Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Runway Challenge Week 10

First things first: The conference call with coach Edsall. No new injuries, everyone injured previously (Lunn, Frazer, Dillon) are "good to go" on Saturday.

We still don't know who the quarterback will be. That's on a need to know basis, Edsall said, and we (and you) don't need to know. The decision has been made, and Frazer is healthy enough this week to be in the mix. We'll know on Saturday.

As for the Darius Butler situation, Randy claimed he didn't know anything about Kevin Duffy's New Haven Register story yesterday which Butler said he'd be playing "full-time" wide receiver instead of cornerback. "I don't know what you're talking about, but I have no comment on it," Edsall said. Later in the call, however, Edsall said Robert McClain or Terry Baltimore "just might be starting this week" at cornerback. Hmmmm.

On to my own, personal ramblings. The Huskies are now bowl eligible, so it's time to start thinking about just where they might end up in December or January. A lot has been said about this being a down year in the Big East, including a story in Sports Illustrated this week that said the league is nothing more than a glorified mid-major. The same story said people were too quick to proclaim the league a powerhouse in 2006 when three teams finished in the top 12. Don't get lost in the irony, Mark Beech.

Is it a down year? The league is still 7-7 in non-league games against BCS opponents, and that includes a bad Syracuse team's losses to very good Northwestern and great Penn State. Pitt's game with Notre Dame Saturday could make a statement for the league. Plus, the Big East could well have seven bowl eligible teams out of eight. Don't knock the league because of parity. There isn't a dominant team as of now, but West Virginia (one game away from a berth in the national championship a year ago!) seems to have figured things out and could be on its way to beating another "power" in the BCS.

Here's a breakdown of the remaining schedules for every Big East team, with my very conservative predictions of what might happen and bowl picks.

UCONN (6-2, 2-1)
11/1: West Virginia (L)
11/15: at Syracuse (W)
11/23: at South Florida (L)
12/6: Pittsburgh (W)
Predicted record: 8-4 (4-3)

CINCINNATI (5-2, 1-1)
tonight: South Florida (L)
11/8: at West Virginia (L)
11/14: at Louisville (L)
11/22: Pittsburgh (W)
11/29: Syracuse (W)
12/6: at Hawaii (W)
Predicted record: 8-5 (3-4)

PITTSBURGH (5-2, 2-1)
11/1: at Notre Dame (L)
11/8: Louisville (W)
11/22: at Cincinnati (L)
11/28: West Virginia (W)
12/6: at UConn (L)
Predicted record: 7-5 (4-3)

SYRACUSE (1-6, 0-3)
11/1: Louisville (L)
11/8: at Rutgers (L)
11/15: UConn (L)
11/22: at Notre Dame (L)
11/29: at Cincinnati (L)
Predicted record: 1-11 (0-7)

WEST VIRGINIA (5-2, 2-0)
11/1: at UConn (W)
11/8: Cincinnati (W)
11/22: at Louisville (W)
11/28: at Pittsburgh (L)
12/6: South Florida (W)
Predicted record: 9-3 (6-1)

SOUTH FLORIDA (6-2, 1-2)
10/30: at Cincinnati (W)
11/15: Rutgers (W)
11/23: UConn (W)
12/6: at West Virginia (L)
Predicted record: 9-3 (4-3)

LOUISVILLE (5-2, 1-1)
11/1: at Syracuse (W)
11/8: at Pittsburgh (L)
11/14: Cincinnati (W)
11/22: West Virginia (L)
12/4: at Rutgers (W)
Predicted record: 8-4 (4-3)

RUTGERS (3-5, 2-2)
11/8: Syracuse (W)
11/15: at South Florida (L)
11/22: Army (W)
12/4: Louisville (L)
Predicted record: 5-7 (3-4)

Which would make the Big East standings
1. West Virginia 6-1
2. UConn 4-3
Louisville 4-3
USF 4-3
Pitt 4-3
6. Cincinnati 3-4
Rutgers 3-4
8. Syracuse 0-7

And the Big East bowl shake-out
Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Florida State
Meineke Car Care Bowl: UConn vs. Boston College (wishful thinking? maybe.) Bowl: South Florida vs. Kentucky
St. Petersburg Bowl: Louisville vs. Memphis
International Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Western Michigan
Cincinnati gets sent somewhere with an opening...

On to the picks. I went long this week, so my sarcastic remarks will be short and sweet.

Game 1: Miami-Fl. (+2.5) over VIRGINIA - Cavs turnaround has been remarkable, which is why I'm not so sure about this pick.

Game 2: Louisville (-14) over SYRACUSE - Greg Robinson's stay on death row growing shorter by the game.

Game 3: CONNECTICUT (+4) over West Virginia - Picked against the Huskies last week and got burned.

Game 4: NOTRE DAME (-4.5) over Pittsburgh - Two immensely overrated coaches. A week ago, I would have thought Pitt had a chance, but that turd sandwich against Rutgers changed my mind.

Game 5: GEORGIA (+6) over Florida - Neither team has really beaten anyone. That includes LSU. Dawgs win over Vandy the only quality 'W' for either team so far.

Game 6: Oregon (+3) over CALIFORNIA - The Big East catches all kinds of flak, but why isn't anyone calling for the Pac-10's automatic BCS berth?

Game 7: Texas (-4) over TEXAS TECH - Vegas has the over for this one at 75.5. Yep. 75.5!

Game 8: GEORGIA TECH (-2.5) over Florida State - Better coaching prevails.

Game 9: OKLAHOMA (-22) over Nebraska - Most exciting conference this season, hands down.

Game 10: MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Northwestern - Just pitcure all those cheese-eaters ice fishing in their shanty's on Lake Wabasha, watching something other than Gopher hockey on their portable black-and-white TVs, and the ensuing mayhem. Here's how I imagine the conversations will go.
"Whatch'ya watchin'?"
"Dey got a game?"
"Oh, ya??"

"Gophers got a good team this year. Darn tootin'!"

Game 11: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (-45) over Washington - Gotta love the 45-point spreads.

Game 12: SACRED HEART (-13) over Wagner - Jeez, I can't even pretend I care about this game. But, I needed a game for the local special, and Yale has been awful this season.

Last week's results
1. UConnhuskies86 7-4-1
SeanO 7-4-1
Caleb 7-4-1
4. Dano 6-5-1
wil 6-5-1
ian 6-5-1
den 6-5-1
8. JZ 5-6-1
gary 5-6-1
rich 5-6-1
kevin 5-6-1
dougo 5-6-1
vinny 5-6-1
14. chip 4-7-1
sammy 4-7-1
16. pete 3-8-1

1. Kevin 51
Caleb Mandrake 51
3. Vinny from East Haven 50
Dougo 50
5. ian 49
6. Rich 48
7. pete 47
chip 47
9. JZ 45
Den of Stupidity 45
11. DanO 41
12. Wil 38
13. Sammy 37
Sean O 37
15. Gary 29
uconnhuskies 86 29
17. Stretch 21
18. Big Donny Bertolotti 13

Get your picks in by clicking "comments" below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday notes: Preparing for West Virginia

The Tuesday round-up.

  • 66-21 is still fresh in the minds of the UConn players. It's not like they have much choice. A photograph of the scoreboard from Mountaineer Stadium hangs in the locker room. It's sort of a take on what boxer's do while training for their next fight. Well, I think that's what boxers do. Most of what I know about the sport comes from the Rocky movies, and that fine line between fiction and reality vanished sometime after Ivan Drago registered 2250 pounds of pressure per square inch with one punch during his steroid-induced training sequence in Rocky IV. "Whatever he hits, he destroys!"

  • The quarterbacks are a "game-time decision" once again. Don't believe it. Whoever it is will find out about 30 minutes from now. My money's on Cody Endres.

  • Endres was asked by quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Rob Ambrose to grade his performance against Cincinnati. Endres gave himself a 'C', and said Ambrose nodded in agreement. "That's pretty honest," Ambrose said, accoring to Endres. The young quarterback said he was happy with some of the things he did Saturday, but was bothered by his many misfires, especially on the touch passes and short routes. He said he took extra time to work on many of those throws he botched over the last couple of days.

  • A few folks were surprised at Randy Edsall's Sunday comments in regard to Cody Brown's performance. Brown had a huge game, but Edsall was nonchalant about it. Edsall said that's par for the course, as he always looks to get more from his players. "I expect more out of everyone. I expect more out of Donald Brown," Edsall said. "No one's perfect. I think it's the level of the expectations that I have not only for myself but for all of these guys to try and hit. Whether they can get there, I don't know. Maybe that's why it doesn't look like I'm having fun out there because I'm trying to push the envelope a bit to push guys to a certain standard. I'm just trying to help them to be the best they can be in all phases of their life." Cody said he understands where Edsall is coming from. "You can play the best game of your life, but there's always things you can do better."

  • Rob Lunn's shoulder (sorry, upper extremity) is still pretty sore, but he's practicing and aiming to be on the field for Saturday. Fortunately, it hasn't affected his blogging.

  • Early indications are that Tyler Lorenzen will be ready to return before the end of the regular season, Edsall said. "He's doing some land-based training now, and hasn't had any ill-effects from that. Right now, he's week-to-week." For the record, Sunday was four weeks since Lorenzen's surgery. He'll be at six weeks Nov. 9, the week before Syracuse. Think it's a circus now with the QB situation? Wait until he's healthy enough to be back in the mix.

  • Isiah Moore is playing the part of Pat White in practice this week. D.J. Hernandez is scheduled to make a cameo in that role for a few minutes in practice today. Personally, I would have paid the expenses to get Usain Bolt. Or, just borrowed a page from Mickey's training regiment in Rocky II and set a chicken loose on the practice field. After all, if you can catch a chicken, you can catch greased lightning.


  • I have now hit the acceptable number of Rocky references in one blog post. I promise, I will do my best to stop.

  • Edsall joked that he's disappointed White didn't follow the advice he gave him during the handshakes on the field after last season's game and left school early for the NFL Draft. Edsall did say he's happy to be done with White for good after Saturday.

  • Jordan Todman won't factor into punt returns or kickoff returns any time soon. "I have a hard time taking Jazz (Jasper Howard) out. I think he's leading the Big East in punt returns," Edsall said. "On kickoffs, Darius and Robbie are doing a good job too. We think Jordan can still help on special teams, but in other ways."

  • After meeting Bill Stewart at Big East media day, and listening to him every week on the league's conference call, I have come to the conclusion that he is the nicest man on the planet. No one comes close. He's part Mister Rogers, part Ned Flanders, part Jim Nabors rolled into one. Usually, opposing coaches who agree to speak with state media on Tuesday's don't say much, and are in a hurry to get on with whatever else they need to do. We thanked Stewart when we were done with our questions, but he wasn't ready to hang up just yet. He asked us about the weather up here, talked about his relationship with some of the Huskies' assistant coaches, told us to give them his best, then thanked us profusely for taking the time to speak with him. Usually, we're satisfied when a coach simply says 'goodbye". With Stewart today, it was like being in an alternate universe.

  • West Virginia is 4-0 all-time against UConn, with an average margin of victory of 28 points. That's domination.

  • Outstanding barbecued ribs today. Outstanding.
Plenty more to come this week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

UConn loves Canada

Another commitment this weekend. Jesse Joseph, a defensive end from Vanier College in Quebec, accepted a scholarship offer from UConn, the school announced today. Joseph played at Northeast High in Philly before joining Vanier in 2006. Since joining the club, he's gained 20 pounds of muscle. He leads the team with four sacks so far, and chalked up a 14-tackle game earlier in the year. Vanier also produced Huskies' starting offensive lineman Moe Petrus. Joseph is 6-4, 230 pounds, and becomes the 13th recruit for next fall.

Joseph received the offer from UConn assistant Mike Foley late last week, and accepted over the weekend. North Carolina State was also interested. Joseph is originally from Montreal, and has dual citizenship. Vanier coach Pete Chryssomalis compared Joseph to former UConn end Shawn Mayne, who also attended Vanier. "He's a big strong kid and an excellent pass rusher," Chryssomalis said. "He's in the same mold as Shawn Mayne, but he's a better athlete than Shawn."

The dreaded 'OR'

Depth charts usually list a starter and backup. When the coaches don't wish to reveal the starter, they list them both No. 1, separated the by word 'or', as in -- at lead singer for The Beatles tonight it's Paul McCartney OR John Lennon. Occasionally, you'll get two 'ORs' on the depth chart, such as, the lead guitarist for Iron Maiden tonight is Dave Murray OR Adrian Smith OR Janick Gers. (All of whom rock equally. Up the Irons!)

Randy Edsall said today on the Big East Conference call that Zach Frazer and Cody Endres will both be listed at the top of the depth chart this week, and that "it will probably be a game-time decision". As reported yesterday, Frazer practiced on Sunday. So, get ready to see this before Saturday's West Virginia game -- QB: Cody Endres OR Zach Frazer.

Also, Dave Teggart was named the Big East special teams player of the week for his performance against Cincinnati.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There's nothing wrong with Dixon.

Here's your Sunday update:
  • Rob Lunn (shoulder), Zach Frazer (concussion), Brandon Dillon (leg) and Nate Sherr (leg) are all day-to-day.
  • Frazer is practicing today, both as a quarterback and a holder. Randy Edsall said as of now, he's not ready to make any decision on a starter for the West Virginia game. That likely means he's waiting to see how Frazer performs over the next couple of days. I'd expect a decision by Tuesday, though nobody outside the locker room will know until 5 minutes before kickoff.
  • On Cody Endres, Edsall would like to see him complete a higher possession of passes. He said UConn dropped some balls, and Cody misfired on a lot, mostly overthrows. But he succeeded in not turning the ball over, managing the game well and winning.
  • Edsall felt Desi Cullen was inconsistent punting the ball yesterday. He'd still like to see Cody Brown take his game to another level, and play with more intensity that what he's played with so far. "I thought he played well and did some good things," Edsall said. "But I want to see him play better, I want to see him take his game to another level and I'd like to see him play with even more intensity than he's played with so far."
  • Nothing is wrong with Andre Dixon. He is not being disciplined, his ankle is fine, Edsall said sternly when asked if it's a discipline issue. It's simply a matter of him being behind the nation's leading rusher (Donny Brown) and a spark plug (Jordan Todman). "There's nothing wrong with Andre, don't even bring it up," Edsall said. "I don't know how many times I have to address this. There's nothing wrong with him. The guys in front of him are playing well. We're trying to get him reps. There's only so many reps we can get with everybody. ... There's no disciplinary action, there's nothing. He's playing on special teams, he's doing some things offensively. We got a 1,300-yard rusher, and we got a kid back there who can make things happen. We're just trying to do the things we need to do to be productive. If there was something wrong with Andre, I'd tell you. But there's nothing wrong. There's only so many reps to go around."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cincinnati post-game notebook

Some postgame notes:

  • Edsall wouldn't comment on the issue, but Cody Endres said he found out on Tuesday that he would be getting the start today. Not exactly a shock, considering Edsall was meeting with the doctors and trainers on Tuesday afternoon. Cody said all the extra work in practice helped, because "I knew what we were doing and I knew what (Cincinnati) was doing."

  • Whenever UConn wins an opening coin toss, Edsall usually opts to defend. Not today. Edsall said they wanted to get Endres out there right away to end any anxiousness he might have, and so he wouldn't have to take the field possibly playing from behind.

  • Endres attempted 42 passes, completing 18 for 196 yards and no touchdowns. The amount was part of the game plan because UConn feared Cincinnati's run defense more. Endres overthrew his receivers quite a bit, but was poised and in control the whole time. He was rarely under pressure either, credit to the offensive line. "Nobody on this team cares about who's hurt or who's playing," Edsall said.

  • Cody Brown was a monster. His final stat line: three tackles, two sacks, two tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery. He's also about to take over the title of go-to interview guy. "I don't know what it was, I just felt dominant today for some reason," Brown said, before breaking into laughter. "I did some extra bench reps this week with Keith Gray. Maybe that helped out a little bit."

  • Before the year, Cody Brown said Cincinnati was one of the games he had circled on his calendar. Why? The Bearcats dominance over UConn the past few seasons. In 2005 and last season, Cincinnati's defense simply bullied the Huskies, the offense had their way, and weren't shy about letting them know about it in the most obnoxious way possible (hello, Ben Mauk). "We focused a lot on how physical they were," Brown said. "I felt they were more physical other years. This year they weren't as physical. ... But Cincinnati liked to trash talk, their crowds boo us, they played real physical and hurt us. We wanted to show them what playing physical was all about." Mission accomplished.

  • Some of the numbers I circled on my copy of the quickie stats: UConn ran 78 offensive plays, 42 passes and 36 runs (real balance). Cincinnati committed six turnovers (three fumbles, two on special teams, and threw three picks). The Bearcats were 0-for-14 on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth-down conversions, which is astounding.

  • Donald Brown ran 27 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and now holds the single-season record for most rushing yards, passing Tory Taylor's mark of 1,261. After eight games, he's now at 1,324 yards and 14 touchdowns, and has at least 150 in every game but one (when he ran for 107 against Rutgers). Sixty-nine of his yards came on the drive in the fourth quarter that sealed the win. Brown's reaction to being told of the record: "What? That's news to me."

  • Rob Lunn was listed by Edsall as day-to-day with, I kid you not, an "upper extremity injury". Is it a finger? His nose? Scalp? Even the paranoid NHL coaches aren't that vague. Zach Frazer will also be day-to-day this week. He was cleared to be the backup holder today, but he wasn't playing QB.

  • Interesting call by UConn on 3rd-and-9 in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The score was still 17-16 at the time, and UConn was driving into a heavy wind. Instead of running the ball to let the clock run out, either forcing Cincinnati to call a time out or get the wind when they switched ends to start the fourth, UConn passed. Teggart wound up drilling a 47-yarder into the stiff wind that was quite impressive. Edsall said the Huskies' were simply throwing to try and get a first down there, but I'm still not convinced they should have kept the clock moving there despite what Teggart did. "He made me look good, that's for sure," Edsall said.

  • A huge stop that may ultimately overlooked is when UConn held Cincinnati to a field goal after Desi Cullen's punt was blocked after the Huskies went 3-and-out on their opening offensive series. A touchdown there could have easily set a negative tone and a "here we go again" attitude that would have been tough to overcome. "That was huge in the game," Edsall said. "Not that it would have deflated us, but it would have been a downer."

  • UConn's win may have saved its Big East title dreams, for sure. With USF and Pitt losing at the moment, the Huskies will be playing West Virginia for a share of first place next weekend. "If we lose this game, it could have ended up being a long season," Donald Brown said. The Huskies are also bowl eligible for the second successive season.

Endres to start

No surprise. Zach Frazer is in uniform, however, and appears ready to serve as the backup holder. He was working with Tony C pregame.

Kevin Youkilis was spotted walking around the sideline with a Cincinnati Bearcats cap. Youk is a Cincy native and alum. Thought I saw a tear in his eye when someone mentioned the World Series game being played tonight.

Love the early games

Good morning from the Runway. Can't even begin to describe how much I enjoy noon games on Saturday. No waiting around. It's wake up, shower, have a cup of Joe and play with the little guy, then hop in the car by 9 a.m. for the ride up. You just can't beat that routine. It's how college football should be everywhere.

No word yet on the quarterback, but if Vegas was putting odds on who starts, Cody Endres would be off the board and Zach Frazer would be at about 500-1 right now. The Devil Rays had better odds to win the World Series in the preseason. Of course, you saw how that is turning out, so who knows.

A few UConn players are on the field warming up now. I see Cody and Johnny McEntee (I think, to be honest, nobody in the media would know Johnny if he ran across press row slapping us all in the face like Moe to the rest of the Stooges). No Zach Frazer, yet. Tyler Lorenzen is tossing the pigskin around, too. He looks much better than he did a couple weeks ago. He's jogging, taking drop steps. Maybe he'll play today.

Endres has gotten changed, and is running routes with a couple receivers. He looks like he's ready to play.

Check back for an update.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Runway Challenge Week 9

Pressed for time today, so we'll get right to the picks:

Game 1: Boston College (+3) over NORTH CAROLINA - BC fans, bummed out because of the Red Sox premature exit and the blandness of the Matt Cassell era, rally behind the surging Eagles. Yeah, right. They're more interested in the Celtics' exhibition with Cleveland on Tuesday. And can we finally accept that Tom Brady isn't Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt rolled into one perfect, almighty human being? In fact, he's kind of a dope. In his latest episode, he dumped the Pats' team doctors so he could have his knee surgery performed in California. Now, he's undergone three procedures to attempt to stem infection and could be looking at having a second reconstructive surgery because his La-La land doctor botched the first one worse than Bruce Jenner's facelift. Not for nothing, but the Browns' suspended Kellen Winslow for less this week.

Game 2: Cincinnati (-2) over CONNECTICUT - The Huskies have qualified for bowl games only in seasons in which the Red Sox won the World Series. Irrelevant, I know. But I'm just saying...

Game 3: PITTSBURGH (-9.5) over Rutgers - On the Big East conference call Monday, a New Jersey reporter asked every coach if he believed "a sleeping giant" had been awoken after Rutgers' oh-so-impressive win over UConn Saturday. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly was the only one to acknowledge, albeit politely, the ridiculousness of the notion. The giant goes back to sleep Saturday.

Game 4: Georgia (+1.5) over LOUISIANA STATE - Loser can say bye-bye to national title hopes. Neither has what it takes, anyway.

Game 5: South Florida (-4) over LOUISVILLE - Matt Grothe has passed injury-riddled Pat White as the best quarterback in the Big East this season. He's also been cheated by the local baseball outfit, who just happen to be playing in a World Series nobody is watching. The Devil Rays (they'll always be the Devil Rays) are getting all the publicity for their haircuts, but Grothe is the originator of the "grow-hawk" in Tampa Bay. Give the kid some credit, even if it looks awful.

Game 6: KANSAS (-1.5) over Texas Tech - A random student who kicked a 30-yard field goal as part of a halftime promotion last month has been added to the Texas Tech roster, and could be kicking for the No. 8 team in the country Saturday. Texas Tech must not have heard that I drilled my 35-yard attempt at Rentschler Field last month to win $500 for the charity of my choice (Connecticut Hospice) in a promotion run by Allstate Insurance. Must have been all of the red tape surrounding my eligibility that scared them away. I mean, that kick would have been good from at least 36 yards.

Hey Texas Tech! I think I have some eligibility left. Call me, we can talk.

Game 7: OHIO STATE (+2.5) over Penn State - Joe Paterno is finally going to allow doctors to examine his bad hip next week. He's only been hobbling around like an old, wounded leprechaun for a month. The best part is, JoePa, almost 82, says he got hurt demonstrating the proper way to execute an on-sides kick in practice. Tough old bird, some might say. Meh. Sure, I would have paid anything to witness the spectacle of Paterno, in his high-water khackis and black cleats, perhaps wearing a leather helmet with no facemask, instructing the proper fundamentals of booting the pigskin...I'm still not impressed. Getting hurt tapping a football? When he was 82, my grandfather, every October, was digging multiple trenches in our backyard and burying his fig trees for the winter. (Don't ask. Fig trees are a big deal with old Italian men, just like Sfogliatelle and anisette-spiked coffee. All I know is I had to help bury those trees every year, and it was borderline child-slave labor.) And he did it into his 90s. That's toughness.

For the non-Italians, this is Sfogliatelle (pronounced shvoy-a-DEL). It's a variety of pastry.

Game 8: Oklahoma State (+12) over TEXAS - Just seems like a lot of points to be giving up to another 7-0, top-10 team. The good news is, there's always a chance Mike Gundy flips out on a newspaper columnist and announces to the world that he's even more of a man, he's 41 now.

Game 9: Virginia Tech (+5) over FLORIDA STATE - Citing he got what he deserved, Terry Bowden feels his brother, Tommy, had to go as coach at Clemson. There hasn't been a display of brotherly "love" this touching since Michael Corleone sent Fredo on a fishing trip out on Lake Tahoe with Al Neri. Should be a fun Christmas for the Bowden clan. "I know it was you, Terry. I know it was you."

Game 10: Virginia (+12) over GEORGIA TECH - What's gotten into Virginia? Anyone?

Game 11: ARIZONA (+16.5) over Southern California - Just a feeling. Plus, it's a shout out for the wife's alma mater.

Game 12: Penn (-2) over YALE - Disappointing season for the Bulldogs and star tailback, New Britain's Mike McLeod. Still, it's a big deal whenever Penn, Princeton or Harvard comes to the Yale Bowl.

Last week's results
1. Caleb 8-3
2. Sammy 7-4
Big Donny 7-4
4. Kevin 6-5
Rich 6-5
wil 6-5
dan 6-5
sean o 6-5
JZ 6-5
Pete 6-5
11. chip 5-6
ian 5-6
doug0 5-6
den 5-6
vinny 5-6
16. gary 4-7

1. Kevin 46
2. Vinny from East Haven 45
Dougo 45
4. pete 44
caleb 44
6. chip 43
ian 43
Rich 43
9. JZ 40
10. Den of Stupidity 39
11. DanO 35
12. Sammy 33
13. Wil 32
14. Sean O 30
15. Gary 24
16. uconnhuskies 86 22
17. Stretch 21
18. Big Donny Bertolotti 13

Get your picks in by clicking "comments" below.

Edsall hasn't been contacted; no QB news

Interesting Thursday call with coach Randy Edsall. He opened the call with this statement. "Guys, it's come to my attention that there's an issue that I want to address. I think you guys know me well enough, and the fact that I don't deal in speculation. I want you to know and everyone to know I haven't been contacted by any college, any university, the NFL, any person or people regarding any job. End of story. Now, on to Cincinnati...."

That was in response to a New York Times story which reported that Syracuse has hired begun searching for a replacement for Greg Robinson by hiring a search firm, and that firm had already reached out to Edsall to gauge his interest. Edsall's agent wouldn't confirm nor deny the report to the Times. In the same story, Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross denied the school had hired a search firm.

Edsall offered no further comments, even when pressed to expand.

Also, Zach Frazer was listed as a game-time decision for Saturday. He added little else. "Has Zach practiced this week?" a reporter asked. "Zach is a game-time decision," Edsall responded. "Has be been cleared to play?" another reporter asked. "He's a game time decision," Edsall said.

It seems unlikely Frazer will play, but Edsall won't rule it out. Edsall stressed he doesn't factor into the decision on Frazer's being cleared to play. That's up to doctors and trainers, and he follows their recommendations. Especially on something as serious as a head injury/concussion. Frazer has been attending classes, and been out on the field for practices (though not practicing). Edsall said he hasn't been experienced many of the more severe symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome, including migraines and vomiting.

Other injuries include DT Brandon Dillon (leg) and TB Nate Sherr (leg). Both are day-to-day, though Edsall said it's unlikely Dillon will dress.

NOTE: The weekly picks are up, just scroll down to the next post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday review

Here's a sampling of what happened on Tuesday:

  • Not a lot to expand upon with the quarterback situation from what I posted earlier other than the fact that Frazer officially has "a head injury." Guess that's better than those paranoid NHL coaches, who designate everything as either upper body injury or lower body injury. Have a feeling this will probably be a game-time decision (at least for everyone outside the players, coaches and medical staff), but we'll hold out hope that Edsall will let us know on Thursday.

  • Dave Teggart will start on Saturday over Tony Ciaravino. Teggart has practiced as the starter since Sunday. Teggart was a little stunned because he walked into the cafeteria expecting to get a drink and leave, but was greeted by about 10 reporters waiting for him. Now, we had made an interview request for him earlier in the day, but apparently he hadn't even gotten word of that. He had the look of a deer caught in the headlights for a moment.

  • Edsall on the decision, "All through the preseason, and the first part of the season, we kick those guys and we chart them, Those two guys are very close. There's not much difference at all. Tony's performance last week, we feel David should have the opportunity to be the field goal and extra point kicker this week. It's no different than any other position. ... David overall has a little stronger leg. We're 9-of-15 with Tony. I told Tony he has to take this the right way, that if David doesn't do his job the right way his opportunity will come again. He's upset that the opportunity's not there, but he understands why it's being done."

  • Teggart is a solid all-around athlete from an athletic background. His father was a kicker and soccer player at UNH (New Hampshire, not New Haven) and David was one of the top kickers in New England as well as an outstanding third baseman. He chose UConn over Boston College. Teggart said his long in high school was 48 yards, but now he's "comfortable" with any kicks 55 yards or in.

  • Edsall really likes Johnny McEntee as a quarterback. The possibility of McEntee, a walk-on from Servite High in Fullerton, Calif., being the backup QB on Saturday is because he earned the job. Casey Turner, like McEntee a true freshman, simply hasn't performed as well at the position so far. "He's got a quick release, and has a lot of poise and command." He comes from a strong high school program. Two of McEntee's high school classmates are now playing at USC.

  • I mentioned it earlier, but no chance for D.J. Hernandez to go back to quarterback. Unless, that is, there's an Ace Ventura: Pet Detective situation where a crazed, transsexual, ex-kicker turned chief-of-police orchestrates the kidnapping of Frazer, Endres, McEntee, Turner and Jonathan the Husky mascot because someone failed to put the laces out on a key field goal 10 years earlier.

  • The wide receivers continue to improve. One issue with the current crop, Edsall said, is that they are either very young to the college game or had little experience playing the position before coming to Storrs. He cited several examples: Kashif Moore is a redshirt freshman. Michael Smith is a true freshman. Brad Kanuch is in his third year, but was a running back/defensive back in high school. He's also still not quite himself after injuries torpedoed his spring and preseason practice seasons. D.J. is a converted quarterback only in his second year as a receiver. Ellis Gaulden has been plagued by injuries for his entire career. Marcus Easley doesn't have a lot of experience.

  • Edsall is excited about Kashif Moore's potential. He has outstanding speed, and is becoming more consistent as a route runner. Edsall says he still needs to improve his strength, which translates more to his blocking than anything else. More recruits like the current true freshman redshirting the season, Brian Parker and Gerrard Sheppard, will help. Both Parker and Sheppard played receiver in high school, and have potential.

  • Edsall said he heard back from the Big East Conference supervisor of officials regarding the offensive pass interference call against Martin Bedard that cost UConn 15 yards prior to Ciaravino's missed game-winning field goal. He declined to comment on what the final verdict was. "It's not appropriate (to comment) according to the Big East criteria," Edsall said. "If I was able to (comment), I would."

  • Edsall responded to the comments he made Sunday about it not being important if the media or fans understand what the coaches are trying to do with the play calling. "After every game, I beat myself up more than you guys could ever beat me up, in terms of what we do," Edsall said. "Believe me, I want to be as perfect as we possibly can. After every game I sit down and analyze every call, every thing that we do. And every coach is the same way. And you're going to find out is that every game you say is there something I could have done differently? Of course. As a coach, you're always going to critique yourself more than anyone else is going to critique you. ... I would hope you understand there are certain things that go on with this program that we're not going to give out. That's no disrespect to all of you or all of our fans. Fans want to win, and they want to win big, and when they don't they get upset. Just like we do, but we get more upset because we got more invested in it."

  • In honor of his new number, offensive lineman-now-part-time-tight end Dan Ryan will be legally changing his name to Dan Ocho-Ocho. That's not true. But Ryan is contemplating wearing a throwback Norwich Navigators baseball cap to represent his hometown, similar to the custom-designed Atlanta Braves cap worn today by defensive end Julius Williams (hometown: Decatur, Ga.).

  • In addition to being the most popular man in Willimantic, an aspiring weatherman and occasional 1950s street hood, WTIC-1080 radio man Wayne Norman is also an experienced apple picker. If the rumors are true, he can bullseye a garbage can with a Granny Smith from 60-feet, 6 inches.

Teggart's time is now

Dave Teggart has passed Tony Ciaravino as the starting kicker for Saturday.

No word on Zach's head injury. We likely won't know until Thursday. Cody Endres would play if Frazer can't. Johnny McEntee is next in line. Despite being a walk-on, he's outperformed Casey Turner in practice and, according to Edsall, can really throw the ball. Asked if D.J. is under any consideration to return to quarterback, Edsall gave a firm "No."

No changes on return teams.

I'll have a full report later this afternoon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Decision on Frazer won't come Tuesday

Looks like we won't have any new information on Zach Frazer until Thursday at the earliest. On the Big East conference call this morning, Edsall said that he'll sit down with the doc on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., which is about 2 hours after he'll finish speaking with the media during the weekly luncheon. Edsall said he's met couple of times with Zach, and that he was "out at practice" on Sunday. It doesn't sound like Zach actually participated practiced, though. Asked to clarify whether Zach practiced yesterday, Edsall would only say, "he was out at practice. He was on the field with us on Sunday." Make your own determination.

Edsall also gave a vote of confidence for Jasper Howard on punt returns. "Jazz will be fine. He understands. When something happens one, then twice, you get gun shy. (The punt in the fourth quarter that Howard fielded around the 4 that likely would have went into the end zone) he was probably feeling 'I have to catch this'. He totally lost his composure. But I'm not worried about Jazz. He'll bounce back."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The QB depth chart

This question was emailed to me, and since I didn't address it in the blog today, I will answer it here.

Question: Chip, what happens if Frazer can't play Saturday? Does Edsall go to Cody Endres, and is there a chance we could see D.J. back at QB? -- John G.

A: If Frazer can't play, Endres get the start. No question. He's in his second year in the program (same as Frazer) and has already logged game time this season. Backing him up would be Johnny McEntee, a walk-on from California, and Casey Turner. If Endres got hurt, Edsall would use whichever of the two he felt was the best (and right now, I'm not sure who that would be). Both are first-year guys, and Turner is here on a full ride. Burning Turner's redshirt isn't something UConn wants to do, but if he's the guy who gives them the best shot to win, they won't think twice about it. Chances of D.J. playing anywhere but receiver are slim to none. Unless, that is, Endres, McEntee and Turner all get injured.

Fuzzy Frazer, Annoyed Edsall

Some notes from Sunday's call with Randy Edsall.

  • Zach Frazer's condition is still unclear, though it seems he may be dealing with another concussion. That is not good news. Randy Edsall would only say that Frazer is still "a little fuzzy" and will be monitored over the next two days. Edsall did say that Frazer is better today than he was yesterday. It's definitely something that bears watching. His concussion in August took about a month for him to fully recover. If it's indeed another concussion, and it sounds as if it is, it could take more time.

  • No other injuries to report from the game.

  • Edsall wouldn't comment on the disputed offensive pass interference call, but he said he submitted the play for review to the league supervisor of officials.

  • Edsall said UConn needs to get Jordan Todman more involved with the offense.

  • Edsall fielded several questions about the play-calling from Saturday. He held firm that "every game is a game within itself", and that the Huskies play-calling is based on a number of different factors ranging from the opponent to the weather conditions. Asked about UConn's reluctance to throw on first down, Edsall said, "I thought we made some big plays in the passing game. We dropped some passes. We made progress, but we still have to get better in that aspect. We have to get better in some of the reads. We had the opportunity to make some big plays in the first half, and we didn't make the right reads. We could have had some big plays there on first and second down.

  • Pressed on the issue, Edsall got annoyed. When one reporter asked about the "conservative play calling", Edsall cut him off. "You call it conservative, I don't call it conservative. I call it trying to win games. I don't know if you've ever coached. The object for us is to try and win games. If we need to throw the ball, if we need to run the ball, we'll run the ball. Yesterday, we put ourselves in position to win a ballgame, but we just happened to not win the ballgame. We missed opportunities."

  • Asked if he could understand whether the uneducated fans and media don't always understand what he's trying to do, Edsall shot back, "Is it important they understand what we're trying to do? I didn't know it was important everyone had to understand what we were trying to do. The bottom line is, we're trying to win games. That's what we're trying to do. You can throw the ball 50 times a game and not win games."

  • Edsall summed up the offense from Saturday this way. "Did we have some success in the passing game? Yes. Did we have some success in the running game? Yes we did. We moved the ball pretty well in the first half running the football. The third quarter was very different because of field position."

  • It only got uglier. Let's just say that after 20 minutes, Edsall had enough of us for the day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rutgers post mortem

Back in Connecticut, roughly 15 hours after I left. Computer issues solved, might as well get in a couple of post-game notes/quotes.
  • Zach Frazer never made it to the post-game media interview room. We were told he was dinged up during the game, and needed treatment. No idea if it was his ankle, knee, arm, or a concussion. We should know more Sunday.
  • Special teams has been a major problem. Tony C missed 3 of 4 field goals, Robbie Frey made a mistake fielding the kickoff to start the second half. Jasper Howard should have picked up two punts in the third, and let the punt in the fourth go into the end zone. "Robbie, I think, just panicked,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “We would have had the ball at either the 20- or 40-(yard line). He’s a redshirt freshman in a situation he had never been in before."
  • Jasper said, "I made some misjudgments with the ball because of the wind. Coach got with me a little bit. The ball was shifting around because of the wind. I feel a little of it was my fault." Howard apparently didn't field one of the kicks because he felt one of his blockers was in his way. Edsall took blame because he personally coaches the return men in practice, but then said, "I tell them all the time, catch every ball you can back there. We don’t want the ball to hit the ground. Fair catch it. I said (Jasper), put your hand up there because they can’t hit you, and your own man should be able to avoid you."
  • Edsall said play-calling was limited because the Huskies were buried so deep much of the second half. Not sure the reasoning behind the five pass attempts in the first half. When UConn needed to throw the ball in the fourth, though, Frazer really started to sling it.
  • The offensive pass interference call was a killer. Turned a 32-yard field goal to win it into 42 yards. Edsall looked like Earl Weaver arguing with the officials, who told him Martin Bedard set an illegal pick on the play. "I don’t think it was a pick,” Bedard said. “I ran the same play four or five times during the game, and the same thing happened. This one time, the ref called it. My job was just to get outside the (line)backer, turn and look for the ball. That’s what I did. The backer ran into me, that’s it.”
  • Edsall on the penalty, "He said the kid lowered his shoulder. I have to look at the film. We've gotten more calls against us on that this year than anything, and we don't even teach it. I don't know. I'm to the point now where I have to bring officials in I guess and tell us what to teach them." He then said the opportunity was still there to kick the go-ahead field goal, and it was missed.

Breakfast in Joisey

Good morning from the swamps of Jersey. It's going to be a long day for us media types who drove down this morning and are heading back after the game. Fortunately, the drive down from New Haven was a breeze. Made it here in about an hour and 40 minutes, with colleague Dave Solomon as my navigator. Dave grew up in the Bronx, has been covering New York pro sports since the 70s and knows every possible route through the city like the back of his hand. He'll even provide advice like, "you want to get to the left lane here because there's a nasty dip in the road coming up." Find a GPS system with that kind of knowledge. Of course, Dave needs a little help closing doors securely. Around the time we crossed the New York border, the trunk of my car flew open. I guess it was a little loose after Dave put his computer bag in and didn't slam it shut, and finally jarred open. Had it been the hood, we would have reenacted the scene from "Tommy Boy" when Chris Farley forgot to remove the can after changing the oil. Luckily, we were right near a rest stop, so nothing came flying out of the trunk.
We'll check back for any breaking pregame news.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Runway Challenge Week 8

No big news today. Randy Edsall said no new injuries have arisen over the last few days. The team continues its business-like approach to each game, even after a bad loss two weeks ago. Punt protection was addressed during practice more than any other special teams facet. Zach Frazer has been confident. Donald Brown will get as many touches as the game dictates, even if it exceeds Edsall's ideal number of 25.
On to the picks.
I've been struggling to get over .500 this year. Seems that each week, I'm either 5-6 or 6-5. So last week, I sought advice from my neighbor, a rather grumpy senior citizen from Okinawa who never smiles, rarely speaks and spends most of his time trimming his Banzai trees. "Can you help train me for the challenge?" I asked as he attempted to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks one afternoon. Ignoring my repeated requests, finally, he begrudgingly agreed. But not before proceeding to make me paint his house and his fence, sand his ridiculously large deck and wax his expansive collection of vintage World War II-era automobiles.
Finally, I had enough. "What gives, Mr. Miyagi?" I asked, my arms so sore I could barely lift them. "Are you going to give me the secret to picking football winners or not?" The old man growled. "Your problem is, you pick games based on the best joke!" he yelled. "Too many jokes! You must concentrate!"
Well, guess what? Last week I picked seven of 11 winners and finished tied for first place in the challenge with Kevin. Plus, those bullies from the neighborhood karate dojo stopped chasing me around on their dirt bikes. So, watch out. I'm feeling lucky.

Game 1: Connecticut (-1.5) over RUTGERS - Vegas odds opened with the Scarlet Knights as 3.5-point faves. There was so much action, the line had swung 4 points the other way. Even as it stands, this one just seems too easy, like a Costanza game. Sticking with the Huskies, though.

Game 2: Virginia Tech (+3) over BOSTON COLLEGE - I realize most UConn followers feel its sacrilegious to compliment "BCU", but quarterback Chris Crane looked pretty darn good against NC State. And did you see Matt Ryan light up the Bears last Sunday? He will be one of the NFL's top 5 quarterbacks within two years.

Game 3: Syracuse (+23.5) over SOUTH FLORIDA - There is no Big East team dominant enough to cover a 23.5-point spread against anybody. Even the soon-to-be Steve Addazio-led Orange.

Game 4: Ole' Miss (+12.5) over ALABAMA - The basketball coach in "Teen Wolf" advised his team to live life according to three simple rules, which, 23 years after seeing the movie, I still adhere to. "Never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese." Genius. College football isn't exactly poker, but we can't go against Houston Nutt this season.

Having "Teen Wolf" on your team makes a high school basketball coaches' job very, very easy. But the man gave some solid advice.

Game 5: NAVY (+3) over Pittsburgh - Navy football fans screaming for Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada to be the every down quarterback may get their wish Saturday. Bad news for Pitt. And the play-by-play guy.

Game 6: MICHIGAN STATE (+3) over Ohio State - Big 10 Conference is down once again. Maybe it's time to stop the charade and finally change the name to the Big 11. Think of the marketing possibilities (and Spinal Tap references). "Most blokes stop at 10. We go to 11."

"Eleven! Exactly! It's one louder."

Game 7: TEXAS (-5) over Missouri - Chase Daniel may have lost the game last weekend, but credit to Missouri's marketing department. Most schools have fairly lame Heisman campaigns. Postcards, a poster. Maybe a mini football. A couple of weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from Mizzou. Opened it up to discover a John F. Kennedy-era View-Master machine, loaded up with a reel of Daniels action photos. Awesome. One of my favorite toys when I was a lad. And I won't lie. I got a little misty. Well done, Missouri marketing department. Well done.

If you're over age 30, you spent hours playing with your View-Master

Game 8: VIRGINIA (+4.5) over North Carolina - Not sure what got into Virginia. We still don't think they're all that good a football team, but they got guts. (Bonus points if you can name the movie that quote is from. Hint: substitute "baseball" for "football"). Brandon Tate is done for the year, so we'll take the points.

Game 9: PENN STATE (-23) over Michigan - John McCain had the cantankerous old man routine mastered during last night's debate, didn't he? All he needed was a pair of Mr. Magoo issue coke-bottle glasses and a cane, and he could have been Joe Paterno.

Game 10: Middle Tennessee State (+14.5) over LOUISVILLE - Several members of a JV high school football team in Wisconsin got in trouble for relieving themselves in public during halftime of a recent game (The players thought the restroom was locked. It wasn't).

It reminded me of a high school baseball teammate who had a similar problem before a road game early our senior year. About an hour before game time, he had to go. But the restroom was locked. So he found a wooded area behind the first base dugout and did what he had to do. He wound up getting three hits that game. A superstitious fellow, he made it his pregame routine to pee behind the field before every game. At North Haven, however, the brush and trees were a little thin. And the parking lot was only a few feet away. In the middle of his drainage, he looked up and saw a pair of horrified women staring at him from a parked car. Like only an 18-year old in mid-pee and with an excess of testosterone can do, he blurted, "What?!? You want some of this?" Turns out it the two women were our coach's wife and his elderly mother. Needless to say, that was the end of that superstition. I bring this up because said teammate wound up playing baseball at MTSU. So, there you go.

Game 11 (our local special): Trinity (-7) over BOWDOIN - Surprise, surprise. The Bantams are undefeated. Again. Folks, the best all-around athletic program in New England (maybe the country) is tiny Trinity College in Hartford. Season ticket packages are available.

Last week's results
1. chip 7-4
kevin 7-4
3. Big Donny Bertolotti 6-5
JZ 6-5
Pete 6-5
6. Vinny 5-6
den 5-6
dougo 5-6
caleb 5-6
dano 5-6
uconn86 5-6
ian 5-6
13. rich 4-7
sean o 4-7
wil 4-7
sammy 4-7
17. gary 3-8

Running standings (Three way tie for first!!!)
1. Vinny from East Haven 40
Dougo 40
Kevin 40
4. chip 38
ian 38
pete 38
7. Rich 37
8. Caleb Mandrake 36
9. Den of Stupidity 34
JZ 34
11. DanO 29
12. Wil 26
Sammy 26
14. Sean O 24
15. uconnhuskies 86 22
16. Stretch 21
17. Gary 20
18. Big Donny Bertolotti 6

Get your picks in by clicking the "comments" link below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Break's over. Back to the grind.

Spent my bye week shopping for a new car. I finally made a deal yesterday, and realized the key component in negotiating with car salesmen: a wriggling, kicking, yelling 1-year old baby. If you need a car and don't have a baby, borrow one. Trust me. After 15 minutes, they were ready to give me whatever I wanted just to get me the hell out of there. The clincher may have been the free corn muffins and coffee the dealership offers to all customers. They insisted. Bad idea. Someone will be scraping mashed muffin clumps off that desk for a few days.

Here's a sampling of what came out of the weekly media session today:

  • Good thing the Huskies have a surplus of tight ends. Yianni the Greek suffered a fairly serious hip injury in practice last week, and will miss the next eight weeks. John Delahunt takes over as the backup to Martin Bedard. We haven't seen a lot of Yianni, but he is a very good receiving tight end. Here's to a speedy recovery.

  • The defensive line is healthy, and received "full-go" status from the coaching staff.

  • The players enjoyed the bye week as much as possible, though with practice and classes all last week it was more like a 24-48 hour pass. Donald Brown was among several players able to head home for a day to relax. The assistant coaches spent time on the road recruiting, while Randy Edsall checked out East Catholic High on Friday night (their starting quarterback has a similar last name as his, and bears a striking resemblance).

  • Edsall also saw "The Express", which hit home with him since Randy played at Syracuse, albeit well after Ernie Davis graduated. "Because of my background I think I appreciated it more," Edsall said. "I think it took too long in the making. Considering what Ernie Davis did, the movie should have been made 20 years ago." So true. Another reason it should have been made in 1988: Denzel Washington could have played Ernie Davis ("Now, explain this disease to me like I'm a four year old") and Dennis Quaid could have been a player instead of coach.

  • Greg Schiano said replacing struggling Mike Teel as quarterback had crossed his mind. "I consider everything, I'm not one to bury my head in the sand," Schiano said. "What it all boils down to in the end is if someone else gives us a better chance to win, I'd play them. Those are the issues. That's the question I have to ask myself." In the end, Schiano feels Teel is still the guy. Odds on the New York Post hearing that quote and using the headline "Schiano Not An Ostrich" would be even money. If the New York Post cared about Rutgers football, that is. (Thanks, Joe D.)

  • Two years ago, Schiano was on the 'A' list along with Bon Jovi and Springsteen in Jersey. These days, not so much. He's feeling some heat, but says "I'm doing fine. I love what I do. We're going to be fine. We have good young players. I don't like being 1-5, but the infrastructure and the things I feel are important to a program are in place, including the players." On a side note, while Bon Jovi (never been a fan) and The Boss are 'A' listers in the Turnpike State, Sinatra was in the class above the 'A' list, reserved only for guys who can pull off a nickname like "Chairman of the Board."

  • Lots of questions about whether UConn and Rutgers is a rivalry yet. Both Edsall and Schiano said a rivalry doesn't grow overnight; that it takes years and years. I disagree. If two schools are close in proximity, both play in the same conference and don't already have one of those a signature '100 year' rivals, then it can become a rivalry in a matter of a few years. Especially with two fan bases whose hatred of one another festers each season like East Coast vs. West Coast rappers. Let's just hope it doesn't end like the Tupac-Biggie rivalry.

  • More scouts in the house today. The Browns, Bears, Ravens and an NFL central scouting office rep were here, dressed in polo shirts bearing the logos of the Browns, Bears, Ravens and NFL. I suppose if I got free clothes, I'd wear them everywhere, too.

  • Mike Cox (knee) is getting closer to a return, which would help out the depth at defensive end.

  • Congrats to Rob Lunn, who accepted a job with NESN as a college football writer starting next spring. Rob's blog is a national hit, and NESN is getting a talented writer with a cult-like following. Best of luck to Rob.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Runway Challenge Week 7

No rest for the weary. It's a bye week for the Huskies, but we don't take any breaks with the Runway Challenge.
I Netflixed Iron Man and watched it last night. Expectations were low considering it was Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role and movies about super heroes are usually terrible (Batman Begins the lone exception.) Then, as the movie unfolded, I came to the realization that I kind of like Robert Downey Jr. He cracked me up playing hilarious jerks in three of my favorite 80s movies: Weird Science, Back to School and Johnny Be Good. He also earned an Academy Award nomination for Chaplin. And, word is he's very good in Tropic Thunder, the new Ben Stiller movie, which I've yet to see.

RDowney Jr. in Weird Science, one of his finer roles

Sure, the guy's had some problems. But who among us hasn't stumbled into a neighbor's house accidentally, thinking it was our own, then fallen asleep in the master bedroom only to scare the bejezus out of the rightful owners when they returned home? Give the guy a break. It could happen to anyone.

Even his mug shots are hilarious

Bottom line is, Iron Man is pretty good, and Downey is believable as the billionaire, playboy weapons designer who creates the Iron Man suit to escape from an Afghan terrorist prison camp. Well, the concept is ridiculous (Jon Favreau directs, what do you expect?), but Downey plays the part well. A star-studded cast includes Jeff Bridges, a slinky Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Or footballs. Whatever. Rent it. It's worthwhile.

On to the picks.

Game 1: Syracuse (+23.5) over WEST VIRGINIA - Greg Robinson is a dead man walking. They're even driving him to games in a Hearse. Still, the Mountaineers are having trouble scoring points and Pat White is nicked up. Orange can cover.

Game 2: Texas (+6.5) over OKLAHOMA - Heard this on the radio this morning: It's only the sixth time since 1980 that these two teams are both ranked in the top 5 for their annual match up. Only the sixth time? You know you're an elite program when the phrase "only" is used for that nugget of info. I'm giddy to watch the Red River Shootout.

Game 3: Michigan State (-1.5) over NORTHWESTERN - As if another epic Cubs playoff failure wasn't enough, Northwestern is teasing Chicago sports' fans with a 6-0 start. At least this magical season will end before anyone in the Windy City notices.

Game 4: Vanderbilt (-2.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE - Northwestern and Vandy could be combined 13-0 after this weekend. Surreal. The party ends next week when the fighting' Lionel Ritchie's play at Georgia.

Game 5: NORTH CAROLINA (-7.5) over Notre Dame - Forget Brandon Tate. The most exciting player for the Tar Heels is Bruce Carter. Punt coverage has become as exciting as punt returns.

Game 6: Rutgers (+7.5) over CINCINNATI - Greg Schiano was quoted earlier this week as saying he may have overestimated the Scarlet Knights' talent. That's OK. The college football nation may have overestimated Schiano's coaching talent.

Game 7: Penn State (-6) over WISCONSIN - Badgers have hardly been impressive, even in beating teams.

Game 8: FLORIDA (-6) over Louisiana State - LSU lineman catching heat for saying his defensive teammates look forward to the chance to take out Tim Tebow. He later clarified that he only meant to a nice dinner and a movie.

Game 9: Ball State (-15) over WESTERN KENTUCKY - To be honest, now that they're ranked, just wanted to get Ball State into the picks. Huh, huh. Ball State. Incidentally, if you're only favored by 15 over a team still in the transition period to Division I-A football, you probably don't deserve to be ranked in the top 25.

Game 10: MISSOURI (-14) over Oklahoma State - Odds of Chase Daniels winning the Heisman now even money.

Game 11: Central Connecticut State (-3.5) over ALBANY - What, you don't follow the Northeast Conference? Central's James Mallory one of the top rushers in Division I-AA, and CCSU could win the conference. Albany, the defending league champs, have a quarterback named Vinny Esposito (he's from Jersey, not East Haven). Should be a barn-burner.

And since I nailed my ALCS picks last season, feel free to take these to the bank. Dodgers over Phillies in 5; Red Sox over Rays in 7. Los Angeles, behind Manny Ramirez's .500 average and Joe Torre's perfect nose-picking technique, wins the World Series in 6.

Last week's results

1. Pete 7-4

dougo 7-4

3. JZ 6-5

Rich 6-5

Caleb 6-5

Vinny 6-5

Den 6-5

Ian 6-5

9. Chip 5-6

Kevin 5-6

Gary 5-6

12. Sammy 4-7

Dano 4-7

14. Wil 3-8

15. UConnhuskies86 1-10 (almost hit the Costanza bonus!)

Running standings (six weeks):

1. Vinny from East Haven 35

Dougo 35

3. Kevin 33

Rich 33

ian 33

6. Pete 32

7. Chip 31

Caleb Mandrake 31

9. Den of Stupidity 29

10. JZ 28

11. DanO 24

12. Wil 22

Sammy 22

14. Stretch 21

15. Sean O 20

16. uconnhuskies86 17

Gary 17

Get your picks in by clicking "comments" below.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bye week speak

Had a chance to speak with a few of the guys this morning. Here's a little of what they had to say.
  • Donald Brown likes taking direct snaps out of the Wildcat formation, and he's lobbying the coaches to let him throw a pass or two. "A lot of people aren't buying it," Brown said. He mentioned is 1-for-1 in his career, the pass coming when he was a senior at Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic. "It was a halfback option, and it went for a 36-yard touchdown," Brown said. "But we ended up losing the game."

  • Brown said his style is similar to that of Tiki Barber. "I don't have any crazy moves, but it's enough to get the job done." All accounts are that Brown is the polar opposite of Tiki in the locker room, however. Tiki only cared about one person. Tiki. Now, he's a hard-hitting correspondent on the Today show. Saw him help prepare chicken on a segment last week.

  • D.J. Hernandez was fielding questions about his great game at North Carolina when Keith Gray, listening in behind him, interrupted. "You guys want to know the real story?" Gray said. "He bullied Zach into getting him the ball because Zach is younger than he is." Whatever works.

  • Zach Frazer came directly from his sign language class. Dan Ryan has the same class. Today, as part of their Happy Hands Club presentation, the two led the class in a sign language performance of Bette Midler's "The Rose." Seriously though, if the entire team and coaching staff learned sign language, wouldn't that be a huge help in calling audibles and line checks? Even if you were playing the Patriots, and Bill Belichick had filmed your walk through with a secret camera, then brought in a sign language interpreter to steal your signs, you could still mask things fairly easily.

  • Tyler Lorenzen's injury is a broken fifth metatarsal on his right foot, and he had a 3.5-inch screw inserted through his foot to aid in its healing. He said if he is ready on the early end of the 6-8 week recovery period, he could play against South Florida. Worst-case scenario is a possible bowl game. Right now, he said, there's no telling when a return could happen. He'll still have a role on the team. "I think I can bring some leadership," Lorenzen said. "I make sure the guys know they can do anything, and they should believe in themselves because I believe in them. We always say if we believe in each other, we can do anything."

  • Lots of good stuff from Frazer, some of which I'm saving for the paper. Here's what he said about seeing himself on film in a game situation for the first time since high school, "Some of the times are very similar, some (bad habits) like dropping my elbow, I saw that, too. But I learned a lot from what I saw. I looked at it from the coaches' perspective; they gave me positive criticism."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A week to regroup

From Randy Edsall on Sunday...
  • Edsall reiterated the blocked punts from Saturday were simply the failure to properly block Butch "Block Party" Carter. UNC coach Butch Davis said Saturday the Tar Heels felt they could confuse the Huskies' new "personal (punt) protector with different alignments. He was referring to C.J. Marck, who replaced injured Steve Brouse in that capacity during the Louisville game. Edsall said, "It wasn't C.J. (at fault). It was a basic alignment they had, and out player was not physical enough, and didn't execute proper technique." He didn't name names, but photos show Dahna Deleston trying in vain to get a block on Carter.

  • Edsall also dispelled Desi Cullen's statement after the game that he took too long to get rid of the ball because he was focused on keeping the ball out of Brandon Tate's hands. "We schemed to try and kick the ball away from (Tate),” Edsall said. “I think his times during the week were pretty much the same as if we kicked it normal. We didn’t execute the proper block that should have taken place.”

  • Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant began to ask Edsall a question in regard to Andre Dixon, and his not getting carries late in the game even though the outcome was in hand (Brown was still in the game). Edsall cut Desmond off before he could finish the question. "I don't need to go there," Edsall said. Dixon has been cleared to play, but has only two carries in four games. Seems there's something more to the story.

  • The bye week schedule: UConn practiced Sunday, has Monday and Tuesday off, practice Wednesday and Thursday, off on Friday and Saturday, then back to reguar game-week preparation for Rutgers on Sunday. Seven UConn coaches head off to recruit Wednesday-Friday.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Carolina post game

Lots of ground to cover, and time is short.
  • Desi Cullen said he took a little too much time getting rid of the ball on punts. "I might have took longer because I really needed to focus on the direction of the ball," Cullen said. "If I mishit it one way or the other, it could end up in (Brandon Tate's) hands, which is usually a bad thing, or I could shank it out of bounds which I did on that third punt."

  • Punt protection was a problem, too. Bruce Carter blocked all three punts, giving him four in the last two games (his block led to the Tar Heels' winning score last week at Miami). "Basically, we didn't execute the technique that we had. We just had some mistakes in there and obviously we have to do a better job getting our point across. It was surprising because we haven't had any problems with it."

  • UNC coach Butch Davis said the Tar Heels felt they could confuse UConn on their punts. "UConn had a brand new personal protector. We felt like if we could kind of confuse him a bit with some of the alignments we could get some pressure off the edge. And it worked. One of the things we try and impress upon guys is if you are on the punt pressure unit, you never know when the other team might make a mental mistake. Unless you go hard, you never know."

  • Blocked punts and turnovers resulting in a short field aside, penalties killed the Huskies. Eleven for 97 yards on Saturday, including five or six holds. UConn had 20 for 177 in five previous games. Other stats from the bizarre: the Huskies ran 84 plays on offense to North Carolina's 49, and held a 378-263 advantage in total offense and a 36:22 to 23:38 advantage in time of possession. Blocked punts and turnovers made it easier for the Tar Heels.

  • Donald Brown finished with 161 yards, and becomes the ninth UConn player to reach 1,000 yards in a season (he's at 1,067). All on Saturday were difficult. "The nature of their offense is they are a big-time possession offense," Davis said. "They run the ball so much and so effectively, the passing game with all the shallow bubbles is almost an extended handoff."

  • Said Edsall, "No excuses, but it hurt that we didn't have Steve Brouse." Dan Ryan, wearing No. 88, will be used in some sets as a tight end. At 6-foot-8, he could be a nice target in the end zone, too. "We had way too many dropped balls," Edsall added.

  • The lights are a problem at Kenan Stadium. Word is, one of the towers went out last season against Marshall. They continued to play because it's not that bad with only one out. When the second went out, that was too much. Edsall said the refs made the right call in delaying the game. "I wouldn't want my son playing with it like that," Edsall said. "It was bad." Of course, one of the towers went out later in the second half, and stayed out for the remainder of the game.

  • Zach Frazer wasn't great, but he wasn't that bad, either. Dropped balls hurt, but he slung some pretty well. He made a couple of bad decisions on two of the picks, the most glaring taken for a touchdown by 300-pound defensive tackle Marvin Austin as Frazer was being hauled to the turf. "That was a dumb decision," Frazer said. "I was trying to make something happen, and trying to do more than I could." The other pick went through Kashif Moore's hands before being intercepted.


Someone must have forgotten to pay the bills at Kenan Stadium. Two light towers on the north side of the stadium went out with 9:53 left in the third quarter. The game will be delayed about 30 minutes while somebody plugs them back in.

On tobacco road

Greetings from Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. Arrived in town yesterday rather uneventfully. Checked into the hotel (across the street from the Lucky Strike factory...people still smoke Lucky Strikes?), and after finishing stories for today's paper, I was blindsided by a killer migraine. Slept for a few hours, awoken by the sirens of the police escorting the UConn team busses down the street, and was still feeling it a bit. The cure? Ghostbusters was on cable. It's almost 25 years old, but still stands the comedy test of time. Bill Murray at his finest. And the guy who plays Mr. Walter Peck, the angry EPA agent who shuts down the power grid, grew up in my hometown of Orange, Conn. His name is William Atherton, and he made a career out of playing jerks in movies (Die Hard, Real Genius, etc.). Never net him (though I met his mother a while back). Word is he is absolutely nothing like the characters he plays.

Look familiar? He played a villain in every 80s movie ever made.

I'm staying at the same hotel as the UConn football contingent, which is always good for a laugh or two. Things like seeing Jeff Hathaway getting an old-fashioned shoeshine in the lobby or the ridiculous questions guests of the hotel ask the football players. For instance, a middle-aged southern woman, after seeing a cluster of players on an elevator, asked in all seriousness, "Did you guys go out drinking last night? Are you hungover?" Um, doubtful.

At noon, I hopped on the elevator to the lobby with about six other people. We were on the ninth floor. The elevator stopped at just about every floor on the way down, and at each stop more and more football players crammed their way on board. I don't know what the weight limit was, but we had to be pushing it. When Julius Williams squeezed in on the third floor, I thought the mounting pressure might force us civilians to explode out the back of the elevator like a popping zit. Fortunately, the offensive linemen on the second floor decided to wait for the next one. Good call.

The stadium here is nice enough. I was nearly knocked off my feel by the aroma of barbecue upon entering the gates. It's inescapable. The weather is gorgeous. Kendall Reyes didn't make the trip down here because of his ankle. Check back for any other updates, and we'll have the usual post-game notes bonanza.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Runway Challenge Week 6

News was fairly sparse out of Storrs today. Randy Edsall said the injured defensive tackles are doing just fine, and he feels good about all except one, which he'll have to wait and see about. No other injuries to speak of, as no one was hurt in practice during the week.

Side note about the "Big Brother is watching" note from Tuesday. Edsall and his staff monitor newspaper blogs and websites and some of the recruiting websites who have staff reporters covering the team. A few fans in Tampa and Pittsburgh assumed I meant fan blogs and message boards, and planned to post fraudulent reports and rumors for the UConn coaches. Sorry fellas. Don't think it'll make a difference. Besides, the jig is up if anything other than grunts and one-word answers are attributed to Jim Leavitt.

On to the picks:

Game 1: Boston College (-9) over N.C. STATE - After Tom O'Brien left for NC State two years ago, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo gushed "The fun is back at BC! OMG! Tommy was, like, totally gross anyway! I'm soooooo glad we're not BFF's anymore!!"

Well, he didn't say the second part of that quote, but he might as well have since the first line made him sound like a teenage girl who got dumped, anyway. We'll see how much fun DiFilippo is having if BC loses this one.

Game 2: WEST VIRGINIA (-13.5) over Rutgers - Scarlet Knights still winless over Division I-A competition, the starting quarterback is bullying defensive backs on the sideline and the school is in the midst of a $102 million expansion project to the football stadium for a program that might win a total of three games this year. Maybe the government can bail the Scarlet Knights out from underneath Greg Schiano's contract.

Game 3: MICHIGAN STATE (-7.5) over Iowa - Javon Ringer gaining plenty of steam as a Heisman candidate despite being behind Donald Brown in just about every rushing stat. Not necessarily a bad thing at this point.

Game 4: Connecticut (+7) over NORTH CAROLINA - The two most popular bloggers in the country right now are Lil' Wayne and Rob Lunn. Their writing styles are slightly different, however. Maybe we can arrange the two of them do get together for a freestyle battle. But instead of rapping, they go at it with the spoken-word while wearing sport jackets and ascots, like at one of those beatnik poetry bars on Haight-Ashbury. Winner determined by the loudest snaps.

Game 5: Texas Tech (-7.5) over KANSAS STATE - Quarterback Graham Harrell often mentioned among Heisman possibles, but it's receiver Michael Crabtree who is the most dynamic player on that offense.

Game 6: Auburn (-4) over VANDERBILT - Tough to root against a school nicknamed after a 70s funk/soul band led by Lionel Richie. So far, the Commodores have been a "Brick House" (sorry, that should read "Brick.....Howwwwwwwwwwwse"). Watching this one against Auburn, maybe the dullest good team in college football, is sort of like the equivalent of the band putting everyone to sleep in concert with "Three Times a Lady."

Game 7: Missouri (-10.5) over NEBRASKA - Unless Donald Brown hits 2,500 yards, Chase Daniels is winning the Heisman.

Game 8: MIAMI-FL. (-2) over Florida State - Rumor has it Bobby Bowden has been coaching Sarah Palin for the big vice-presidential debate tonight. So, while she may not be ready for the big time, at least she'll be full of more memorable quotes about soccer moms, lipstick and pit bulls. Just like Bobby Bow!

Game 9: Ohio State (-1) over WISCONSIN - The Buckeyes are a lot like SuperCuts. They may botch your hair beyond belief every once in a while. But they're reliable, and usually get the job done, so you keep going back. By the way, I don't have Jim Tressel pegged as a SuperCuts guy. He's the type who spends $200 for the same trim he could get for $11.95. (And yes, I just came from SuperCuts. Not their best work, but at least I don't need a hat).

Game 10: Texas (-13) over COLORADO - If your name is Colt McCoy, you are destined to do something great in the state of Texas.

Game 11: YALE (-2) over Holy Cross - I Netflixed Leatherheads this week. Fell asleep about 30 minutes in. But I was kinda tired that night. So I tried again the next evening and fell asleep again. The movie was written by former SI columnist Rick Reilly back in 1993, and it took nearly 15 years for it to be made. There's a reason it sat on the shelf so long. It's not exciting, or funny. Maybe one or two good lines.

Also, the guy who plays Jim on "The Office" is in a lead role. He gets out-acted by inanimate pieces of scenery. Raising your eyebrows and smirking at the camera only gets you so far.

But I think the Ivy League should have a "Swinging '20's Glory Days of College Football Day", where the players wear replica leather helmets, the coaches dress in bow ties and sweater vests and all the fans wear full-length mink coats and derby's while smuggling hooch into the stadium in flasks.

Jim Halpert's running style is as awkward as his acting ability

Results from last week
1. SeanO 8-4
ian 8-4
3. Den of stupidity 7-5
4. Chip 6-6
Kevin 6-6
Wil 6-6
7. JZ 5-7
Rich 5-7
Gary 5-7
dano 5-7
Vinny 5-7
dougo 5-7
13. Pete 4-8
Caleb 4-8
15. Sammy 2-10

Running standings (five weeks):
1. Vinny from East Haven 29
2. Dougo 28
Kevin 28
4. Rich 27
ian 27
6. Chip 26
7. Caleb Mandrake 25
Pete 25
9. Den of Stupidity 23
10. JZ 22
11. Stretch 21
12. DanO 20
Sean O 20
14. Wil 19
15. Sammy 18
16. uconnhuskies86 16
17. Gary 12