It may be asking too much to hope that the UConn football team can stay close to fourth-ranked Cincinnati this Saturday night. Like the original cast of “Saturday Night Live,” they might be not-ready-for-prime-time players. Not just yet, anyway.
The game is scheduled to be televised on ABC-TV at 8 p.m. with venerable broadcaster Brent Musburger at the mike.
According to the UConn sports department, this is the first time a Big East team gets a national spotlight in regular season play since 2005, when Pittsburgh played Notre Dame.
The game will be one of three shown concurrently. The others are No. 12 USC against Arizona State and No. 20 Oklahoma playing Nebraska.
The undefeated Bearcats have outscored their eight opponents this season by an aggregate score of 313-103.
So, it’s doubtful that UConn’s second trip to Ohio this season will be as successful as the Huskies’ first, when they defeated Ohio University 23-16 in the season opener.
Logically, UConn shouldn’t be able to keep up with the Big East leader.
And it’s doubtful the Huskies will have to deal with yet another fourth-quarter lead squandered before the final gun, because Cincinnati’s firepower should test even the tough defense for which Edsall’s teams have become noted.
But the thing about sports and sports fans, is that logic doesn’t always prevail.
If in some way, head coach Randy Edsall could extract a win from this squad of young men who have endured more than most teams are expected to – namely, burying a murdered teammate – then surely the ghosts of last-minute letdowns will be exorcised.
The letdown wasn’t any more sudden and disheartening as occurred in the final 25 seconds this past Saturday afternoon when Rutgers scored on an 81-yard pass play to neutralize the seven points UConn had scored moments earlier, in what most thought would be a come-from-behind victory.
I’ve covered many games during the past four decades and consider myself a grizzled veteran, as it were, impervious to the ups and downs of W’s & L’s. But this one made me a bit teary-eyed as I watched the Rutgers receiver running untouched toward the end zone, and knew immediately it wasn’t just a loss, not even just a tough loss, but a totally heartrending loss in a game dedicated to the memory of Jasper Howard who had been laid to rest five days before the game.
Just a few minutes earlier, amid the bedlam of euphoria resounding through Rentschler Field after Jordan Todman had scored the go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds to play, I turned to the Rutgers photographer who happened to be next to me and was obviously dismayed by what appeared to be a late-game loss by the Scarlet Knights, I turned to him and said in consolation of sorts that, indeed, UConn had already lost three of these fourth-quarter heartbreakers earlier this season.
Little did I know that the consolation would once again have to be extended to the UConn faithful.
After that stunning loss, Edsall said, “We’ll just keep fighting. That’s all I know to do.”
Thursday, that resolve had been transferred to his players who Edsall said were excited and eager to take on the defending league champs, a team that has played its way into the rarefied atmosphere occupied by the likes of Texas and Florida and Alabama.
No one “in the know” is giving the Huskies a chance for a Saturday Night special, which would be the upset of this season in college football. No one, of course, except Edsall and his coaches and a gallant group of young men.
“I know no one on our team is going to give up or quit,” Todman said. “There are some teams where they get broken down and they keep losing and losing, thinking that maybe they’ll get hot and not continue to fight, but our team’s not like that. We’re going to fight on the field, we’re going to scratch and crawl. You have to be ready, you never know how the season is going to go,” he said.
Perhaps Nov. 7, 2009 will be circled as the night the UConn football team did, indeed, become prime time players on a national stage.
Posted Nov. 5, 2009