Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sometimes, imperfect wins feel twice as sweet

Nothing’s ever perfect for a perfectionist.

Take UConn football coach Randy Edsall, perhaps the state’s most noted perfectionist – at least since Martha Stewart sold her Westport home and moved to New York last year.

His Huskies were as close to perfect as it gets in dismantling Virginia on Sept. 13. And while he acknowledged such, he couldn’t help but mention problematic issues on kickoff return coverage that needed work.

On Friday night, UConn was far from flawless in its thrilling 31-28 victory over Baylor, keeping the team undefeated after four games. Yet the Huskies found a way to win, making big plays on both sides of the ball when needed. So the victory, while imperfect in form, may have been all the more satisfying for Edsall after the fact.

“I’m very comfortable with this team, because this is who we are,” Edsall said. “Every game is a different game, and to me, you’re always a work in progress. You’re always going to make mistakes in games, and then you work on them. We’ve been tested, we’ve done things well and some things not so well. You just have to minimize mistakes, and if you do that you’re going to have a chance to win.”

What did UConn do well Friday? Plenty, starting with another outstanding performance by the offensive line; this set up yet another big day on the ground for junior tailback Donald Brown (34 carries, 150 yards, two touchdowns).

Even the defense, which had allowed a total of 19 points in three games prior to Baylor, managed to come through when it counted in the fourth quarter. They also punished sensational Bears freshman quarterback Robert Griffin, directly responsible for all four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). When they were able to hit Griffin, they hit him hard.

The Huskies also committed just two penalties for the second successive game – and at least one of those was likely a bad call, as video replays showed.

UConn cornerback Darius Butler was whistled for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that negated a key interception by Dahna Deleston, and eventually allowed Baylor to take a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. The referees told Edsall it was a late hit. Replays showed otherwise.

Problems? Too many big plays and third-down conversions, for starters. But much of that can be attributed to the above-average athleticism of Baylor, a team Edsall feels will upset some teams in the Big 12 Conference this season, and Griffin, who seems to have a better-than-average chance to be an NFL quarterback someday.

“Every game some type of adversity sets in,” Edsall said. “I think it’s how you react to that adversity that determines if you can go out and win the game. We had some of that defensively and offensively and even a little on special teams. I don’t think anyone ever goes out and plays a perfect game. But if you work hard and minimize mistakes, you have an opportunity to be successful.”

That’s what the Huskies have done for four games so far and will look to continue when Big East Conference play starts this Friday night at Louisville.


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