Tuesday, November 30, 2010

UConn preps for South Florida

The final Tuesday media luncheon of the season. I decided to follow the advice of the new signage around the football cafeteria, which, in large, bold letters, informs all who enter to "Eat to Win".

The news and notes of the day.
  • Last week's session with Edsall was beyond bland. When he's trying to keep the hype down, it's time to break out the coachspeak. It was a little better this time around, though the message was repeated over and over. Focus on the task at hand, take care of business. "This game is no different," Edsall said. "We've been playing one-game seasons for the last five games now. If we lost, we were out. It's playoff football for us now, because if we lost we were done."

  • No news on the injury front. The depth chart is unchanged, but that doesn't mean all is well. Linebacker Scott Lutrus was the lone captain not to appear to speak to the media today, and the reasoning is clear. He's hurt. So is Mike Ryan. So is Twyon Martin. We'll find out their official status on Thursday -- which may or may not clear things up. There's still three full days to heal, but the early odds are that all three will be out of the lineup.

  • One guy who may be nicked and bruised but who will be ready for a full workload is Jordan Todman. Edsall mentioned he was in for 40 snaps against Cincinnati, and had 32 touches (31 runs, one reception). "I hope he's got one more left in him," Edsall said, mentioning the team is careful with Todman in practice during the week. Todman gets just enough reps to stay loose and sharp, and has been running smart during games by going out of bounds when it looks like there are no more yards to be gained rather than cutting it up field and taking an unnecessary shot. "They told me yesterday he went in for treatment and said he felt better this week than he did a week ago," Edsall said.

  • Edsall's name continues to come up for any BCS job opening, as it has been for several years now. There was Georgia Tech in 2007, Syracuse in 2008 and Notre Dame in 2009. So far, it's been Minnesota that's supposedly hot after Edsall. Not so, Edsall said Monday and again today. "I have not talked to anybody and nobody's talked to me," Edsall said.

  • UConn has been in a position to win a conference championship and BCS bid before, going to West Virginia with that opportunity in 2007. The result was a 66-21 whupping. The seniors on this year's team were freshmen that year, some seeing heavy playing time. Does the team learn lesson's from that game? "Didn't learn a lot from that game, other than wiping the blood off the backside afterward," Edsall said. "We got spanked pretty good. A little raw. I think you learn a little something with every game you play, but that's a whole different team and scenario."

  • Lawrence Wilson picked up one lesson from the 2007 loss in Morgantown. "You learn that chances like this are very rare," Wilson said. "You have to take advantage of the opportunity. We have to be focused, not buy into the hype and keep our eyes on what's at stake."

  • Look to see more of D.J. Shoemate on special teams. He filled in there against Cincinnati and did a nice job.

  • Edsall talked openly about TCU and how its program will bolster the Big East in all sports (though football is why its here). Edsall said he talked with Gary Patterson, whom he considers a friend, to congratulate him and tell him how excited the league is about the school's admission. "We'll be able to go into Texas to recruit," Edsall said. "And I'm sure that will help their recruiting as well because they're part of a BCS conference with an automatic bid where they weren't before. We'll go down there and now there's some kids that might want to leave and come up."

  • Some of the concern has been over the added travel distance into Dallas and vice versa. Balderdash, Edsall said. "Everybody's always trying to make a big deal out of something," Edsall said. "What everyone has to do is make a big deal because they're in Texas. ... It is what it is. Everybody always wants to look at the negative and come up with something, how can we stab this and make it not look good. That's ridiculous. It's ludicrous. To me, what you try to do when you're in business, is you try to make the conference as strong as you can. Well, the Big East just made a move that makes the conference stronger, especially from a football standpoint. What's it take to get there by plane, three hours? Some people will bus to a place that takes three hours. What's the difference? There is no difference. You really get sick sometimes of all the negativity that surrounds things that end up being very good and positive. To me, it's a positive step."

  • Edsall has talked about how much he hated the uneven Big East schedule with eight teams, and he's happy every team will have four home and four away games now. Asked if he'd like to see a 10th team added with a Big East title game, Edsall said he'd rather see it go to 11 if there's more expansion to keep the schedule balanced.

  • Zach Frazer finds a way to win the big games. "I don't know if you can really say what it is," Edsall said. "It's the makeup of the person. You take a look, and he finds a way to win. He's a competitor. He might not look as pretty as what some people would like, but he gets the job done." Frazer also has a pretty good playoff beard that is finally through it's five-week transitional stage.

  • Frazer was asked about the backlash against the Big East champ getting a BCS berth in a down year for the league. "We have a right to be there," Frazer said, speaking about the league champ, whoever it might be.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TCU joins the Big East

Fairly eventful Monday. TCU joins the Big East as the 17th member, and ninth football member. Great move for both parties. Jordan Todman was named Big East player of the week, and Randy Edsall announced on the Big East weekly teleconference that he has not been contacted by any schools regarding vacant coaching positions.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye, Leslie Nielsen

One of the all-time great comedic actors.

Edsall mum on injuries

Here's what Randy Edsall had to say in his Sunday teleconference:
  • No word on the injuries; Edsall offered a no comment when asked. We'll get a report on Monday for those undergoing surgery and on Thursday for the status update for the South Florida game. Mike Ryan, Twyon Martin and Scott Lutrus are some of the guys to keep an eye on.
  • Kevin Friend went into the lineup to replace Mike Ryan at tackle when Ryan went down with an injury. Jimmy Bennett is over his injury, Friend is just the third best tackle right now, Edsall said. That's why he went in and the flip was made at tackle.
  • Edsall was happy the Huskies made a big improvement on third-down conversions, going 9-for-16. "I was happy about that," Edsall said. "I even had pie and ice cream last night to celebrate."
  • Edsall said the forecast for Tampa will be a high of 76, which he equates to being in the mid-60s by kickoff. So he won't be turning up the heat too much in the Shenkman Center.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cincinnati postgame: one win from the BCS

Some postgame news and notes...
  • Bulleted ListOne of the first things Edsall mentioned was how banged up the Huskies are right now, as several guys went off with injuries. Todman hurt his shoulder, but didn't seem to hampered by it. Moe Petrus had a soft cast on his left wrist. Twyon Martin also remained on the turf for a while as did Mike Ryan. Don't expect status updates until Thursday, and even then they'll be vague at best. "Hopefully, we'll have enough bodies to play the rest of the week," Edsall said.

  • Asked about the turnaround the Huskies have made since the Louisville loss, Edsall made reference to the "distractions" that had plagued the team from spring camp to the week before that loss. He didn't mention names, but it was obvious he was talking about the incidents with Cody Endres and Erik Kuraczea. "We had distractions when we started this season, and once we got rid of the distractions we were able to focus and concentrate," Edsall said. "Once they were gone, we put things together."

  • Edsall's message to his team is 'don't believe the hype'. There will be plenty of Fiesta Bowl chatter this week, but Edsall wants his team to remain focused. "You guys cause some of the problems," Edsall told the media. "And I don't mean that in a negative way, I'm not ripping you. But the expectations placed upon people a times, some can handle it and some not. We probably didn't handle it, and I probably didn't do as good a job as I should have done. But you walk that fine line of tearing kids down when you know they have ability when everyone around them are telling them how good they are and what they're going to accomplish. Sometimes, you have to get smacked dn the face. And that's what happened. They got smacked in the face. I never lost faith in these guys because I knew if we did the things we were supposed to do we could be a good football team. That's what's transpired these last four weeks."

  • Todman was on the bench in the first half with his shoulder injury, and Edsall was told he'd be out until he was reevaluated at halftime. But on the 4th-and-1 play late in the first half, Todman would up taking two big carries that helped seal the win. Edsall claimed Todman just grabbed his mouthguard and ran onto the field. "I was under the assumption he was done," Edsall said. "Next thing I know, he's running in." Robbie Frey wasn't quite buying it. He said the play was called for Todman during the timeout.

  • Todman's key touchdown just before the half was more of a broken play. His first option was to pass in that situation -- which made sense considering the Huskies were out of time outs and if he failed to score on a run, time would have run out. "It was definitely a trick play," Todman said. "It was supposed to be a pass, was a little broken and I had to take what I had to get into the end zone."

  • Rough day for Dwayne Gratz, called for three pass interference penalties in the fourth quarter with the game still in doubt -- the Bearcats wound up scoring a TD to pull within 24-17 with 8:41 remaining in the game. "I was upset with him all game, I didn't think he played very well, Edsall said. "I thought he played soft today."

  • The UConn-South Florida game will be played at 8 p.m. and broadcast on ESPN2.

Pre-game from the Runway

Not sure if the turf at Rentschler Field looked worse all chewed up following the Rolling Stones concert a few years ago or today. It's not that the field is in awful condition (though it's far from immaculate). It's the "Connecticut" and "Huskies" printed in each end zone over the "Hartford" and "Colonials" from the UFL season. Same with the Big East logo sloppily printed over the UFL logo. It looks like an equation on a chalkboard that someone erased with their hand before writing another. That should look classy on TV.

Reps from the Champs Sports Bowl are here today. A couple of weeks ago, folks would have been turning handsprings over a trip to Orlando. Now, it would be a big disappointment. UConn has a clear look at the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day. Just have to win the next two games.

Nice video tribute to the seniors on the video board, which ended with Jasper Howard clips. The Howard family will be here today to be honored pregame.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The picks, Turkey Day edition

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I'm so jammed full of turkey, I almost forgot about the picks. Only two weeks left and the race remains very close, though Pete is opening up a bit of a lead. Let's get to it.

Game 1: OHIO STATE (-16.5) over Michigan
Game 2: South Florida (+11.5) over MIAMI
Game 3: Florida (+2) over FLORIDA STATE
Game 4: South Carolina (-3) over CLEMSON
Game 5: CONNECTICUT (-1.5) over Cincinnati
Game 6: Boston College (+3) over SYRACUSE
Game 7: MARYLAND (+2) over North Carolina State
Game 8: Virginia (+23.5) over VIRGINIA TECH
Game 9: GEORGIA (-13.5) over Georgia Tech
Game 10: Michigan State (-1.5) over PENN STATE
Game 11: Oklahoma (+2.5) over OKLAHOMA STATE
Game 12: Louisiana State (+3.5) over ARKANSAS
Game 13: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (-4.5) over Notre Dame

Last week's results
1. Gabe 10-2-1
Pete 10-2-1
Harv 10-2-1
4. Ian 9-3-1
5. Chip 8-4-1
Vinny 8-4-1
Gary 8-4-1
8. Sammy 6-6-1
BStew 6-6-1
10. Notcher 4-8-1
11. Governorphalen 3-9-1
12. Caleb 1-11-1

1. Pete 79-65-7
2. Gabe 78-66-7
3. Ian 77-67-7
4. Chip 76-68-7
5. Gary 73-71-7
6. Vinny from East Haven 71-73-7
7. B-Stew 70-74-7
8. Caleb Mandrake 69-75-7
9. Sammy 61-83-7
10. governorphalen 59-85-7
11. opposite guy 16-7-1
12. Walt 15-19-1
13. Uconnbob 12-9-1
14. Harv 10-2-1
15. SeanO 8-15-1
16. The Cat 6-5
17. harper 6-6
18. Weird Sal 6-6
19. Spock Jenkins 6-8-2
20. Rollo V. 5-6-1
21. Huskyraymond 5-8
22. Notcher 4-8-1
23. BostonDan 3-7-1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Players ready for Cincinnati

A few more notes after hearing from the players.
  • Zach Hurd was asked which of his fellow seniors might shed tears on senior day. "I would have said 'Goof' over there, Mathieu Olivier," Hurd said. "But he's already had one senior day. I don't know if the second one is more emotional." Olivier, of course, was honored last season before he changed his mind and decided to return for his fifth season of eligibility.

  • Most of the players plan on watching "The Backyard Brawl" on Friday morning. Zach Frazer isn't so sure. "I won't watch," he said. "Maybe a little. I'd rather watch HBO."

  • Four years at UConn, and fullback Anthony Sherman has never scored a touchdown. His role is to block for the tailbacks and demolish people on special teams, which he does very well. Aside from his sophomore season, when he caught 26 passes for 270 yards, Sherman rarely touches the ball. Edsall was asked if he'd get Sherman a touchdown on Senior Day. Edsall said Sherman could always strip the ball carrier on special teams and return the fumble for a touchdown. Told about that later, Sherman said, "They must have had a meeting about that because (running backs coach) Terry Richardson said the exact same thing two weeks ago," Sherman said. Sherman was unstoppable as a ball carrier in his native North Attleboro, Mass., his high school's career leader in rushing yards (2,537), scoring (284 points) and touchdowns (48). He said he's embraced his role at UConn, and doesn't care about scoring a touchdown. "I had enough of them in high school to not let it bother me now," Sherman said. "I'm a team guy. If I get frustrated, it hinders the team."

  • Hurd spoke about his decision to attend UConn coming out of Waterford, and how important he felt it was to stay close to home and represent the state university. "(The state of Connecticut) has seen me grow up," Hurd said. He also mentioned the pride he and his fellow offensive linemen take in seeing the statistics of the tailbacks. "(Their statistics) are my statistics," Hurd said.

Pre-Cincinnati press conference summary

Here's what Randy Edsall had to say during his Tuesday press conference.

  • The seniors to be honored Saturday will include the late Jasper Howard, whose family is coming up Saturday for the game. "He'll be looking down on us, but he's an honorary captain and part of this senior class, and we'll honor him as such," Edsall said. Also being honored are Yianni Apostolakos, injured earlier in his career but who stayed on as a student assistant, and Meme Wylie.

  • Cincinnati combined to score 17 points in losses to Syracuse and West Virginia, then erupted to hang 69 on Rutgers Saturday. "We know what (Cincinnati) is all about," Edsall said. "They had 700 total yards and scored 47 points against us. We've been there." Edsall said he'd rather not get into an offensive shootout -- being the lowest-scoring team in the Big East, probably not a good idea. "As the end of the day, we just want to have one more point than they do," Edsall said.

  • Don't expect any personell changes. "We're 10 games in, we know the people who will be the most productive for us," Edsall said. "We're not going to change mid-stream unless there's and injury, and we don't have any injuries."

  • Edsall was asked if he had any regrets reversing his original plan to redshirt Greg Lloyd in August. "No, not at all," Edsall said. "He was ready to go and cleared to play. He had the opportunity, other guys came along and played better."

  • Edsall said the decision not to come back for his final year of eligibility was Meme Wylie's choice. Wylie had knee surgery a few months back, and is also a father. "A running back coming off a knee injury like that usually isn't as good," Edsall said. "He felt he had a good run, will have his degree and that it's time to start taking care of his family."

  • The West Virginia-Pitt game on Friday is huge for UConn, but Edsall brushed off questions about it. "Whatever happens that day, it's not going to matter if we don't win Saturday," Edsall said.

  • Edsall was pretty short with his answers today, and eventually just decided the press conference was over. He said he had to get on a conference call with the AFCA because he was the chairman of the district, and they were picking the All-American team today. Earlier, he was asked about Todman being recognized nationally for his season. "I have a chance to have a say in terms of what we feel as a district today," Edsall said. "To me, it's nice when people make those awards but if you ask anyone he's played against what kind of player he is, that's what's important. It's what your peers think, what your teammates think of the job you've done." Edsall also mentioned how the non-traditional powers usually get passed over for the bog awards.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another deposit in the win bank at Syracuse

Let's put a lid on the Syracuse game. Some highlights from Edsall's Sunday call.
  • Game balls to Jordan Todman (offense), Kendall Reyes (defense) and Cole Wagner (special teams). Wagner was a bit of an unsung hero Saturday, averaging 49.5 yards per punt on four kicks. The stat that really jumps out is three of those punts went inside the 20. That equates to hang time, distance and accuracy. The dome is a major advantage for punters (see Long, Rob). Still, quite a day for Wagner. UConn won the field position battle, pinning Syracuse to an average drive start from its own 24 compared to UConn at its own 41, a huge help for the defense. "Giving them 80 yards or more to go is an advantage for the defense every time," Edsall said.

  • Edsall was disappointed with the penalties, and felt Teggart should have made the 49 yarder he missed wide right in the second quarter. Yep. Dome conditions raise expectations for kickers. Edsall said Teggart shouldn't have missed wide with a spot in the middle of the field. It's the reason he decided to pass up a 50-yarder late in the third quarter to go for it on 4th-and-4 from the Orange 33 with the score still 17-6.

  • Edsall was asked to compare Zach Frazer with Tyler Lorenzen, as both have shown a knack for winning games with incomplete skill-set packages. Edsall pointed out that Tyler was a better athlete and a better runner and that Frazer throws a better ball but doesn't make plays with his feet. The similarities are with their intangibles. "They're both competitors, they both want to win," Edsall said. "And they both understand if you don't turn the ball over, you give your team a better chance to win."

This has nothing to do with anything, but it was a strange weekend in Central New York. I covered the No. 5 Yale men's hockey game at Cornell Friday night, and while killing time in the Cornell bookstore I overheard a young Ivy League student trying to talk his girlfriend out of dumping him over the phone. Quite an impressive argument this young man made. Rational, logical, impassioned. He still got dumped (took it very well, actually). But that was a future politician, for sure. At the game that night, the Cornell student section -- always the best in college hockey. Think of Duke's Cameron Crazies, but wearing several layers on winter clothing. -- started a chant of "over-rated" directed at Yale. This, by the way, came AFTER Yale dominated the game in a 4-2 victory.

The next morning in Syracuse, I watched a cop pull over a van from my hotel room and make an arrest. An hour later while eating breakfast at the local Denny's, I overheard a table of three meatheads discuss which street-fighting techniques worked best for them whenever it got to "brawlin'" ... now I know the importance of knowing the pressure points on an opponent. And a short time later, my lap top bit the dust, forcing me to drive to Best Buy and purchase a new one from a sales associate named Billy Jack. Then, wandering the Carrier Dome press box in the pregame, I witnessed Herm Edwards give an interview to a Syracuse student radio station. Couldn't figure out which was more bizarre -- Herm's answers, his speaking style or the facial contortions he made in answering every question with a level of body animation usually reserved for (bad) Broadway productions. In case you weren't aware, Herm furrows his brow quite often, even when perusing the odd-and-ends at the media salad bar.

An odd weekend, indeed.

A quick Aloha to the WTIC radio tandem of Joe D'Ambrosio and Wayne Norman, who flew back to Hartford late last night only to catch a 6 a.m. flight out to Maui for the hoops tournament. (I feel your pain. Really.) Rumor has it the boys were on the same planes as Donyell Marshall and Danny Ainge in their cross-country travels. Key dining tip fellas: eat at Sansei Seafood and Sushi Bar in Kihei. Had one of the top five meals of my life there. And yes, I remember and rank things like the top five meals I've ever eaten. Not far from the tournament, either. The place is freaking phenomenal, and I'm not even a sushi fan. Have the chef's tasting menu, which is for two people. You can thank me when you get back to the mainland.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The UConn train's a-rolling

Impressive win tonight, and one that's important on several levels. The Huskies remain in the thick of the chase for a BCS bowl berth, become bowl-eligible for the fourth successive season and win their first road game in a hostile environment. The Carrier Dome was very loud, and UConn, while wearing down the Orange with a swarming defensive effort, managed to take the crowd out of the game by the start of the fourth quarter.

A couple of postgame notes and quotes.
  • The significance of the game was obvious, and not lost on the Huskies. "We knew the importance of this game," Kendall Reyes said. "We knew it was our sixth win and we'd be bowl eligible. We knew what it meant to the Big East race; but most importantly, we knew we needed a win."
  • It would have been easy to write off the season after the ugly loss at Louisville. Things seemed to be falling apart with the departure of the starting quarterback and an offensive lineman in such turbulent circumstances. But UConn has been like a different team the last three games; the team most expected to see out of the gate this fall. "When your backs are to the wall, you have to come out swinging," Edsall said. "That's what I've tried to do all my life, that's what I've tried to instill in these young men. That you can't let anybody count you out. You have to keep fighting, you have to keep getting through it and persevere."
  • Edsall and his players have repeated this to the point of nausea, but they truly believe that by raising the level of intensity in practice, it's translated to the way they are playing in games. Hard to discount that theory.
  • Reyes has stepped up and become a vocal leader who is setting the tone on defense. He was outstanding on Saturday. "Kendall's been a lot more disruptive in the middle there. He's realy become the leader of the defense," Edsall said.
  • Another game, another 100 yard day for Jordan Todman. He finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries despite the fact that UConn did little to establish a down field passing game. "We knew they were loading the box in the run game," Todman said. "That's what we do best is run the ball, and we knew they were preparing to stop that. The effort of our offensive line, Anthony Sherman was great. Toward the end, we started to wear them down and take over."
  • Zach Frazer completed 13-of-21 passes, but with just 98 yards it accounts to just 7.5 yards-per completion. When UConn attempts passes, it's mostly quick outs. But, it's proving to be enough of a change of pace to keep the run game effective.

Pre-game from Syracuse

Greetings from the Carrier Dome, which is empty and dark 2.5 hours before kickoff. I have a feeling it's going to fill up pretty soon. No guarantee about the lights, though.

Early Big East game results are in, and Pitt's victory over South Florida makes tonight's UConn-Syracuse game a true elimination game. Well, sort of. We know UConn is eliminated with a loss because Syracuse will finish its conference slate 5-2. The question is whether a loss tonight will finish off the Orange. The answer is, most likely. Their only shot is if Pitt loses it's final two games, and there's a three-way tie for first place. In the case of a three-way tie at the top, the tie breaker is not head-to-head but the BCS standings. Conceivably, Syracuse could finish with the best BCS rank of the bunch, but it's highly unlikely.

I still can't believe the outrage in Syracuse over last season's game. A column in the Post-Standard this morning referred to Zach Frazer's touchdown pass (on 4th-and-11 from the Orange 28 with 47 seconds left and the Huskies up 11) as "completely unnecessary". It also suggested Syracuse coach Doug Marrone is still angry at Edsall for running up the score, and is using last season's game as a William Wallace, "fire up the troops" motivator.

If Marrone is indeed angry, it's a contrived anger. The game wasn't over. UConn wasn't punting, and a field goal was risky given Dave Teggart's range. A quick strike touchdown from the Orange could have had them lining up for an on-side kick with a chance to win the game. Syracuse loaded the box, and Easley was one-on-one with a cornerback. Touchdown. But it's running up the score only if the game is out of hand. Or if Marrone waived a white flag on the sideline and vowed he wouldn't try to score when his team took possession.

OK, Syracuse was sensitive from being down for so long. It's a non-issue.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lutrus letting it fly, Frey back on KOR soon and the picks

First, a few notes from today's teleconference with Edsall.
  • Edsall says UConn is in "good shape" from a health standpoint heading into this afternoon's practice. Injury report to be released around 6 tonight.

  • The plan is to eventually get Robbie Frey back on the kickoff return team this year, perhaps as soon as this week. "Robbie will be back there once he tells me he feels good enough to be back there," Edsall said. "That's his job and he's proven he can be very good back there. A lot of it is Robbie and how he feels coming off that scope. But once he feels ready to be back there, he'll be back there again." Nick Williams has also proven himself a valuable asset, so expect Frey to replace Kashif Moore when the time comes.

  • Scott Lutrus has played with less fear the past two games. It's showed. Dealing with a nagging stinger problem the past two seasons, Lutrus looked tentative making tackles. Edsall saw that on film, and said he spoke with Lutrus about it a couple of weeks ago walking up to the practice field. "I told him, hey, I'm just telling you what we see on film," Edsall said. "You're looking a bit tentative. And I said Scott, this is at a point now where you've only got so many games left. Just let it fly, and it something else happens, it happens. I think maybe subconsciously he wanted to stay on the field and be out there helping the team. He wasn't doing it intentionally, but he wasn't cutting it loose. ... I think he's played a lot more, not reckless, but we've seen a difference since I mentioned that to him."

  • We knew the rule interpretation as to why Nick Williams was called for a penalty after making what was, by rule, an invalid fair catch signal against Pitt. Edsall said he knew the rule at the time, and Williams realized what he did was illegal as well. "That's why I was trying to tell the crowd to quiet down because they were booing and they didn't know what they were booing at," Edsall said. "It was wrong. You can't make any kind of gesture like that and then try and advance the punt. That's a (penalty). You can yell, or whatever, to get people away from the ball, and then field the ball. But you can't make any gestures." Edsall said there were officials at practice over the summer that went over that rule specifically. Williams later told Edsall he recalled that session, and knew he was wrong.

On to the picks. Forget the Big East race, look at the tight standings in the Runway picks challenge!

Game 1: Connecticut (+4) over SYRACUSE

Game 2: MARYLAND (+4) over Florida State

Game 3: Rutgers (+13) over CINCINNATI

Game 4: Ohio State (-3) over IOWA

Game 5: Wisconsin (-4) over MICHIGAN

Game 6: Stanford (-6.5) over CALIFORNIA

Game 7: Virginia Tech (-2) over MIAMI

Game 8: Notre Dame (-8.5) over ARMY

Game 9: SOUTH FLORIDA (-2.5) over Pittsburgh

Game 10: BAYLOR (+7.5) over Oklahoma

Game 11: TEXAS A&M (+2.5) over Nebraska

Game 12: West Virginia (-4.5) over Louisville

Game 13: HARVARD (-6.5) over Yale

Last week's results

1. Chip 10-4-2

2. Ian 8-6-2

Gabe 8-6-2

4. Vinny 7-7-2

Sammy 7-7-2

6. Spock Jenkins 6-8-2

BStew 6-8-2

Caleb 6-8-2

Pete 6-8-2

10. Gary 5-9-2

11. Govphalen 4-10-2


1. Pete 69-63-6

2. Chip 68-64-6

Caleb Mandrake 68-64-6

Ian 68-64-6

Gabe 68-64-6

6. Gary 65-67-6

7. B-Stew 64-68-6

8. Vinny from East Haven 63-69-6

9. governorphalen 56-76-6

10. sammy 55-77-6

11. opposite guy 16-7-1

12. Walt 15-19-1

13. Uconnbob 12-9-1

14. SeanO 8-15-1

15. The Cat 6-5

16. harper 6-6

17. Weird Sal 6-6

18. Spock Jenkins 6-8-2

19. Rollo V. 5-6-1

20. Huskyraymond 5-8

21. BostonDan 3-7-1

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Early Tuesday notes

More to come...
  • Leon Kinnard will have surgery on his foot this Wednesday, and is out for the year.
  • UConn is undefeated at home and winless on the road. "Our routine is the same," Edsall said. "We just have to play better and draw on our own energy." Edsall also mentioned the Huskies have been able to finish games off at home, something they have failed to do on the road, at least when they aren't getting blown out.
  • On the flip side, Syracuse is 0-2 at home against FBS opponents, losing to Pitt and Louisville.
  • Edsall says Jordan Todman "made a concerted effort in the weight room" in the offseason, and that' s made a major difference for him as an every-down back. "He's more durable, stronger, a little thicker," Edsall said. "Last year we ran him outside, this year he's run inside, outside and done everything we've asked of him."
  • Trevardo Williams is back as a starting defensive end, and Kendall Reyes has moved back inside to tackle, replacing Shamar Stephen. It's the formation the Huskies have been using a lot the last couple of weeks.
  • Edsall says he has spoken with D.J. Hernandez several times about the recent controversy, but didn't really want to take the bait. "I think the whole thing got blown out of proportion," Edsall said. "There are better ways to handle it than that. End of story."

Friday, November 12, 2010

More from a Thursday night thriller

Rested and rejuvenated. Here's a few more notes from the Pitt game I didn't have the energy to get to on the blog last night.

  • The play call for Todman up the gut on 4th-and-1? Just another Tuesday practice. "That's all we do on Tuesdays, just run the ball, run power," Zach Frazer said. "Our line gets excited when it comes down to that. You hear them start yelling 'it's a Tuesday practice; Tuesday practice fellas'. That goes to show how we practice during the week effects how we play in the game."

  • Frazer just had the wind knocked out of him when he left the game briefly. "I knew I'd be alright, I just couldn't breathe," Frazer said. By the way, Mike Box took a pretty good lick on the only play he ran. Almost looked helmet-to-helmet, but didn't see the replays.

  • Frazer was asked if he was a spectator at a game and he witnessed that call by the home coach -- going for it on his own 19 with only a 2-point lead with under 3:00 in the game -- what he would think of the scenario. Frazer had a pretty good answer. "I'm glad I came to this game," he said. "I'm sure it was exciting. But as a player we hope for the blowouts. We don't like them this close."

  • Edsall was fired up to make the 4th-down call. And he was pretty fired up to get the win. Did you see him perform what I can only assume was his version of "The Humpty Dance" as time expired? As Shock-G once said so eloquently, "LETS GET STUPID!"

Thanks to Jared Nuss (who rules) for the video.

  • Jordan Todman isn't a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. And let's clarify. There are 10 semifinalists for the award, created way, way back in 1989 for the nation's premier running back. Edsall didn't know until Friday, when he was informed by Joe Perez of the Norwich Bulletin on the day-after teleconference. Edsall wasn't pleased, but seemed resigned that, like most awards, it's popularity contest more than anything. "Yeah, I think he should be," Edsall said when asked if he thought Todman should be a semifinalist. "But that stuff is political. It's no different than when Donald Brown should have won it. It's all political. If he's one of the top four rushers in the country going into it...I don't know. Certain things amaze you sometimes."

  • A Big East official came through the press box and explained why Nick Williams was flagged during the punt in the fourth quarter. Much like the famous Larry Taylor "unfair catch" three years ago, Williams waving his arms across his body like an umpire signaling a base runner safe is a textbook "invalid" fair catch. By rule, if he's the first to touch the ball in that scenario, the ball is dead. Since he tried to advance the ball, he was flagged for delay of game. Williams, as replays showed, waved his arms in this fashion several times to get teammates away from the ball. Taylor should have been similarly flagged back in 2007.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stunner at the Runway

What a game. Some quick postgame notes.
  • Edsall showed some guts with the 4th-and-1 call. He said he called time out, asked the defense if they thought they could stop Pitt, "and before they could answer I said, aw, we're going for it." Edsall said he had faith in Jordan Todman and his offensive line, and wanted to control his own destiny. Deep in their own territory with 2:33 left, Pitt would have had a great chance to move into field goal territory.
  • "I don't think I could have lived with myself if we punted the ball," Edsall said. "Some people might say it takes a lot cajones to make that call...but these kids give it everything they got. I think I would have been doing a disservice to the offensive football team if I took them off the field at that point."
  • Edsall said he saw the look, and could feel the flow of the game. "It didn't feel like that much of a risk," Edsall said.
  • Edsall pointed to Jerome Junior making a huge block on the fumbled kickoff that set up the decisive TD pass from Frazer to Isiah Moore. Junior blocked a Pitt player away from the ball, preventing that player from making a play on the loose ball and allowing Robbie Frey to get to it.
  • Frazer just had the wind knocked out of him, and was, obviously, fine. "Zach's a competitor," Edsall said. "You've got to give the guy a lot of credit. A lot of credit. What he's been through, it says a lot about him as a person. ... That throw for the TD (to Isiah Moore) that was a rifle."

The picks, week 11 (and no cheating)

Thursday football. Unless there's a turkey the size of a Kindergartner waiting to be devoured afterward, it just doesn't seem right.

I won't be heading up to the Runway until around 3:30 p.m. (got to get a jump on that Veteran's Day traffic) and since I have nothing else to do this morning, might as well blog like it's 2006.

First off, I was pretty excited to see a Connecticut newspaper finally refer to Rentschler Field as "The Runway" in print. Fine, it was the newspaper I work for (and I didn't write the headline myself. Didn't even suggest it. Honest). But I loved it. "Pitt expects Runway to be roaring". That sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? "The Runway". Makes you think of a loud, exciting, high-energy stadium (even if that's not necessarily true sometimes); a place people want to be. "The Rent" makes me think of a financial obligation...like, how much is this going to cost me? Maybe that's what's keeping people away.

ANYWAY. Big flap over D.J. Hernandez and the case of the lost arm band. Sounds like a Hardy Boys' book. Is it national news? Probably not. But it did spark interesting debate over ethics and what constitutes cheating. I won't bore you any more than you already are by getting into it. Besides, I believe there was an episode of "The Brady Bunch" that covered this lesson in a similar fashion. Let's just leave it at this: you don't take things that don't belong to you. It's as simple as that.

But I will bore you with a story from my youth, a funny tale my old high school buddies talk about from time to time. I was 15 and playing in the town Babe Ruth Baseball League. My team was playing our bitter rival for the championship. It had rained all night and was still drizzling that morning, so there was some question as to whether the game would be postponed. They decided we could play. But it was such a dreary day, coaches had to phone the players individually to let them know the game was on and make sure they were coming.

About 20 minutes before the first pitch, the guys on our team noticed the two worst players on the other team (who happened to be brothers) weren't there. League rules were that everyone had to play at least two innings, and these guys were both athletic disasters. Think Timmy Lupus, the "booger-eating spaz" from The Bad News Bears. Only there were two of them.

Fishy. Very fishy. It didn't take long for a couple of kids in the league not playing that day to wander over to our bench and tell us they heard our opponents had called the brothers and informed them the game was cancelled. Of course, we automatically assumed it was the truth. And we weren't going to let them get away with that. So one of our players sneaked away ever so carefully to a pay phone (remember those?), called the brothers and let them know the game was still on.

As it turned out, the opposing team didn't tell the brothers the game was cancelled. They just never called at all and prayed that the pair wouldn't show. Cheating? Not exactly. Unethical? Most likely. Even our team walked the ethical fence with our sneaky maneuver. And I know the circumstances are a little different from the D.J. case. To be honest, I just felt like writing this story.

By the way, the best part of the tale was the reaction of the opposing team when the brothers came pedalling into the baseball complex on their 10-speed bikes two minutes before the first pitch. After all, the guys on the other team thought they were in the clear and this burden to their squad wouldn't show. One of my very good friends, The Piper, was on the other team. He swears to this day he saw the brothers dramatically appear through a cloud of heavy mist at the park entrance (kind of like how the UConn football team emerges from the smoke at the Runway tunnel before every home game). We definitely heard our friend Rags scream "Nooooooooooooooooo!" And when one of the coaches asked "what's wrong?", he responded in a whiny shrill, "they're heeeeeere!"

Priceless. And yes, we won.

On to the picks.

Game 1: WEST VIRGINIA (-6) over Cincinnati

Game 2: Syracuse (-3) over RUTGERS

Game 3: South Carolina (+6.5) over FLORIDA

Game 4: Utah (-6) over NOTRE DAME

Game 5: AUBURN (-8.5) over Georgia

Game 6: OHIO STATE (-18) over Penn State

Game 7: Virginia Tech (-3.5) over NORTH CAROLINA

Game 8: ALABAMA (-13) over Mississippi State

Game 9: NORTHWESTERN (+10) over Iowa

Game 10: Texas Tech (+14.5) over OKLAHOMA

Game 11: Kansas State (+12.5) over MISSOURI

Game 12: Texas A&M (-3) over BAYLOR

Game 13: LOUISVILLE (-3) over South Florida

Game 14: Southern California (+4) over ARIZONA

Game 15: Nevada (-8.5) over FRESNO STATE

Game 16: YALE (-14) over Princeton

Not enough time to get the UConn-Pitt game into the picks. But, with the current line at UConn +5.5, I think I'd take the Huskies.

Last week's results (tough week. only one over .500)

1. Caleb Mandrake 8-3

2. Chip 5-6

GovPhalen 5-6

Gabe 5-6

Gary 5-6

6. Pete 4-7

Walt 4-7

Vinny 4-7

9. Ian 3-8

Sammy 3-8

11. B-Stew 2-9


1. Pete 63-55-4

2. Caleb Mandrake 62-56-4

3. Ian 60-58-4

Gabe 60-58-4

Gary 60-58-4

6. B-Stew 58-60-4

Chip 58-60-4

8. Vinny from East Haven 56-62-4

governorphalen 52-66-4

10. sammy 48-70-4

11. opposite guy 16-7-1

12. Walt 15-19-1

13. Uconnbob 12-9-1

14. SeanO 8-15-1

15. The Cat 6-5

16. harper 6-6

17. Weird Sal 6-6

18. Rollo V. 5-6-1

19. Huskyraymond 5-8

20. BostonDan 3-7-1

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

UConn injury report

Sounds like the Huskies have healed nicely. Jimmy Bennett is still out and so is Alex Kantor. Other than that, it's just the guys who are out for the season (Smallwood, Campbell, Wylie).

UConn-Pittsburgh podcast

The podcast returns. Don Boyle of Sportingnewsct.com and I discuss the return of Zach Frazer, Pittsburgh and all things UConn.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Campbell arrested on larceny charges

Just took a look at the arrest report. Here are the details.

Campbell, 22, of Bloomfield, was arrested just before 11 a.m. Monday pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the Superior Court of Tolland County subsequent to an investigation by UConn Police.

On Sept. 29, Campbell took a backpack that did not belong to him, the arrest report states. It contained a lap top computer, and other items, valued at $876. No bond was posted, and Campbell is due in Rockville Superior Court on Nov. 17.

Campbell, out for the season with a knee injury, was suspended for a violation of team policies last week. Sources indicated that violation was due to Campbell slacking on his schoolwork. On the surface, it appears the arrest had nothing to do with the previous suspension, but that is unclear now.

Campbell is almost certainly finished with football at UConn. His grades have been an on-going issue, but an arrest like this probably means the end. Edsall has dismissed players in the past for similar episodes (Marvin Taylor).

Report: Campbell arrested

The UConn Daily Campus is reporting that Marcus Campbell has been arrested and charged with fifth-degree larceny today.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Enjoy the Sunday notes

Here's a rundown of the Sunday happenings at the Shenkman Center
  • Nick Williams will be returning kickoffs with Kashif Moore this week, a change that isn't on the depth chart.

  • It's a must-win game if the Huskies want any chance to remain in contention to win the league title. Pitt is a full two games ahead in the standings, a big enough hole to climb out of. Three would be insurmountable. "I told the guys if you want to get to where you want to get you have to beat this team," Edsall said. "If we don't beat them, they have a three-game lead."

  • Edsall on Frazer. "Things come up that you don't have a lot of control over, especially competition at the position. The thing I like about what he did, I told him you have to stay ready because your number can come up at any time and he did. He stayed mentally sharp. I think he has a lot of confidence. He knows what he can do. He's practiced well this week, and practiced well when he was No. 2. I've never seen the confidence go down. Now that he has this opportunity, I think he'll take the ball and run with it."

  • Edsall watched Joe Paterno win his 400th game Saturday, and wrote him a note of congratulations today. I can only imagine it was written in long hand -- just don't see JoePa texting. Or even emailing.

  • The week off allowed UConn to heal (see Nick Williams). The Huskies won't practice Monday, only meetings, but will come back on Tuesday. "It did help us from an injury standpoint," Edsall said.

  • Coaching is a people business, and Edsall feels he knows his players well enough to know who can handle praise and who can't. Sio Moore is one, Edsall thinks, can't handle it, which is why he's been as hard on him as he has despite a pretty good game against West Virginia. "You go back and look at the film," Edsall said. "A lot of the reason he got so many tackles was because he was so far out of place. Maybe he set it up to get himself more tackles." The last part was said tongue-in-cheek.

  • Asked to comment on Big East expansion, and TCU in particular, Edsall wouldn't bite. He has no say, and says he'll probably find out when everyone else in the country does.

  • Robbie Frey is feeling better. He won't be returning kicks, but Edsall thinks he can get Frey more involved in the offense this week to spell Todman a bit. Frey is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart.

  • Isiah Moore reclaimed a starting wide receiver spot. It was a combination of Moore doing good things and Difton not getting the job done.

  • Kendall Reyes spent considerable time at defensive tackle, but is back as the starter at end this week. It's a matchup thing, Edsall said. Edsall also liked what he saw from Teddy Jennings, and took into account the Huskies would be better off conserving Shamar Stephen's energy in a part-time role.

  • There's still some lingering health issues with Mike Box. Edsall doesn't speak on injuries, but said Box is still in the red jersey. The kids are evaluated every day. Box has been practicing with the 2's, and Edsall is "pretty certain" he'll be cleared for Thursday. Box is closer to being cleared to probable than being doubtful. That said, Frazer is still the starting quarterback no matter what Thursday, and, as long as he's healthy and productive, will remain in that capacity the rest of the way.

  • The dormitory spy problem has been taken care of, according to UConn sports communications director Mike Enright. Edsall joked about the situation. "Give the guy credit. He knows something about football. It was all truthful and accurate." Someone else asked if Edsall had the spy running 6 a.m. sprints. "I tell you what, if I could get him, I'd get his butt down here at 6 a.m. and I guarantee you he would never write another article," Edsall said with a laugh.

Zach Frazer to start

Frazer gets the nod against Pitt. Mike Box listed as backup.

More notes from the Tuesday, I mean, Sunday press luncheon.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The picks, week 10

I have been seriously slacking with my weekly picks commentary. And, of course, that's the reason my record has taken a serious dip. Not going to be able to make fun of anyone or anything this week either. Maybe next week, I hope.

Here's the quick picks. Be like my old buddy Opposite Guy if you're looking to move quickly up the standings. He's participated twice this season, and won both times. He's like a contestant on The Price is Right. I assume he scans my picks on any given week, can see they clearly suck, and bids $1 by simply picking the exact opposite. Maybe I should stick to Plinko.

Game 1: CLEMSON (-3.5) over North Carolina State
Game 2: SYRACUSE (-6) over Louisville
Game 3: Baylor (+7.5) over OKLAHOMA STATE
Game 4: Arkansas (+4) over SOUTH CAROLINA
Game 5: Oklahoma (-3) over TEXAS A&M
Game 6: Arizona (+9.5) over STANFORD
Game 7: Texas Christian (-5) over UTAH
Game 8: TEXAS TECH (+4) over Missouri
Game 9: Alabama (-6.5) over LOUISIANA STATE
Game 10: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (-5.5) over Arizona State
Game 11: Yale (-1.5) over BROWN

There you have it. Because UConn is playing Pitt on Thursday, the weekly Tuesday media luncheon has been moved up to Sunday, so check back then for the notes.

And be sure to have your pets spayed or neutered.

Last week's results.
1. Opposite guy: 8-3
Gary 8-3
3. BStew 7-4
4. the cat 6-5
Gabe 6-5
Pete 6-5
7. Sammy 5-6
caleb 5-6
ian 5-6
10. Govphalen 4-7
11. vinny 3-8
chip 3-8

1. Pete 59-48-4
2. Ian 57-50-4
3. B-Stew 56-51-4
4. Gabe 55-52-4
Gary 55-52-4
6. Caleb Mandrake 54-53-4
7. Chip 53-54-4
8. Vinny from East Haven 52-55-4
9. Gary 47-60-4
governorphalen 47-60-4
10. sammy 45-62-4
11. opposite guy 16-7-1
12. Uconnbob 12-9-1
13. Walt 11-12-1
14. SeanO 8-15-1
15. The Cat 6-5
16. harper 6-6
17. Weird Sal 6-6
18. Rollo V. 5-6-1
19. Huskyraymond 5-8
20. BostonDan 3-7-1

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Campbell suspended for academics

Marcus Campbell was suspended, per university release today. Campbell is out for the year with a knee injury.

UPDATE: Sources have indicated Campbell's suspension is related to his slacking off on academics. Campbell has gone through major academic issues since enrolling, including being academically dismissed last year. The semester isn't over, and this was Edsall's call.

STORRS, Conn. (November 3, 2010) – University of Connecticut junior defensive end Marcus Campbell (Bloomfield, Conn.) has been suspended from the football team for an indefinite period of time due to a violation of team policies. There will be no further comment on this matter from the University.