected ahead of UConn, that could change things. But the bad loss may have sealed the Huskies a post-New Year's date in Toronto no matter what.

  • Funny thing is, if you said UConn would be playing in Toronto back in August, the entire state would be ecstatic. Now, after coming within a win of a BCS, it's as anti climatic as it gets to be in Canada playing a MAC opponent.

  • What could have been with a win? The always inconspicuous Orange Bowl reps and their bright Orange sport jackets, were in attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium.

  • West Virginia is heading to the BCS national championship game, and Randy Edsall says it will win it all if it avoids turnovers. “The only way West Virginia loses is if they turn the ball over,” Edsall said. “If you don’t get turnovers against them, ain’t nobody going to beat them. If they protect the football next week, they’ll get to the national championship game and they will be national champs. They’re that talented.”

  • Edsall also endorsed Pat White for the Heisman. He should after the clinic White put on today. “I’m not sure that there is anyone better than him,” Edsall said. “He’s got my vote. He’s a tremendous athlete. I told him after the game I think he should come out after this year. Hopefully he’ll take my advice. But I haven’t seen anyone better than him.”

  • It was still a ballgame at the half, and if not for the two UConn turnovers that resulted in 14 West Virginia points, the Huskies might have held a 14-10 lead instead of being down 24-14. "We were definitely confident at halftime," UConn's Donald Brown said. "It was a 10-point game. We wanted to keep doing what we were doing and not make mistakes. But they made the most of our mistakes."

  • White was unreal, but he was hardly a one-man wrecking crew in the second half. Five players for the Mountaineers finished with runs of at least 31 yards, four of them came in the second half. Noel Devine (118 yards rushing) could be better than Steve Slaton right now, and the kid's only a freshman.

  • UConn's strategy was to get its fastest players on the field to attempt to contain West Virginia's offense. That's why Robert Vaughn didn't play. It worked fairly well in the first half. White and company simply wore the defense down in the second half. "That's the type of offense they have," UConn's Dan Davis said. "They're a big play offense. They're not going to grind you, they go for the home run on every play. That's what they did. They're a national championship team. I'm rooting for them the rest of the way."

  • You'll never hear them say it, but the Big East stood to lose a lot if UConn won tonight. West Virginia gives the conference its best shot of winning a national championship in years. Not counting Miami, the last current member of the Big East to win a title was Pitt in 1976.

  • Edsall got a little annoyed with some media when they began hinting that play-calling in the first half played a part in the loss. Whether you agree with the play calls or not, it didn't make any difference at all tonight. West Virginia's offense looked like an NFL team beating up on a high school opponent in the second half. They are that good.

  • The Huskies will meet on Sunday, take some time off and then get back to practicing at the end of the week.

Not looking forward to travel Sunday morning. Airports will be nuts, NYC traffic insane. But I'll see you tomorrow.

Ohhh...Don't touch it!

Arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon with little trouble. I cruised from New Haven to JFK in just over an hour, during what would have been a normal Friday's morning rush hour. Since Black Friday occupied most everyone, some punching each other out over quilts at Kohl's, I made it to the airport in roughly two hours less than it would have taken with traffic. Flew Jet Blue for the first time, an absolute joy thanks to the DirectTV and XM Satellitte Radio at every seat. Watched VH1 Classic's top 10 frontmen videos, and it was a treat to see some great music videos I hadn't seen since MTV stopped showing videos and became a 24-hour reality show crapfest. Bruce Springsteen's live Born to Run circa 1978, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, U2...fantastic. I was actually wishing the flight lasted longer than an hour and 10 minutes.
Got to the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott, and wasn't even that annoyed that the place has been overrun this weekend by midget hockey players from around the country (and Canada) wasting their parents money for a big tournament over at Robert Morris University. I wasn't annoyed, that is, until this morning.

Aside from not being able to get seated for breakfast, there was this doozy which I'll file under the "I wish I could have seen that discovery" drawer. I took a quick look at the indoor pool, which I figured would be oveflowing with 10-year olds. But as I approached, I could see that it was oddly empty. Then I noticed the sign on the window, which stated that due to human feces found floating in the water, the pool had to be shut down until Sunday per the health code. I imagined a draining, scouring and disinfection scene with a guy in a white Haz-Mat suit, just like Carl Spackler in Caddyshack (Here it is!! It's no big deal). Unfortunaltely, I doubt it was a Baby Ruth in this situation. The lesson? If you're ever staying at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott, for God's sake avoid the swimming pool.


I'll be off to Morgantown in about an hour, and will check in with some pregame notes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Runway Challenge Week 13: Happy Thanksgiving

There's been a lot of bowl buzz around the Big East, a welcome late-season topic in Connecticut. Last fall, it became apparent before Halloween the Huskies would be home for the holidays. Not this year. It's a tight race around the league, with four teams fighting it out for the two good bowls. Discussion is hot, and the ol' blog entries and New Haven Register stories on the Sun Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl and UConn's potential place in them have helped fuel the chatter. Your trusty Runway blog has been linked to newspaper and fan websites around the conference, and it's always great to see cynicism and misinterpretation of my articles from other parts of our great country. Yours truly has been disparaged from 'Joisey (Oh! Not for nuttin', but dis' guy dun'no iz azz frum iz elbo!) to Tampa (where apparently not everyone is feasting on the Early Bird special before hitting a Bingo hall) to Cincinnati (they are happy to divert as much attention from the Bengals' records...both police and won-loss).
I've been making predictions on bowls the past few weeks, and it seems to me everything is still a muddled mess. Any team can wind up just about anywhere. Here's my post-turkey take.
goes 2-0: BCS national championship game vs. LSU
goes 1-1: Fiesta Bowl vs. Texas
goes 0-2: Pat White, Steve Slaton and the Mountaineer mascot are being held hostage and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective is on the case.

beats West Virginia: Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech
loses to West Virginia: Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Florida State

beats Syracuse and UConn wins: Sun Bowl vs. Oregon
beats Syracuse and UConn loses: Sun Bowl vs. Oregon
loses to Syracuse: Pigs actually will fly in Cincinnati

My predictions:

BCS championship: LSU vs. West Virginia
Sun Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Oregon
Meineke Car Care Bowl: UConn vs. Florida State
International Bowl: Rutgers vs. Bowling Green Bowl: South Florida vs. Southern Mississippi

And the weekly picks. I'm still woozy from the 16 pounds of turkey and stuffing I've consumed today, not including the turkey sandwich I'm about to eat at 10:15 p.m.

Game 1: Maryland (+2) over NC STATE
Game 2: South Florida (-10.5) over PITT
Game 3: Virginia Tech (-3.5) over VIRGINIA
Game 4: Wake Forest (pick 'em) over VANDERBILT
Game 5: GEORGIA TECH (+4) over Georgia
Game 6: UCLA (+1.5) over Oregon
Game 7: Florida State (+14) over FLORIDA
Game 8: WEST VIRGINIA (-17.5) over UConn
Game 9: Clemson (-3) over SOUTH CAROLINA
Game 10: Cincinnati (-20) over SYRACUSE
Game 11: AUBURN (-6) over Alabama
Game 12: KANSAS (-1.5) over Missouri

Last week's results
1. Sammy 8-4
2. Chip 7-5
Dan 7-5
PJ 7-5
Kooch 7-5
6. SeanO's Ghost 6-6
Pete 6-6
Will 6-6
9. Mitch 4-8
Caleb 4-8
11. Ian 3-9
12. Vinny 2-10

Overall standings
1. SeanO's ghost 83
2. Kooch 82
3. Sammy 80
4. Ian 73
5. Will L 72
6. Chip 71
7. Pete 67
8. Vinny from East Haven 64
9. Caleb Mandrake 61
10. Dan 59
11. DetroitTigersHater 47
12. Sturge-Rock 42
13. Mitch Kumpstein 41
14. Kevin 37
15. P.J. 29
16. Alex 16
17. Steve P 8
18. Luc 7
Jerry 7
Tonto Kowalski 7

We're down to the final two weeks, and it's a three-horse race! SeanO's Ghost, still in post-Shelton Gaels playoff berth celebration mode, needs to hold off Kooch and Sammy. Get your picks in. Click "comments", then cut and paste.
I've got a plane to catch in the morning (from JFK. What was I thinking?) See you in Morgantown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BCS or bust.

A week ago, I spoke with the Sun Bowl's selection committee chairman John Folmer, and left the conversation feeling strongly that if UConn beat Syracuse, the Huskies would be chowing down Tex-Mex cuisine on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas (that is, provided they didn't win the BCS berth by knocking off West Virginia).

Folmer said last week that his bowl followed a strict criteria based on rankings rather than head-to-head. So if UConn finished ahead of the Bearcats in the Big East standings, which they would clinch with a win over the Orange, his committee would weigh that strongly against the fact that Cincinnati defeated the Huskies. As of last week, the committee was split between UConn and Cincinnati. But Folmer encouraged me to call him again after the committee's weekly meeting on Monday to see if anything had been cleared up.

So on Tuesday morning, I called Folmer again to see how the meeting went. Seems the committee is still very much undecided on what they want to do, but left me with the impression that UConn isn't such a sure thing for El Paso any more. In fact, the committee criteria just might favor Cincinnati, provided the Bearcats take care of Syracuse in the season finale. Folmer also mentioned South Florida has worked its way into the conversations after stomping Louisville on Saturday. And Rutgers hasn't been completely eliminated from the discussion just yet, though it seems unlikely they'll win the 10-person committee's majority of votes.

"The general consensus is there could be three teams that finish 9-3," Folmer said. "It's going to be a tough decision to make. Some guys are saying 'Why Connecticut?' Some are saying 'Why not Connecticut?' At the end of the day, it's going to come down to who comes out with the highest-ranked team. Then the question is, which ranking do we use? Do we use our own ranking? Do we use the BCS? Do we use the AP top 25 or the coaches poll?"

Folmer reiterated that the committee won't need to take into account the usual factors that go into other bowl game's decisions. Namely, attendance. The Sun Bowl doesn't really care which schools have a history of traveling well because they're going to sell the place out no matter what.

"It's probably going to come down to who is the highest-ranked team," Folmer said. "That could hurt Connecticut. Then again, it might not hurt them. We took an informal poll three times, and all three times the outcome was different because someone was influenced by someone else's argument."

To me, it now sounds like a UConn loss and Cincinnati win will mean Cincinnati gets the nod (where they may face off with Oregon, now looking like a sure bet for the Pac-10 opponent in El Paso). UConn is currently the higher ranked team in every way, but Cincinnati is close enough that it will overtake the Huskies in all the ranking systems (except, of course, for the Big East standings).

Here's the 'X' factor for UConn. Folmer doesn't get a vote this year. But as the chairman, he's the deciding voice if there's a 5-5 deadlock in the committee's official vote. And Folmer makes no bones about where he is leaning. He definitely likes UConn. "Me personally, I like UConn a lot," Folmer said.

And while Folmer says it won't matter which team travels the best, he also noted the Sun Bowl's ticket office has received more calls from UConn fans with questions about tickets and looking for travel information than any other school under consideration. "That says a lot about the fan interest in the program," Folmer says. "Our staff hasn't taken a lot of calls, but between 12 and 15 from UConn as opposed to one or two from Rutgers, none from Cincinnati and none from South Florida. That tells you something."

If the Sun does indeed pass on UConn, expect Charlotte to waste little time extending an invitation. Will Webb, the executive director of the Meineke Car Care Bowl, told me today it's still too soon for him to definitively commit to saying UConn would be the top choice in Charlotte. But he was in attendance at the Runway in 2005 for the UConn-Louisville game, prepared to invite the Huskies if they pulled off the upset to become eligible.

"I hope UConn wins and goes to a BCS bowl," Webb said. " That said, we are very interested in them. It's early, but they are very high on our radar and we are excited about the possibility of having them."

As for the ACC end of the Meineke, Webb says his bowl is looking into the possibilities of choosing from Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida State or the Maryland/North Carolina State winner.

I suppose my job doesn't become much easier if the Huskies simply beat West Virginia on Saturday (though it will be more exciting). Still have to figure out if its the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

Some other notes from the Tuesday media luncheon (cheesesteaks, tuna melts and fettuccine alfredo with broccoli....let's just say I'm very hungry right now).

  • Freshman defensive back Jonathan Jean-Louis is Pat White's stunt double for the scout team in practice. "Zach Frazer gets a week off," Randy Edsall said. No word on whether Jean-Louis has been fumbling after every good hit, yet.

  • All kidding aside, White is probably the best player in the Big East and should be under serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy. No one impacts a game more. He runs as well as anyone, including his highly-regarded tailback Steve Slaton, and is underrated as a passer. Kid's got a laser. There's no way to contain White. UConn just has to keep him off the field as long as possible, limit the big plays when its on defense and force him into a couple of turnovers.

  • No need for motivational speeches this week. "We're the ones not expected to be here," Edsall said. "They're the ones who are supposed to win it. But the kids see all that. I don't have to say that stuff. Our approach is the same as it has been all season."

  • Expect Edsall to tell a story or two about his time as an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996. That's the season the Jags, in just their second season in the NFL, went all the way to the AFC championship game. Jacksonville knocked off the Broncos in Denver to get within a game of the Super Bowl before losing to New England. The stories can work both ways. The tale of an upstart team upsetting a heavy favorite on the road to reach the title game; the tale of veteran players like Jeff Lageman who got so close to the ultimate goal and a once in a lifetime chance but fell short. UConn could be in this position again next season. Or it could be 20 years before its staring a BCS bowl in the face. The lesson: you never know.

  • West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said UConn may have been a surprise early on this season based simply on where it was ranked in the preseason Big East poll. Not any more. "They had so much bad luck last year with injuries," Rodriguez said. "They got their quarterback situation settled. They could have surprised a lot of folks early, but they haven't been a surprise and still had success the last four or five weeks."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday notes from Storrs

Sunday's news

  • Tight end Steve Brouse practiced Sunday and will play against West Virginia.
  • Lawrence Green was "nicked up" during the Cincinnati game, and Edsall made the decision to play his five healthies offensive linemen.
  • Notice Larry Taylor tried to run after making a fair catch yesterday? The refs were actually watching this time. Edsall scolded Taylor for making the signal at the time because he had about 15 yards of open field in front of him at the time. On Sunday, Edsall wondered if Taylor even realizes he is making a fair catch signal at times. "We just finished talking to him about it," Edsall said. "We told him 'you moved your hand, whether you think you did or you didn't. You did it.' I'm not so sure he realizes he's doing it." Edsall noted Taylor is right-handed, and makes fair-catch signals with his right hand. But his bad habit involves Taylor's left hand.
  • No one was injured Saturday, and the Huskies are in pretty good shape health-wise heading into the 12th game of the season.
  • Lou Allen will still remain suspended for the West Virginia game. However, all 10 seniors received game balls in the locker room after the Syracuse win. That included Allen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Your Syracuse post game notes

With the Rocky theme song running through my head, here are some post game notes:

UConn has been informed that next Saturday's game with West Virginia will NOT be a noon game. Though the actual time won't be announced until later tonight or tomorrow, the Huskies have been told it will be either 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. Also, the game will be on ABC. Whether that's a regional or national telecast has also yet to be decided.

Another nugget to chew on...a Cincinnati win over West Virginia tonight clinches a share of the Big East title for the Huskies. That crown will be recognized by the conference even if UConn eventually loses a tiebreaker for the BCS down the road.


The bond between University of Connecticut coach Randy Edsall and star linebacker Danny Lansanah runs a little deeper than the usual player-coach relationship.

Edsall has a soft spot for Lansanah because both are from central Pennsylvania, Edsall’s hometown of Glen Rock only about 40 miles from Lansanah’s Harrisburg home.

So it was no surprise that Edsall had a little something extra to whisper to Lansanah during the pregame ceremony honoring UConn’s 10 seniors in their final home game.

“Not bad for a guy from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,” Edsall said as Lansanah trotted past. “Finish it the right way.”

Lansanah took those words to heart.

Early in the fourth quarter, he drifted back into coverage as Syracuse quarterback Andrew Robinson looked to pass. Reading the play perfectly, Lansanah stepped in front of Robinson’s intended receiver, picked off the pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskies a 30-0 lead.

It was Lansanah’s second interception return for a score on the season, and the team’s fifth interception return for a score this season, both tying school records. It was fitting for a player who had led UConn’s defense the past two seasons.

“I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life,” Lansanah said.

Chances are Edsall will remember it too, though the coach certainly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to rib Lansanah when asked about the play afterward.

“Well, I’m just glad nobody had the angle on him because I think he’s put on some pounds during the year and he looked a little slow chugging down through there,” Edsall said.

Told about the comment later, Lansanah could only laugh.

“I think I did, you know, that great food they feed us,” Lansanah said. “But I was only trying to conserve some energy because I had to come right back out there for the next drive.”


The Rentschler Field stands were only half full when the UConn seniors were honored prior to the start of Saturday’s game.

And after the final seconds ticked off the clock sealing a perfect 7-0 home record for the Huskies – the first time in 14 years and only the second time in Big East history a team won all seven home games – the sellout crowd of 40,000 had virtually emptied.

It was a fact that didn’t escape Edsall.

“I was going to have the kids take a victory lap, just to thank the fans, really,” Edsall said. “I wish they did stick around to celebrate a little more because they’re a big part of us being 7-0. I don’t want to get on our fans because I think they’ve been great. But it was Senior Day, for what these kids did it’s a little bit disheartening to see a half-empty stadium when these kids are getting honored. Hopefully next year when it’s Senior Day we’ll get everyone in the stadium because these kids really appreciate what the fans do for them.”


Robert Vaughn's team-leading sixth interception should have gotten him nothing but warm congratulations on the sidelines. Instead, he caught the full wrath of Edsall. Rightly so, Vaughn agreed afterward.

Vaughn's decision to run the ball out from eight-yards deep in the end zone, where he was tackled at the UConn 5-yard line, could have been more trouble than it should have been. Luckily, the Huskies had a comfortable 24-0 lead in the third quarter.

A red-faced and screaming Edsall greeted Vaughn on the sideline, and the message was clear. Don't be so stupid next time. Vaughn simply should have taken a knee and played it safe.

"It was a mental mistake on my part," Vaughn said. "I have to learn from it. (Edsall) is just being a coach, and trying to coach me up."


Punter Desi Cullen, the self-proclaimed "Kentucky Hammer", has been solid in his first season as the UConn starter. On Saturday, he showed he can think quickly on his feet, as well.

After dropping the snap from center prior to a punt in the second quarter, Cullen improvised. He scooped up the loose ball, noticed the defender closing in quickly, and made like a rugby player. One quick step and Cullen booted the ball away. Turned into a decent punt, too. Forty-one yards, in fact.

"That was a designed fake," Cullen said with a straight face before laughing. "No, don't write that. I just lost focus at the last second and dropped it."

Cullen also made fourth solo tackle after a kickoff later in the game, moments he lives for. Thus, the Kentucky Hammer moniker.

"Always," Cullen said. "I always love making tackles."

Great day for college football in Connecticut

Here in the press box at the Runway as players warm up before the final home game. It's a great day for college football in the state of Connecticut. They're expecting 70,000 at the Yale Bowl for The Game, 40,000 here (though by early looks, it might be a lot fewer) and another 4,000 or so for Southern Connecticut State's opening round game of the Division II playoffs against Bryant. So in that spirit, a few comments about each.


Did the Police have a surprise concert at the Runway last night? The field looks horrific once again. OK, three straight games in the rain probably didn't help the cause. And the fall freeze each night isn't going to allow much to grow. But still, the grass is chewed up between the hash marks for the length of the field.

Steve Brouse is out (at least according to Joe official word up here yet. But I trust my paisan) which throws a crimp into the Huskies red zone offense. Brouse is also an solid blocker. Martin Bedard will start.

No bowl reps here today. In fact, there's a smattering of media here today. At least compared with the three previous games.

Depth chart cards are on orange cardboard today. Guess they're trying to make Syracuse feel welcome.


Once every two years, the traffic backs up from the Yale Bowl all the way past my house in Orange, which is just off Route 34 about 3 miles down the road. When I was covering Yale football, it took me all of about 2 minutes to get to the bowl. The first year I covered The Game, it took me an hour to get there.

If you've never experienced Ivy League football, you're missing out. Be it Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth (Brown, not so much...not a fan of their stadium). There's no better way to spend a fall afternoon in New England. The Game is more of a hassle because it's always packed. But it's always exciting. Best football game I've ever seen live, bar none, was Yale's come-from-behind win over Harvard in 1999 to clinch a share of the Ivy title. Yale's quarterback threw something like 55 times in the second half, and receiver Eric Johnson (now the starting tight end for the New Orleans Saints) caught 21 passes for over 250 yards, including an incredible snatch of a tipped pass in the end zone for the winning touchdown. It went down in Yale lore as "The Catch". The bowl was packed to the rafters, and the place was going bonkers the entire second half. It was so loud, I thought the concrete foundation might crumble.

I complain all the time about the inexplicable and hypocritical decison of the Ivy League presidents banning football teams from competing in the Division I-AA playoffs when every other sport can play for a national title. I'll leave that alone.

Yale tailback Mike MacLeod, a New Britain resident and just a junior, could start for just about anyone in the country. He will not only play in the NFL, but just may have a lengthy and productive career. Just so you know.


Southern is the best college football team in the state that no one knows about. Even tiny Trinity gets more publicity than the Owls. But coach Rich Cavanaugh has quietly built a Division II power in New Haven. SCSU is making its third straight appearance in the D-II playoffs, and while it might not get very far this season, there's potential to win a national title in the next three seasons.

SCSU has produced plenty of NFL coaching talent (Kevin Gilbride, Chris Palmer), and Cavanaugh, who is always at UConn spring practices picking up tips, has pumped out his share of NFL players. Scott Mersereau, Joe Andruzzi, Jacques Cesaire (starting DL for the San Diego Chargers) all came from SCSU. The next guy with a shot -- tailback Jarom Freeman. He's the guy who ran for a Division II record 418 yards against Bryant two weeks ago. The kid is just a sophomore, but all accounts are he's the real deal. Not sure if he's NFL caliber, since I haven't had a chance to watch him yet, but he alone makes the Owls a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Random SCSU note: Dan Lauria, an actor best known for his role as the father on The Wonder Years, played football at Southern. Actor Tony Amendola also went to Southern. He's stars on Stargate-SG1 and has been on every TV show imaginable. My best reference is the guy who played Sal Bass/Rushdie on an episode of Seinfeld.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sun Bowl selection chair talks UConn football and Runway Challenge Week 12

Following this weekend’s games, the Sun Bowl selection committee should have a good idea of which Big East Conference football school may be the recipient of its invitation.

And UConn could become the clear front-runner if things go according to plan, says the chairman of the Sun Bowl’s selection committee.

Should UConn defeat Syracuse Saturday — coupled with a West Virginia victory over Cincinnati — it could mean the Huskies (8-2, 4-1) will be headed to El Paso, Texas on New Year’s Eve. That is, of course, unless UConn upsets West Virginia in its regular season finale and clinches a BCS berth.

John Folmer, who heads up the 10-person Sun Bowl selection committee, says the committee was split down the middle between UConn and Cincinnati after its weekly meeting on Monday.

That's partly because two Sun Bowl representatives were in Cincinnati to see the Bearcats whip UConn 27-3 on Saturday. Folmer visited UConn in October to see the Huskies beat South Florida, sending thousands of fans onto Rentschler Field to celebrate.

"Those who have seen Cincinnati think they are great, those who were at UConn think they are great," Folmer said Thursday. "Our last meeting got pretty heated, but it was fun. No one would have ever thought we’d be fighting over UConn and Cincinnati."

The Sun Bowl is third in line for the Big East after the BCS and the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla get their choices.

In 2006, the Big East (including football independent Notre Dame) and the Big 12 signed a four-year deal that assures each conference of sending its top, non-BCS teams to either the Gator Bowl or the Sun Bowl twice.

Since the Gator took West Virginia last year, it’s strongly believed its committee will opt for a Big 12 team rather than picking a Big East team this year (keeping its chances to land Notre Dame if and when it becomes bowl eligible over the next two years).

Folmer said the committee is anticipating pitting a Big East team against the No. 3 team from the Pac-10 Conference (likely California) this season. Following the strict conference standings, though not required by any of the bowls, may just be what separates the candidates for the Sun Bowl.

"Historically, our selection criteria is based on what teams do," Folmer said. "We consider where they finish in the conference first, and if there’s a tie, who beat who head-to-head. We also look at the TV market.
"And all indications are that Connecticut and Rutgers bring a very attractive Eastern TV market. But in that scenario, it would be hard to take Rutgers over Connecticut because Connecticut beat Rutgers head-to-head."

Folmer said the Sun Bowl (capacity 50,426) is a big event in the El Paso community, and tickets are scooped up quickly regardless of the opponent. So while participating schools are allotted 8,000 tickets each, it usually works out if schools sell even half of that total.

"We don't expect teams to bring 8,000 people," Folmer said. "We're lucky if they bring 5 or 6,000. We'll sell the rest out."

All factors considered, it could leave UConn and Cincinnati as the top options. Yet a Husky win over last-place Syracuse on Saturday, coupled with No. 5 West Virginia beating Cincinnati, would clinch sole possession of second place in the Big East.

It should also clear UConn’s bowl destination considerably.

My predicted Big East final standings:

1. West Virginia 11-1, 6-1
2. UConn 9-3, 5-2
3. Cincinnati 9-3, 4-3
3. USF 9-3, 4-3
5. Rutgers 7-5, 3-4
5. Louisville 6-6, 3-4
7. Pitt
8. Syracuse

And my bowl predictions -- amended at halftime assuming Arizona holds on to beat Oregon, and the Ducks freefall because Dennis Dixon is out the rest of the year.

BCS national championship game: Oklahoma vs. LSU
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Hawaii
Rose Bowl: Arizona State vs. Ohio State

Other Big East bowls

Sun Bowl: UConn vs. Oregon
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Florida State Bowl: South Florida vs. Southern Mississippi
International Bowl: Rutgers vs. Ball State
Las Vegas Bowl: Louisville vs. BYU

This week's picks

Game 1: Ohio State (-4.5) over MICHIGAN: Best moment from Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati last weekend: when they announced the final score as Illinois 28, THEEE Ohio State University 21. The PA man gets a round of applause from the Runway. Robert Smith's smugness and constant reminders of how great he was have soured us all on OSU.

Game 2: FLORIDA STATE (-7.5) over Maryland: Ralph Friedgen has never won at Florida State. Fortunately for him, Bobby Bowden always lets him know exactly why the Terps lost.

Game 3: RUTGERS (-11.5) over Pittsburgh: Scarlet Knights in process of securing $100 million to overhaul and update football stadium, which includes an additional 13,500 seats. Wonder if the good folks in New Jersey realize Ray Rice has only one season of eligibility remaining?

Game 4: Syracuse (+19) over UCONN: Got an email ripping me for picking UConn last week, effectively jinxing the Huskies. So I'm reverting back to picking the opposite of what I think will happen. Yeah, that's it. I've been picking the opposite of what I think will happen all this time.

Game 5: Missouri (-7.5) over KANSAS STATE: Mighty Mizzou banking on wins over both Kansases to end regular season, then taking Big 12 championship game to reach national title game.

Game 6: GEORGIA (-8) over Kentucky: Cats might be better off challenging Gardner Webb to a pickup basketball game.

Game 7: MICHIGAN STATE (+3) over Penn State: Windsor's Chris Baker and another Penn State player arrested Thursday for their part in a campus brawl. It's the second time Baker has been charged in a brawl since April. This revelation just hours after Penn State tailback Austin Scott pleaded not guilty to charges including rape and sexual assault. Joe Paterno not exactly in control of his program.

Game 8: CINCINNATI (+6.5) over West Virginia: Bearcats could essentially win the Big East championship right here.

Game 9: CLEMSON (-7.5) over Boston College: Anyone care to venture what BC's record would be in the Big East this season? 3-4 at best.

Game 10: Oklahoma (-8.5) over TEXAS TECH: And bet the over while you're at it.

Game 11: SOUTH FLORIDA (-7) over Louisville: Cards will have to beat Rutgers on Nov. 29 to get into a bowl. Brian Brohm is the one and only reason someone with an open spot will invite a 6-6 Louisville team.

Game 12: YALE (-3.5) over Harvard: Bulldogs will complete perfect 10-0 season, everyone in the Yale Bowl will drink an extra glass of pinot noir, and they'll be completely forgotten about by Sunday morning. Too bad. Yale would do serious damage in the Division I-AA playoffs. Wake up, Ivy League!

Last weeks's results
1. Pete 13-5
2. Dan 11-7
Mitch 11-7
P.J. 11-7
Will L 11-7
Sturge-rock 11-7
7. Chip 10-8
Sammy 10-8
SeanO's ghost 10-8
Vinny from East Haven 10-8
11. Kooch 9-9
ian 9-9
13. Caleb 7-11

Overall standings
1. SeanO's ghost 77
2. Kooch 75
3. Sammy 72
4. Ian 70
5. Will L 66
6. Chip 64
7. Vinny from East Haven 62
8. Pete 61
9. Caleb Mandrake 57
10. Dan 52
11. DetroitTigersHater 47
12. Sturge-Rock 42
13. Kevin 37
Mitch Kumpstein 37
15. P.J. 22
16. Alex 16
17. Steve P 8
18. Luc 7
Jerry 7
Tonto Kowalski 7

Get those picks in by clicking "comments" below.

Prepping for Syracuse

A quick update from Thursday's call:

Steve Brouse will be a game-time decision. Randy Edsall would neither confirm nor deny whether Brouse has practiced this week.

Ryan Henegan and Matt Ashmead are day-to-day. Greg Lloyd takes Henegan's spot as the back up to Lawrence Wilson at WLB, but that's only on the media depth chart. Edsall notes there's a media depth chart and an actual depth chart. The actual depth chart is kept sealed in an air-tight mayonnaise jar and buried in Edsall's backyard below a removable dummy panel beneath the tool shed.

I'm kidding. Please don't go digging in Randy's backyard.

Alex LaMagdelaine is out indefinitely, but there is still a chance he could play again at some point this season -- read: bowl game.

Check back later today. I have the weekly picks and another item of interest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recapping the Tuesday media luncheon

The quick hitter version of Tuesday's media luncheon (terriyaki beef over rice...I was indifferent).
  • Chuck Banning of the Day had it first, and Randy Edsall confirmed...Lou Allen won't return for his senior season. It has nothing to do with his suspension for a team rules violation. Allen is graduating this spring with a sociology degree and is ready to move on to the next step in his life. He's also had a problem with stingers, which, by all accounts, aren't much fun to deal with. Edsall spoke very highly and complimentary of Allen and how far he's matured at UConn on Tuesday, using the conversation he had with him last month in which Allen informed him of his decision to leave the team. It's a conversation Allen, a man of few words, never would have had as recently as last year, said Edsall, who was appreciative Allen, among other things, left plenty of time for the coaches to fill his spot for the current recruiting season. "I know Lou Allen is prepared to go into the real world and handle whatever he has to handle." Allen, however, is still under team suspension and will not participate in Saturday's Senior Day ceremony.

  • Tight end Steve Brouse is still day-to-day. So is Ryan Henegan. That's it. Move on to the next bullet point. Now. I mean it.

  • There were 27 recruits in the Class of 2008. 13 were redshirted along the way. 10 will play their final games at Rentschler Field on Saturday. Four are no longer with the program. "They've seen a lot of different scenarios and aspects of the growth and development of this program," Edsall said. "They were right in the thick of it and persevered. They know what good times are like and they know what the not-so-good times are like." All 10 will graduate, either in December or in the spring.

  • Donnell Ford, the most community oriented of the seniors, is in the process of becoming a professional fire fighter. He's taking CPR and first aid courses, and is a non-active member of the East Haddam volunteer fire department (he'll become active once football season ends.) Ford is a member of several volunteer groups that help inner city children like Positive Steps and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. "It's a great way to give back to the community," Ford said.

  • Donald Thomas will graduate on Dec. 16, and is still intent on law school. But those plans might be put off for a bit to entertain NFL opportunities. Thomas is drawing some peripheral interest from scouts.

  • Lots of talk about pickup basketball amongst the football players. Most players agreed Danny Lansanah was the team's best roundballer (D.J. Hernandez went with Darius Butler). Lansanah had some Division II and III college basketball interest, and scored 38 points with 15 rebounds before fouling out the night Edsall came down to Harrisburg (Pa.) to visit. Edsall convinced Lansanah that there wasn't as much upside for a 6-foot-1 power forward as there was for him at linebacker. He was right.

  • An extended scouting report on the offseason basketball games: Donald Thomas is known as Baby Shaq. Darius Butler is a skywalker who would win the team dunk contest. D.J. Hernandez is an old-school, fundamentals first, slap the floor with your palms before getting into your defensive stance Hoosiers-type. "He plays like there's a coach yelling at him from the sidelines," Thomas said.

  • Hernandez said the team was stunned by its performance in the loss to Cincinnati. "We're so used to winning this year," Hernandez said. "We expect to win every game. When we lose, it's something new. It's not supposed to happen. I don't think the teams in the past wanted to lose either, but there's something special with this team."

  • Speaking of last season, it took me three days before realizing the familiar face I saw outside the UConn locker room at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati was Rhema Fuller. In fact, I didn't know it was Rhema until I asked Donald Thomas today who "the kid" standing with Thomas' parents was. Rhema, who is working at the University of Michigan, has dropped about 60 pounds since last year and looks like a completely different person. I thought he was a high school student.

  • Dan Davis was asked what he'll miss most about Rentschler Field. "Third down," Davis said. "Guns N' Roses. Crazy Train. Forty-thousand fans screaming when you know you have to stop someone. That's my favorite moment." It makes me feel guilty for cringing every time Welcome to the Jungle blares from the PA on third down. But if the defense gets fired up by it, then it's OK by me.

  • Edsall says he's not concerned with the large yardage totals the defense has allowed the last two weeks as long as they keep the points off the scoreboard. I have to think he's a little concerned.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taking inventory of the wounded

Alex LaMagdelaine is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Don't expect him back for the final two games. Lawrence Green reinherits his starting job on the offensive line.

Steve Brouse is day-to-day with a reported concussion. Will Beatty and Dan Davis were nicked up on Saturday, but fine. All this via Randy Edsall today.

Edsall, after watching the game film, chalked it up to the team not playing with enough emotion. Not that they didn't play with emotion, he clarified, just not enough. "We have to (play at a high emotional level) is we want to be good. We're not good enough not to play without that kind of emotion." Edsall blamed himself for not convincing his team how tough Cincinnati would be. "I thought I did," Edsall said. "It was more us waiting for something to happen rather than making it happen. The first play of the game we should have had an interception (by Danny Lansanah) and didn't get it."

Tyler Lorenzen turned in his worst overall performance of the season, Edsall said. "He was under a lot of pressure and took way too many hits. It's something he'll learn from and be better this week." Lorenzen didn't make as many plays with his feet on Saturday, and was also victimized by dropped balls from his wide receivers (which is happening way too much).

UConn falls to 25th in the AP top 25, falls out of the coaches poll, and is 24th in the BCS.

And on a sadder note, this ....


The body of former University of Connecticut football letterman and assistant coach Thomas Kopp, 69, was found on Sunday morning on Great Pond in Belgrade, Maine after his boat capsized yesterday. Kopp was working as the associate dean of admissions at Colby College in Waterville, Maine and was on a family camping trip at the time of his death.

Kopp, a native of Naugatuck, earned three varsity letters from 1958-60 as a quarterback and punter, serving as a captain his senior year and helping the Huskies to two outright Yankee Conference Championships and one shared league title. Kopp was also an All-Yankee Conference catcher for the UConn baseball team and helped the Huskies to the 1959 College World Series. After playing for two years in the Minnesota Twins organization, Kopp became a teacher and coach of both football and baseball at Avon High School, helping Avon to two state football championships. He returned to his alma mater to serve as an assistant coach at UConn from 1966-70 under head coach John Toner. The Huskies won the YanCon in 1970 and shared the 1968 league title. After leaving UConn, he coached at Dartmouth under Jake Crouthamel and had worked at Colby in a variety of both athletic and academic capacities for almost 30 years.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Postgame notes and quotes from Cincinnati

That was ugly. Here's a few quick post game notes:
  • Andre Dixon surmised it best. "Practice was good all week. I don't know what happened. We just got our ass beat." Dan Davis was equally concise (and accurate). "We lost. In every phase. We just lost in every way possible."

  • Tyler Lorenzen's take, "They outplayed us. We didn't play our best. Cincinnati came right at us and did a great job. We were unable to get any momentum or rhythm, and when something did happen, we shot ourselves in the foot." ..... later ..... "By no means was this loss demoralizing. We're too mature to use the word demoralizing. We just have to regroup and refocus and we'll be fine."

  • Offensive linemen Keith Gray and Donald Thomas both remarked that Cincinnati ran defensive formations they hadn't seen from the Bearcats during film sessions last week. "They did some different things we weren't expecting," Thomas said. "That threw us off a little bit." Gray was more specific. "They ran formations we didn't see on film. All the games we watched, I never saw a pro formation out of them. A couple of times they brought a couple more linemen up front, and that threw off our blocking schemes."

  • Edsall wasn't exactly forthcoming on the injury front. Alex LaMagdelaine, who didn't return, was on crutches and wearing a large knee brace after the game. Tight end Steve Brouse reportedly has a concussion. Will Beatty was down in the fourth quarter, but walked off under his own power. Dan Davis came back, and seemed fine after the game. "Injuries are part of the game,” Edsall said. “We’ve been fortunate, but we got a few today. Those things happen.”

  • Asked if he was surprised his team came out flat, Edsall said, "I don’t think we were flat. We were ready to play. I wouldn't say we were flat. We just didn’t get it done as a team, the coaches and the players. But we didn't come out flat. Cincinnati is a good football team. We didn't do the things we were doing in previous games. That's something we'll have to work on.”

  • Edsall acknowledged right away what everyone who watched the game saw. UConn was dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati's defense was very physical and had little trouble moving around the Huskies line. "We had a hard time up front," Dixon said. "The blocking wasn't so good. It could have been better. Things just weren't working for us today." Tyler Lorenzen missed a few open receivers, and was also victimized by drops. On defense, the Huskies gave up too many big plays and struggled to contain a mobile quarterback.

Living on the air in Cincinnati

Greetings from the Queen City, perhaps the worst nickname bestowed upon a U.S. city. I doubt many Cincinnati natives, especially the dudes, use that nickname when telling others where they are from. But I guess it's better than City of Queens.

I was here two years ago for the UConn-Cincinnati game, and it's a decent city. The Riverfront area is a fantastic way to waste away an afternoon, as I did yesterday after arriving from Bradley Airport. Paul Brown Stadium is pretty neat looking, and a short walk along the Ohio River to The Great American Ballpark, home of the Reds.
The culinary dish the Queen City is known for is Skyline chili, which is chili splashed over a bed of spaghetti. I'll eat just about anything as long as it's dead. But that looked just disgusting. UConn's Leigh Torbin, aka Lil' Youkilis, loves it, however. Go figure.
Driving around, I also noticed Sam Malone ran for a seat on City Council here. Doing a little research, I found out this Sam Malone isn't exactly the lovable May Day Malone-type from Cheers. This guy apparently came from nowhere in 2003 to win a seat (with a name like that, he could have been elected governor of Ohio), then was arrested for whipping his 14-year old kid with a belt. Six months later, he lost the election. Guess you still have to live up to expectations when everybody knows your name.
UC's campus is pretty nice. There's a section called Varsity Village where all the athletic fields and facilities sit. They were even showing the USF-Syracuse game on the jumbo-vision at the baseball field, Marge Schott Field (still can't get over that). Nippert Stadium, where the football game is being played today, is in the middle of campus. There are areas where you can watch the game without having to buy a ticket, but you're much better off shelling out a few bucks to get a seat. The stadium is quaint, and every seat is close to the action.
Reps from the Sun Bowl are here, and just finished passing out pamphlets to all the Connecticut media. Hey SeanO's Ghost, want to back out of that bet?
Injured linebackers Ryan Henegan and Matt Ashmead didn't make the trip.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Runway Challenge Week 11

Some Thursday updates from UConn camp heading into Saturday's crucial game with Cincinnati:

  1. Backup linebacker Ryan Henegan was injured in practice, and is questionable to make the trip to Cincinnati. Linebacker Matt Ashmeade was also injured, and also questionable to make the trip. That's a fair-sized blow to the depth at linebacker.
  2. Robbie Frey will indeed be the third-string tailback, though Edsall said he won't play unless it's absolutely necessary. Frey has traveled with the team, and has sat in on meetings all season, so he'll be well-prepared should his number be called.
  3. Edsall said the attitude in practice hasn't changed at all. The team practiced outside in the cold and wind Wednesday. Forecast is better for Cincinnati than it will be for Connecticut on Saturday. Temps should be in the mid-50s, with partly cloudy skies.

Here's the weekly bowl predictions, with my predictions for the Big East

CINCINNATI (7-2, 2-2)
11/10: UConn (L)
11/17: West Virginia (L)
11/24: at Syracuse (W)
Predicted record: 8-4 (3-4 Big East)

UCONN (8-1, 4-0)

11/10: at Cincinnati (W)
11/17: Syracuse (W)
11/24: at West Virginia (L)
Predicted record: 10-2 (6-1)

LOUISVILLE (5-4, 2-2)
11/8: at West Virginia (L)
11/17: at South Florida (L)
11/29: Rutgers (W)
Predicted record: 6-6 (3-4)

PITTSBURGH (4-5, 2-2)
11/17: at Rutgers (L)
11/24: South Florida (L)
12/1: West Virginia (L)
Predicted record: 4-8 (2-5)

RUTGERS (5-4, 2-3)
11/9: at Army (W)
11/17: Pitt (W)
11/29: at Louisville (L)
Predicted record: 7-5 (3-4)

SOUTH FLORIDA (6-3, 1-3)
11/10: at Syracuse (W)
11/17: Louisville (W)
11/24: at Pitt (W)
Predicted record: 9-3 (4-3)

SYRACUSE (2-6, 1-3)
11/10: South Florida (L)
11/17: at UConn (L)
11/24: Cincinnati (L)
Predicted record: 2-9 (1-6)

WEST VIRGINIA (7-1, 2-1)
11/8: Louisville (W)
11/17: at Cincinnati (W)
11/24: UConn (W)
12/1: Pitt (W)
Predicted record: 11-1 (6-1)

Which would make the Big East standings as follows:
1. West Virginia (6-1), wins tiebreaker, auto BCS
2. UConn (6-1)
3. South Florida (4-3)
4. Rutgers (3-4)
4 (tie). Louisville (3-4)
4 (tie). Cincinnati (3-4)
7. Pitt (2-5)
8. Syracuse (1-6)

And the bowl shake out:

BCS National Championship game: LSU vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. West Virginia
Orange Bowl: Boston College vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Hawaii
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Arizona State

The rest of the Big East
Sun Bowl: UConn vs. USC
Meineke Car Care Bowl: South Florida vs. Wake Forest Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Central Florida
International Bowl: Rutgers vs. Ball State
Texas Bowl: Louisville vs. Kansas State

And the weekly picks, which have slowly but surely turned into a disaster for yours truly. I'm awful at this. But I'll chalk it up to the fact that it's been a wacky season in college football. Looks like SeanO's ghost is in position to take over the blog for a day, and I'll bet he's dying to write for a captive audience after three months away.

I need to get myself back into the picture, so I'm upping the number of games to 18 this week.

Game 1: Wake Forest (+9) over CLEMSON

Game 2: South Florida (-16) over SYRACUSE: Jim Leavitt hasn't uttered a word during Bulls losing streak, down from his weekly average of two.

Game 3: Michigan (-3) over WISCONSIN: Next week's game with OSU might be worth watching after all.

Game 4: Arkansas (pick' em) over TENNESSEE: Can't put any faith in the Ainge family.

Game 5: Kentucky (-3.5) over VANDERBILT

Game 6: Air Force (-3) over NOTRE DAME: As if being an underdog at home against Air Force isn't humiliating enough...just want to point out that Notre Dame lost at home to Navy, a team that lost to Delaware the week before. I think Yale would put a hurting on the Irish right now. Charlie Weiss has effectively killed this program.

Game 7: Florida State (+6) over VIRGINIA TECH: The UConn faithful loving Bobby Bowden's boys right about now.

Game 8: GEORGIA (-2) over Auburn

Game 9: TEXAS (-6.5) over Texas Tech: Graham Harrell has thrown for 4,412 yards so far. Too bad the defense hasn't stopped a decent opponent yet.

Game 10: Connecticut (+6.5) over CINCINNATI: Huskies covered spread against everyone except Temple.

Game 11: Arizona State (-7) over UCLA: Thought the Bruins might be headed for a bowl showdown with the Huskies. They'll need to run the table against ASU, Oregon and USC. No chance.

Game 12: MIAMI-FL (+3.5) over Virginia

Game 13: Florida (-6.5) over SOUTH CAROLINA

Game 14: Kansas (-6) over OKLAHOMA STATE: Wasn't long ago that Kansas played lowly Texas State, led by quarterback Paul Blake and coached by Ed "Straight Arrow" Gennaro, to a 3-3 tie. Kathy Ireland kicked the tying field goal in a monsoon as time expired. Exciting stuff. Wait, was that a movie? I forget. Anyway, Jayhawks are no joke.

Game 15: Southern California (-4) over CAL: Don't get ESPNU? Watch this one for scouting report of Huskies Sun Bowl opponent (it'll be one or the other).

Game 16: Boston College (-6) over MARYLAND: The priest who christened my kid last week told me he was having a tough time after all his teams choked last week. Notre Dame is awful and lost to Navy. BC had just blown it's national championship dreams. Holy Cross lost to a Division III team (Rhode Island College) whose brutal schedule features Western Connecticut State, Roger Williams College and a bunch of aspiring chefs at Johnson & Wales. If it's any consolation to Father Dargan, the Fairfield Prep hockey team looks primed for another state title.

Game 17: HARVARD (-7.5) over Penn: Setting up an undefeated showdown at Yale Bowl next are Ivy's still not letting their football teams go to the I-AA playoffs? What a waste.

Game 18: Yale (-17) over PRINCETON: Got a phone call earlier today from an irate man who wanted me to write a story on how ESPN continues to screw over football fans from the state of Connecticut. Not because of the ESPNU stuff, but because next week they scheduled the UConn-Syracuse game at noon: same time as Yale-Harvard.

Last week's results

1. Kooch 10-0-3 (congrats on the first-ever perfect week in two years of Runway challenges)
2. SeanO's ghost: 8-2-3
3. Tonto Kowalski: 7-3-3
Will L 7-3-3
Jerry 7-3-3
6. Sammy 6-4-3
Sturge-Rock 6-4-3
Pete 6-4-3
9. Caleb Mandrake 4-6-3
Mitch Kumpstein 4-6-3
11. Chip 3-7-3 (pathetic)
P.J. 3-7-3
Ian 3-7-3
Luc 3-7-3
Vinny from East Haven 3-7-3

1. SeanO's ghost 67
2. Kooch 66
3. Sammy 62
4. Ian 61
5. Will L 55
6. Chip 54
7. Vinny from East Haven 52
8. Caleb Mandrake 50
9. DetroitTigersHater 47
10. Pete 48
11. Dan 41
Kevin 37
13. sturge-rock 31
14. Mitch Kumpstein 26
15. Alex 16
16. P.J. 11
17. Steve P 8
18. Luc 7
Jerry 7
Tonto Kowalski 7

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