Saturday, September 15, 2012

UConn picks up gutsy victory

When the week began all the focus was centered on the UConn players' upcoming reunion with their former head coach Randy Edsall's University of Maryland Terrapins.

When it ended all the attention was on a weakened UConn defense looking to hold on for an emotional victory in the Huskies' 2012 road opener.

It wasn't pretty but UConn did leave Byrd Stadium with a 24-21 victory which was not secured until Maryland quarterback Perry Hills' fourth-down pass into the end zone was incomplete with 17 seconds to play.

Making the win all the more impressive is that senior cornerback and two-year captain Blidi Wreh-Wilson did not play because of a tender hamstring, fellow captain and starting right offensive guard Adam Masters missed the game due to a stomach bug which hit the UConn team in the last 48 hours and also sapped the energy from defensive stalwarts like linebacker Sio Moore and cornerback Dwayne Gratz.

"If one person gets sick everybody does it is like a family," UConn senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth said. "It (the win) was sketchy. I would have liked it to be a little better but we got the win. Coach (Don) Brown (UConn's defensive coordinator) always tells us that there is always going to be adversity. It is how we rise up and come together. We did that and got the job done today. I am proud of all my guys."

UConn held Maryland to eight yards of offense in the first quarter but by game's end the Huskies were holding on against an offensive unit led by true freshmen Perry Hills (quarterback), Stefon Diggs (receiver) and Wes Brown (running back).

"It was a great feeling, everybody was real excited," said sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who had 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for losses and a forced fumble. "We came out here we were on the road, came out and got a big victory. Everybody knew they had to step up, everybody had to make that one play. If there was one play, they had to make that play if it was special teams, if it was defense everybody knew they had to make that one play."

The win may have come at a cost as starting defensive end Jesse Joseph had to be helped off the team with what UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni thought was an Achilles injury. Pasqualoni said the injury did not look good but he wouldn't know for sure until he hears from the UConn medical staff.

"We have to evaluate that," Pasqualoni said. "That is going to be tough if we lose Jesse."

After the game there was a surreal scene as Pasqualoni could barely be heard in the post-game press conference as Maryland broadcasts Edsall's press conference on the big screens inside Byrd Stadium and blasts the volume so people in the stadium can hear what Edsall said.

Pasqualoni chuckled when he was asked whether it was fitting that he would be overshadowed by Edsall once again this week since so much attention was paid to the storyline of Edsall facing his former team for the first time.

"Randy is fine," Pasqualoni said. "I know Randy I was in the room with Randy every day for four years (when both were assistant coaches at Syracuse). Coaches move around in this day and age, it is nothing unusual. I think they handled it big league. I think we have guys who act with class and they are good kids."

Pasqualoni chose his words carefully when the topic turned to a call and non-call by the officials in the second half.

The first one came after UConn forced a punt and appeared to be taking over at its own 6. Following a television timeout Maryland suddenly had a first down on the UConn 29. Pasqualoni said that a personal protector was called for getting his hands up into the facemask on a rushing Maryland player. Just three plays later freshman receiver Stefon Diggs snared a deflected pass out of the air for a 29-yard touchdown. Mack was whistled for defensive pass interference on the play although more than a few on the UConn sideline thought the call was going to be offensive pass interference. Pasqualoni said he plans on reviewing the play and if it occurred like he thinks it did he will be sending a copy of the top to the Big East.

"I have a lot of confidence in those guys. I think they are trying to get it right. I am not saying a word until I see it," Pasqualoni said.


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