132-28 Just Three Games In

Going into the 2021 College Football season, I had reasonable expectations for the UConn Huskies football team. I expected to see some improvement after taking a season to rebuild during the COVID pandemic last year and begin to see signs of life going into the following season or two. My pre-season guess was 2-3 wins and more competency on both sides of the ball as the younger players matured throughout the year. Somehow, even with 2-3 win expectations for the season and just 3 games into a 12-game campaign, I’m already disappointed. It’s going to be a loooonnnggg fall and winter for the Huskies.

Through 3 games, my best guess was that the Huskies would be 1-2. I absolutely expected losses at Fresno State and at home against Purdue, because the UConn program doesn’t have the talent to compete with programs like that at this point, sadly. Getting shutout in both and having no run game was certainly a bit surprising, but definitely not shocking. The abysmal performance against FCS Holy Cross, however, was a gut-punch to the program that frankly doesn’t have much gut to punch.

Being outscored by 104 points in any 3-game stretch is just embarrassing and pathetic, especially when one of the teams is in a lower division, FCS. No offense to Holy Cross, but even a shitty UConn team should be able to beat them by 2 scores at a minimum and their flat performance perfectly describes the Randy Edsall era. During his 2nd stint with the program, Edsall ‘led’ the Huskies to a 6-32 record, continuing the spiral into oblivion rather than stabilizing and beginning the long rebuild. Of those 6 wins, 3 were against FCS opponents (Holy Cross in 2017, URI in 2018, and Wagner in 2019) and all three of those games were decided by 1 score.

What has this UConn Huskies program accomplished since the BCS Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010? Have they done anything to earn a spot in FBS? I am in no way advocating for a drop to FCS, but it’s getting harder and harder to hold that line with each passing year. Since the 2012 season, UConn has won more than 3 games 1 time and that was the 2015 6-7 team that lost to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl under Bob Diaco. Since 2015, the program hasn’t even sniffed a bowl game or a winning record (and even with 6 wins in 2015 they didn’t have a winning record).

There is at least some renewed hope with the “stepping down” of Randy Edsall, but there is a a solid chance this team pulls a completely defeated season like the 2008 Detroit Lions (led by former UConn QB Dan Orlovsky). I thought the program had already hit rock-bottom, but now am wondering if the worst is yet to come. The mammoth issue going forward, even if you bring in a top coach and recruiter, is how long will it take to truly rebuild and transform this roster. It’s not like the Huskies are one or two pieces away from being a contender, they need help at almost every position on the roster.

For anyone who has even casually watched a game or followed the team over the last decade, nothing I’m writing is even mildly surprising or even new. This team is bad and they have been for a long time under a series of bad coaches and limited talent. For more reasons than I can count, UConn will never be a national power program. All I’m asking for, and all most fans are asking for, is a competitive team that has a chance to make a low-level bowl most years. Those are pretty low expectations that aren’t even close to being met.

The Randy Edsall 2.0 Experiment is Finally Over

In what felt likely an oddly timed announcement, Randy Edsall declared to the world after losing to FCS Holy Cross that at the end of the 2021 season he would be retiring as the UConn Football coach. Then, just days later, it’s announced that Edsall is stepping down as the head coach effective immediately in a “mutual decision” between Athletic Director David Benedict and Edsall. Like his first tenure with the Huskies, the ending of UConn and Edsall 2.0 is messy and odd. There is one thing Edsall is consistently good at: leaving programs in unceremonious ways.

As a fan of the Huskies football program, I’m not unhappy with the turn of events the last few days. I was relieved when I heard the news that Edsall would retire at the end of the season because frankly he’s done absolutely nothing to turn this program around in his second stint as head coach. There was so much hype and hope after canceling last season and seemingly taking the surprise extra time to work on fundamentals and strengthening the players within the program. There was a buzz around recruiting within the new independent schedule and it appeared as if we might see an improved team in 2021, even if there was still plenty of room for growth. Unfortunately, the first two games proved that there has been very little, if any, progress to show for the year without games. In some ways, they took a massive step backward.

From my vantage point, it feels like Edsall realized his job was on the line after getting blown out by Fresno State and losing in embarrassing fashion to FCS Holy Cross, so in an effort to save face by putting an end date on his career and controlling the narrative, he made the retirement announcement. It wouldn’t shock me if David Benedict wasn’t pleased with that move and made it clear that the product on the field wasn’t acceptable. Benedict was probably planning, or at least considering, letting Edsall go in the short term and gave him the choice to step down and leave gracefully or be fired. If I’m the AD at UConn after Saturday’s performance, Edsall’s on the next bus out of town.

Ultimately, a change needed to happen and the quicker it happens, the quicker the program can begin to rebound and get a new head coach with a new direction, hopefully a successful one. For now, defensive coordinator Lou Spanos will lead the Huskies, presumably at least until the end of the season. Benedict now gets a chance to at least see what Lou can do as head coach to determine if he should be seriously considered for the permanent gig. Who knows what the future will hold, but the present is messy.

3 Takeaways from UConn Football’s Embarrassing Loss to Holy Cross

After beginning the season in difficult conditions against a very good Fresno State team and getting blown out, everyone was looking forward to facing a much easier FCS opponent in Holy Cross. The home opener was sure to be more interesting and maybe even get the Huskies into the W column, but Holy Cross had other plans. After a tightly contested first half, Holy Cross made a 3rd quarter statement and pulled away for the upset over the Huskies. Let’s look at 3 major takeaways from the game.

Jack Zergiotis Pocket Awareness and Mistakes

Overall, QB Jack Zergiotis made some better throws and showed off his talent more in this game after a weak performance at Fresno State. That being said, he again made some major mistakes leading to Holy Cross points and complete momentum shifts. For the 2nd straight week, Zergiotis was strip-sacked leading to a defensive fumble recovery. Last week the defense took the ball for a TD, this week their subsequent drive resulted in a TD. In both cases he was completely unaware of the pressure he was under and chose to leave the ball unprotected, which is just asking for trouble.

This week Zergiotis had a major problem with interceptions as well. He threw 3 INTs, including 2 in the 2nd half, and halted any chance of a comeback the Huskies had. He needs to clean up the mistakes if he wants to have any success at the collegiate level. If he turns the ball over 4 times against the Crusaders, how bad will it get against better FBS defenses?

While frustrating, he did throw for 174 yards and appeared to have some great chemistry with freshman Keelan Marion hitting him for 2 TDs including a 50-yard strike and a nice back of the end zone catch. This was a big step forward from game 1, but is overshadowed by the mistakes.

Disappointing Running Game

This one makes me scratch my head more than anything else with this team. The Huskies have one of the better RBs in recent history within a program that has produced some solid RBs and for some reason, can’t get any consistent running game going through 2 weeks. Kevin Mensah was poised to carry this offense in 2021 and to this point, he’s been a flop. In 2 games he has rushed for 109 yards on 32 attempts, a mediocre 3.4 yards per carry.

RB Nate Carter hasn’t exactly been lighting it up either backing up Mensah. He has gained just 38 yards on 13 attempts, an even worse 2.9 yards per carry. The issue seems to be with the offense line run blocking, which hasn’t been good. Against Fresno State, it makes sense why the line was outmatched, but to not be able to open holes against an FCS opponent is concerning. Usually one of the big differences between FCS and FBS teams are the offensive and defensive lines. It was clear on Saturday that UConn’s offensive line didn’t have a significant advantage over the Holy Cross defensive line and now 2 weeks in, run blocking is a clear weakness on this team.

If the running game continues to struggle, it will get harder for Zergiotis and the offense to have consistency and balance and we’ll see more single-digit scoring totals this year than we want.

Defense Giving Up the Big Play at the Wrong Time

For whatever reason, the Huskies defense continues to give up big plays to the opposing offense at the most inopportune times. The biggest in this game was the 76-yard scramble by Holy Cross QB Matthew Slutka. The Huskies defense missed several tackles on the 4th quarter run that led to a TD and a 10-pt lead for the Crusaders, putting the game away. Tackling fundamentals seemed to be missing and point to a lack of execution. I’m not sure if the coaching staff is not getting through to the players or the players are just making mental mistakes, but they will have a hard time winning anything if they continue to allow average quarterbacks free reign.

Even the best offenses can’t overcome continual scoring pressure from the opposing team and this is definitely not the best offense. The defense needs to contain the opposition and limit the quick-hitters to give themselves the best chance to hand the ball back to the offense without allowing points. If they held Sluka on that drive, they would have had a chance to give Zergiotis the ball back in a one score game with a chance to tie or win in the 4th quarter.


It was certainly not the result the Huskies wanted and it really puts the idea of a completely defeated season back on the table. Randy Edsall needs to get his team settled and prepped for a tough home matchup with Purdue on Saturday at 3pm.

UConn at Fresno State Football Preview – Saturday at 2pm (CBSSN)

On Saturday afternoon, UConn football will make its long-awaited return to the field after a almost 2-year hiatus. Since becoming the first FBS school to cancel their 2020 season in wake of the COVID pandemic on August 5th, 2020, Randy Edsall has been looking ahead to the 2021 season and getting back on the field. Edsall has been a busy man since they last played a game, mostly working to improve the roster on the recruiting trail and replacing the wave of 19 transfers who left the program at the end of 2019 after a 2-10 season. Without a lot of information and a host of new faces, let’s take a look at the season opener on Saturday for the Huskies.

Overview

The first game will probably look pretty familiar to anyone who has seen UConn play over the last several seasons. The Huskies travel to Fresno State to play the Bulldogs as nearly 4 TD underdogs (-27.5). The Bulldogs are expected to contend for the Mountain West Conference (MWC) Championship this year and return to their regularly-scheduled bowl appearances. Over the last 10 seasons, they have made a bowl game in 6 of them, including winning the MWC 3-times over that span.

Fresno State is led by a pair of seniors on the offensive side of the ball. RB Ronnie Rivers, who has a career average of 5.2 yards per carry, and QB Jake Haener, who complete 64.7% of his passes in the shortened season last year while throwing for 2,000+ yards and 14 TDs. With the over/under set at 62.5, the experts are predicting a lot of offense and some shaky defense on both sides, making the offenses the focus of the day.

Offense

The Huskies have some familiar names on offense as well. They are led by senior RB Kevin Mensah, who despite all the Ls in his career, has amassed 2,619 yards and 19 TD in 35 games, including back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2018 and 2019. He’ll line up beside either a sophomore QB, but which one remains unknown. QBs Steven Krajewski and Jack Zergiotis have been battling for the starting job all spring and Randy Edsall refused to name a starter when the depth chart was released. I think Zergiotis is likely to see the first snap of the game, but after that, who knows.

The QBs will have at least 1 really strong target in the passing game in WR Cam Ross. He was a surprise star in his freshman season, leading the Huskies with 60 catches and 723 receiving yards. The #2 receiver is another sophomore (red-shirt), Heron Maurisseau, who had just 10 catches for 113 yards in 2019, but has had a few encouraging moments that make me think the potential is there. The other receiving option is senior Southington-native Jay Rose, who has just 278 yards on 28 receptions in his career, but had his best season in 2019.

Defense

It’s a very young defense for the Huskies, with just 1 senior and 4 juniors in the starting lineup, so frankly, I’m not sure what to expect except lots of opponent yards. The line has size, starting DTs are a combined 613 lbs, and may be the most solid grouping on that side of the ball. The secondary scares me quite a bit, but I’ll reserve judgment until I can see them more in a live game. It may be tough to really judge the D in week 1, but hopefully there will be positive signs pointing towards the future.

Special Teams

There isn’t much to say here except they are very, very young – sense a theme? The Huskies have 2 kickers and 1 punter on the depth chart for the game and all 3 are true freshman. Joe McFadden is the starting kicker against Fresno State and the punter is listed as Haydn Kerr or Joe McFadden, so that will be interesting to watch. I’m guessing there will be a number of punts in the game, so lots of work to go around.


Prediction

Fresno State 49, UConn Huskies 21

While the first game of the season is normally difficult to predict, this one is especially tough. Between a huge turnover at the end of 2019 and a full season hiatus, I’m not sure whether to expect a young hungry UConn team looking to prove themselves or a rusty, continuation of the last few seasons with sloppy play throughout. Overall I don’t expect much this season and especially don’t expect much at Fresno State in week 1. I think the Huskies barely miss covering the -27.5, but they don’t get completely embarrassed.