CONNECTICUT HEAD COACH RANDY EDSALL
A veteran in his 24th year of major college coaching with three years in the NFL, Edsall has tackled the challenge of bringing a former NCAA Division I-AA team up to par with the BIG EAST in a six year span head on, guiding the Huskies to victory in the 2004 Motor City Bowl. He has compiled a 40-47 career record in his eighth season at UConn, including wins in 29 of UConn’s last 46 games. He is 3-1 vs. Rutgers. Immediately prior to becoming UConn’s head coach in 1998, Edsall served as defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 1998 under George O’Leary. Edsall began his coaching career at his alma mater, Syracuse, from 1980-1990, working under Frank Maloney and Dick MacPherson in a variety of capacities. Among his highlights at Syracuse was being a part of the 1987 team that went undefeated at 11-0-1, tying Auburn, 16-16, in the Sugar Bowl. Edsall moved on to Boston College where he coached defensive backs under Tom Coughlin from 1991-93 before following Coughlin to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, staying on the First Coast through the 1997 season. Edsall is a native of Glen Rock, Pa., and graduated from Susquehannock High School. Last winter, he was inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame.
RUTGERS HEAD COACH GREG SCHIANO
Greg Schiano is 26-39 in his sixth year as head coach at Rutgers and is 1-3 against UConn. Last year he led Rutgers to its first bowl berth since 1978. Prior to returning to his native New Jersey, Schiano served as the defensive coordinator at Miami in 1999 and 2000 under Butch Davis. The Hurricanes went a combined 20-5 those years, including a No. 2 national finish in 2000 after a 37-20 Nokia Sugar Bowl win over Florida. Schiano served as an assistant with the Chicago Bears from 1996-98 and worked at Penn State under Joe Paterno from 1990-96, coaching the Nittany Lion secondary. Penn State made six bowl appearances during this time, including the 1992 Fiesta Bowl and the 1995 Rose Bowl, which capped a 12-0 season. He also served as a graduate assistant at Rutgers in 1989 and an assistant coach at Ramapo High School in 1988. Schiano was an All-Patriot League linebacker at Bucknell, from where he graduated in 1988. He is a native of Wyckoff, N.J. and a graduate of Ramapo High School.
RADIO & TV COVERAGE
The Huskies will make their second consecutive primetime ESPN appearance on Sunday. Gary Thorne (play-by-play), Trevor Matich (color), Rod Gilmore (color) and Todd Harris (sidelines) have the call.
For the 15th consecutive season, WTIC 1080-AM in Hartford serves as the flagship station for the UConn Radio Network. WTIC is the state’s only 50,000 watt signal and can be heard in 23 states and parts of Canada. Veteran UConn announcers Joe D’Ambrosio (play-by-play) and Wayne Norman (color commentary) return to call the action with Kevin Nathan on the sidelines. The UConn pregame show begins 90 minutes prior to kickoff and is hosted by Bob Joyce, while at home games, the UConn Tailgate Show will air two and a half hours prior to the game with Arnold Dean. The UConn Football Radio Network also includes WILI 1400-AM in Willimantic, WXLM, 102.3-FM in New London, WLIS 1420-AM in Old Saybrook, WMRD 1150-AM in Middletown, WICC 600-AM in Bridgeport and WLAD 800-AM in Danbury. UConn football games are also broadcast over the internet at WTIC.com.
THESE BADLANDS ARE TREATING US GOOD
Saturday will mark the 26th meeting between UConn and Rutgers in a series that dates back to 1940. The Scarlet Knights hold a 17-8 edge, but the Huskies have won three of the four meetings in recent years and both of the two recent meetings in New Jersey. All four of the recent meetings have been settled by a touchdown or less. On Nov. 25, 2004, the Huskies took a 41-35 decision at Rutgers Stadium on Thanksgiving morning. On Sept. 29, 2001, the teams met for the first time since 1983, and the Huskies produced a thrilling, 20-19, win in Piscataway. That win was UConn’s first ever over a member of the BIG EAST Conference. UConn defeated Rutgers, 38-31, on Nov. 8, 2003 at Rentschler Field but the Scarlet Knights got a measure of revenge with a 26-24 win in East Hartford last Oct. 22. Prior to the 2001 contest, Rutgers had won six straight meetings dating back to a 9-7 UConn win in 1974.
SPRUNG FROM CAGES ON HIGHWAY NINE
The UConn roster features five players from New Jersey in Donald Brown II (Atlantic Highlands), Dan Davis (Plainfield), Andre Dixon (New Brunswick), Alex LaMagdelaine (Rumson), Justin Lattimore (Morris Plains) and Robert Theoudele (Willingboro). In addition to being from New Jersey, Lattimore transferred to UConn from Monmouth University in West Long Branch...The Scarlet Knights have one player from Connecticut in Kyle Kummer (New Britain)... There are also a combined 37 Floridians between the two teams, most of them hailing from Dade and Broward Counties (metro Miami/Fort Lauderdale)...Amongst coaching staff connections, UConn defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos is a native of Long Valley, N.J. and a graduate of West Morris Central High School who coached at Rutgers from 2001-03...Rutgers wide receivers coach John McNulty held the same position at UConn from 1995-97 under Skip Holtz...UConn offensive line coach Mike Foley worked alongside RU Assistant to the Head Coach Robert Fraser at Colgate from 1998-2005. Foley was also offensive coordinator at Harvard from 1994-95 when Rutgers offensive coordinator Craig ver Steeg was the Crimson’s quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. Ver Steeg was an assistant at Cincinnati in 1993 when Hank Hughes was with the Bearcats as their defensive coordinator...Rutgers assistant Darren Rizzi is very familiar with the Nutmeg State having served as the head coach at New Haven from 1999 to 2001 and an assistant there from 1994-97...Rutgers linebackers coach Phil Galiano coached at New Haven in 2001...Rutgers director of speed and skill development Chris Hewitt played at Cincinnati in 1993 when Hughes coached there.
SEVEN NIGHTS TO ROCK
UConn has been no stranger to playing on dates other than Saturday since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 2004 and seen some success in those games. The Huskies are 6-4 in their previous non-Saturday games and 1-1 in 2006, beating Rhode Island on a Thursday (Aug. 31) and losing to West Virginia on a Friday (Oct. 20). Including three scheduled non-Saturday games in 2006, UConn will have played on every day of the week but Tuesday over the past three seasons. By season’s end, the Huskies will have taken to the field on a Sunday (2006 at Rutgers), Monday (2004 Motor City Bowl vs. Toledo), Wednesday (2004 vs. West Virginia, 2005 at West Virginia), Thursday (2004 vs. Pittsburgh, 2004 at Rutgers, 2005 vs. Buffalo, 2006 vs. Rhode Island) and Friday (2004 at Boston College, 2005 vs. Syracuse, 2006 vs. West Virginia). Prior to 2004, UConn had not played on a weekday since 1982 when it faced Delaware on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS
This week, UConn is facing a ranked Division I-A team for the ninth time overall and looking for its first such win. No. 16 Rutgers is UConn’s second ranked team of the season and its second in as many weeks after falling, 37-11, to No. 4 West Virginia last weekend. This game marks the first time UConn has ever faced ranked I-A teams in consecutive weeks. At No. 4, WVU was the second highest ranked team that UConn had ever faced. The Huskies fell by a 48-14 score on Oct. 5, 2002 against No. 1 Miami at the Orange Bowl. UConn faced a record three ranked teams a year ago, losing to Georgia Tech, West Virginia and Louisville.
TAKING THE HARD ROAD
UConn’s 2006 schedule is presently rated as the nation’s toughest by the NCAA. UConn’s Division I-A opponents have a combined record of 44-22 (.667) thus far, placing the Huskies ahead of second-place Cincinnati (45-24, .652). UConn comes out second when factoring in Division I-AA foes, as that mark for UConn stands at 53-27 (.663) behind only Minnesota (58-27, .682). On the I-A only chart, UConn’s opponents to date are 21-11 (.656), placing the Huskies seventh nationally, and the road will stay tough. Also using the I-A only chart, UConn’s future schedule is 15th in the nation at 23-11 (.676). Before the regular season ends on Dec. 2, UConn will play two current Top 25 teams in No. 6 Louisville and No. 16 Rutgers. Though it is still October, five of UConn’s 11 Division I-A opponents (Wake Forest, West Virginia, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Louisville) are already bowl eligible while two more, Navy and USF, each have five wins thus far and need only one more to become eligible for a bowl bid.
THE PROMISED LAND
At 7-0 on Oct. 29, Rutgers will represent the latest into a Division I-A season that UConn has faced an undefeated opponent. The old record hasn’t exactly gathered much dust as it was set on Oct. 20 when UConn faced 6-0 West Virginia. Prior to these last two games, the latest UConn had faced an undefeated team in the I-A era was when the Huskies faced No.1 Miami (4-0) on Oct. 5, 2002 at the Orange Bowl. UConn faced a 3-0 team in No. 5 Virginia Tech on Sept. 27, 2003 in Blacksburg.
HUSKIES ON THE REBOUND
UConn is now 12-5 in games following a loss since Oct. 26, 2002 and 3-1 in 2006 on the heels of a 21-7 win over Army on Oct. 14 that followed a 38-16 loss at USF on Oct. 7. Earlier this year on Sept. 23, UConn posted a 14-7 win at Indiana, in a contest which followed a 24-13 loss to Wake Forest. Also, UConn topped Rhode Island, 52-7, in its 2006 season opener on Aug. 31 after the Huskies dropped their 2005 season finale to No. 17 Louisville, 30-20, on Dec. 3 at Rentschler Field. UConn did fall to USF, 38-16, a week after losing 41-17 to Navy on Sept. 30.
EVERY GAME IS GETTING SHORTER, NEVER SEEM TO FIND THE TIME
Much has been made on a national level of the NCAA’s new rules designed to quicken the pace of college football games. What is the early impact for the Huskies? The game against Rhode Island took just 3:04 to complete, making it the shortest televised UConn game since Sept. 17, 2004 when ESPN2 broadcast UConn’s game at Boston College. UConn’s 13 televised games over the two-year span between the BC and URI games averaged 3:26 and included six games that took in excess of 3:30 to play. The Army game, which was not televised, took just 2:44 to complete. In terms of on-field action over the first seven games, UConn has run an average of 67.1 plays and opponents ran 61.9 for a combined average of 129.0 snaps. A year ago, UConn averaged 72.1 plays per game and opponents 66.5 for a total of 138.6.
CONNECTICUT'S THIRD MOST SUCCESSFUL FOUR-YEAR RUN EVER
The Huskies have posted .500 or better seasons in three of the school's first four Division I-A seasons, finishing at 6-6 in 2002, 9-3 in 2003, 8-4 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. Remarkable given the obstacles of the school's transition to Division I-A, the 28 combined wins over the 2002-05 seasons equal the third winningest four-year span in school history. UConn has twice won 30 games over a four year span, going 30-14 from 1986-89 and 30-16 from 1995-98. The Huskies also recorded 28 wins over a four-year span from 1987-90 when the team went 28-16.
HUSKIES EARN HIGH MARKS AT OBEDIENCE SCHOOL
UConn was a disciplined squad in 2005 as the Huskies led the BIG EAST in 2005 in fewest penalty yards at 47.2 per game (519 yards in 11 games). This average ranked 23rd in the nation. In addition, UConn’s 68 penalties on the year narrowly ranked second in the league, just one behind Syracuse’s conference-low total of 67 accepted infractions. UConn has started 2006 in the same fashion, leading the BIG EAST with just 32 penalties on the year for 281 yards. The Huskies are 12th and 24th in the nation respectively in those categories.
IT’S THE BIG 5-0!!!
The Connecticut football team played its 50th game as an official Division I-A program on September 23 at Indiana as the Huskies topped the Hoosiers 14-7. The Huskies made their I-A debut on Aug. 31, 2002 with a 24-16 loss at Boston College and overall posted a 30-20 (.600) record through 50 games as a I-A program. The Huskies picked up wins during this span over four of the six BCS Conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Big 12) and recorded a bowl game victory, cruising past MAC Champion Toledo, 39-10, in the 2004 Motor City Bowl. Remarkably, despite UConn’s neophyte I-A status, lack of depth due to the transition, and facing the toughest schedules in school history, UConn has enjoyed some of its greatest successes of 108 years of football in the time since 2002. The school’s 28 wins from 2002-05 mark the third winningest four-year span in UConn history. Here are some numbers that reflect UConn’s great early success as a I-A program with UConn out gaining its opponents by 83 yards per game and outscoring its opposition by an average of eight points per game:
HOME RECORD: 19-8 (16-5 at Rentschler Field)
TOTAL OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE: 19,939 (398.8 ypg) vs. 15,760 (315.2 ypg)
NCAA TOP 10: Total Offense (8th in 2003), Total Defense (7th in 2005)
SCORING OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE: 1,495 (29.9 ppg) vs. 1,079 (21.6 ppg)
50-POINT GAMES FOR/AGAINST: 6/0
SHUTOUTS FOR/AGAINST: 4/1
30-POINT MARGINS OF VICTORY FOR/AGAINST: 11/3
HOME ATTENDANCE (PCT OF CAPACITY): 908,555 (96.9%)
THEY’VE SEEN IT ALL: A total of just 16 UConn staffers were in attendance for all 50 of UConn’s Division I-A games. They are Rob Ambrose (coach), Dr. Jeffrey Anderson (physician), Eric Christian (coach), Joe D’Ambrosio (radio announcer) Randy Edsall (coach), Mike Enright (communications), Bob Howard (trainer), Hank Hughes (coach), Lyndon Johnson (coach), Jerry Martin (strength and conditioning), Dave McMichael (coach), Wayne Norman (radio announcer), Todd Orlando (coach), Terry Richardson (coach), Chris Stasaitis (equipment) and Leigh Torbin (communications).
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BIG EAST!
Much maligned in the media in recent years, the BIG EAST Conference has enjoyed a tremendous 2006 season on the field and is beginning to earn respect. The league’s eight football schools went a combined 32-8 (.800) in non-conference action, including an 11-7 mark against other BCS conferences. The BIG EAST is 5-3 against the ACC and 2-0 against the SEC while playing even against the Big Ten (3-3) and Big 12 (1-1). The league collectively has not faced any Pac-10 squads this year...There are just seven remaining undefeated teams in the nation and three of them are from the BIG EAST (Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia). The only other league with as many as two is the Big Ten (Michigan and Ohio State)...At the other end of the spectrum, of the 11 Division I-A conferences, the BIG EAST is the only league in which each of its members has won at least three games so far this year. In fact, two of the six BCS leagues still have a winless team (ACC-Duke and Pac-10-Stanford) while Colorado of the Big 12 has just one win this year. The Big Ten and SEC both still have a pair of two-win squads in Illinois and Northwestern (Big Ten) and Ole Miss Mississippi State (SEC)...Meanwhile, Rutgers has cracked the top 25 for the first time in 30 years, giving the league three ranked teams along with No. 4 West Virginia and No. 6 Louisville.
TOTAL NON-CONFERENCE VS. BCS CONFERENCES
SEC 30-7 (.811) Pac-10 5-3 (.625)
BIG EAST 32-8 (.800) BIG EAST 11-7 (.611)
Big Ten 29-11 (.725) Big Ten 6-4 (.600)
Big 12 33-15 (.688) SEC 5-6 (.455)
ACC 26-12 (.684) ACC 4-6 (.400)
Pac-10 19-9 (.679) Big 12 3-8 (.272)
RARE UNLUCKY 11
When UConn lost 37-11 to West Virginia on Oct. 20, the score was more than just a little unusual. It marked the first time that UConn had scored 11 points in a game since a 12-11 loss to Temple on Oct. 23, 1965 at Memorial Stadium in Storrs. Prior to that game, UConn had not scored 11 points since 1904 when the Huskies won games by identical 11-0 scores against Rockville Town (Oct. 8) and Cushing Academy (Oct. 15). It is also a rare feat nationally. The only other instance this season of a team scoring 11 points is Syracuse in a 21-11 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 7. That was the first ever 11-point game in BIG EAST play.
Some odds and ends from UConn’s 14-7 win at Indiana on Sept. 23...The seven points allowed by UConn tied for the fewest it has ever allowed against a school from a BCS Conference with UConn’s 26-7 win over Syracuse last Oct. 7 at Rentschler Field. The previous low for a road game was the 17 points surrendered at Wake Forest on Nov. 15, 2003 in a 51-17 win...UConn’s 14 points were its fewest scored in a winning effort since Oct. 7, 1995 when the Huskies beat Villanova 14-13. UConn last won a game scoring fewer than 14 points on Oct. 28, 1989 in a 13-3 victory at Richmond...The 21 combined points made it UConn’s lowest scoring game overall since a 10-5 loss to Ball State on Oct. 27, 2001...The game marked the first time that UConn has won its road opener since 2003 when UConn beat Army, 48-21 on Sept. 6 in West Point. That is the only other time in Randy Edsall’s eight seasons at the helm that UConn has won its first road game of a season. In 2003, UConn would also win its second road game, beating Buffalo 38-7 on Sept. 20, before falling at No. 5 Virginia Tech, 47-13, a week later on Sept. 27...By beating the Hoosiers, the Huskies started the season at 2-1 for the fourth consecutive year. In each of the previous three seasons, UConn won the next game to start at 3-1...In its short I-A tenure, UConn has now won a road game against four of the six BCS circuits (ACC, BIG EAST, Big Ten, Big 12).
While UConn is 17-7 all-time at Rentschler Field, the results on the road have not always been as joyful for the Huskies, especially of late. Of UConn's 23 losses in the Division I-A era, 13 have come on the road. During the combined 2004-06 seasons, UConn is 3-8 on the road but 12-6 at home with a 1-0 mark at neutral sites (Motor City Bowl vs. Toledo). UConn is 1-6 in road BIG EAST games with the lone win coming at Rutgers on Nov. 25, 2004 by a 41-35 count.
CONN-TROLLING THE FLOW OF THE GAME
A telling sign of UConn's strong performance on both sides of the ball during its brief tenure as a Division I-A program has been its ability to both record and prevent long drives. Since the start of the 2002 season, UConn's offense has strung together 46 scoring drives of at least 80 yards while the Husky defense has surrendered just 22 such marches. UConn also holds an 11-4 advantage over its opponents in the number of 90-yard and over drives since becoming a I-A program. In the fourth quarter of UConn’s win over Rhode Island, the Huskies pieced together touchdown drives of 99 and 87 yards. The 99-yard drive, covering 12 plays and 5:11 of clock time, ties for the longest in American football history. It was the longest in UConn’s Division I-A history, topping a pair of 97-yard marches in 2003 against Virginia Tech and Western Michigan.
HUSKIES DOMINATING ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
Over the past 46 games, UConn has outgained its opponent 34 times. The Huskies have been outgained by Navy, USF and West Virginia thus far in 2006. This stretch, like many UConn trends, dates back to a disheartening 28-24 loss at Vanderbilt on Oct. 26, 2002. Over this 46 game span, UConn has averaged 405.4 yards per game of total offense and 317.5 yards per game of total defense.
After each UConn victory, head coach Randy Edsall awards game balls for the team’s top performer on offense, defense and special teams. The 2006 recipients are listed below. After the URI game, he also presented a special game ball to Martin Bedard who deep snapped flawlessly the day after his mother passed away.
RHODE ISLAND: Larry Taylor (offense), Cody Brown (defense), Matt Nuzie (special teams).
INDIANA: Terry Caulley (offense), Danny Lansanah (defense), Chris Pavasaris (special teams).
ARMY: Terry Caulley (offense), Darius Butler (defense), Larry Taylor (special teams).
ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Terry Caulley (7), Larry Taylor (7), Matt Nuzie (4), Darius Butler (3), Matt Bonislawski (2), Danny Lansanah (2), Dan Murray (2), Lou Allen, Allan Barnes, Cody Brown, D.J. Hernandez, Chris Pavasaris, Graig Vicidomino, Brandon Young.
Each week head coach Randy Edsall issues an award for the Scout Team Players of the Week. In recognition of their often-overlooked hard work, those players earn a spot on the Husky travel squad and the dress list for that week’s game. In past years, players were recognized on both offense and defense, but, starting in 2006, a third player will also be honored for his work on the special teams scout teams. The weekly honorees are listed below.
RHODE ISLAND: Robert McClain (offense), Greg Robinson, Jr. (defense), Aaron Bryant (special teams).
WAKE FOREST: Alex Molina (offense), Lucas Cox (defense), Aaron Bryant (special teams).
INDIANA: Robert Theoudele (offense), Mike Cox (defense), Greg Robinson, Jr. (special teams).
NAVY: Robert McClain (offense), Carl Teague (defense), Kevin Poles (special teams).
USF: Todd Dorcelus and Robert McClain (offense), Robert Vaughn (defense), Carl Teague (special teams).
ARMY: Alex Polito (offense), Lucas Cox (defense), Andre Dixon (special teams).
WEST VIRGINIA: Jared Pratt (offense), Donald Goudreau (defense), Lawrence Wilson (special teams).
NFL ALUMNI WATCH
Two former Huskies made active rosters for NFL teams on opening day this year. Alfred Fincher (2001-04) is fighting to be the starting middle linebacker for the New Orleans Saints while Dan Orlovsky (2001-04) is battling during the 2006 season to be the number two quarterback for the Detroit Lions behind Jon Kitna. Both players saw time in a reserve role last year for those clubs. Tight end Brian Kozlowski has retired ending a 12-year career which came to a close last season with the Washington Redskins. Five other Huskies were in teams’ training camps but did not make the squads: James Hargrave (Detroit), Keron Henry (New England), Tyler King (Arizona), Sean Mulcahy (Carolina) and Justin Perkins (Kansas City).
SIX TRUE FRESHMAN CRACK PRESEASON TWO-DEEP
A total of six true freshmen earned a spot on UConn’s two-deep for the Rhode Island game after their strong performances in fall camp. The lone true freshman starter for the opener was kicker/punter Desi Cullen. The Louisville native took the team’s kickoffs for the first three games and battled Chris Pavasaris for the punting chores. Lindsay Witten made his UConn debut against URI, manning one back up defensive end spot after senior Jason Ward broke his ankle during camp. Witten saw a few snaps per game in reserve and became a starter prior to the West Virginia game when Cody Brown broke is wrist in practice. Two of UConn’s most promising true freshmen throughout August were wide receivers Terence Jeffers and Brad Kanuch, both of whom cracked the starting lineup for the USF game on Oct. 7. A pair of true freshmen were initially fighting each other for the backup role at middle linebacker with Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus in competing for the role, but Ryan Henegan’s return from a hamstring injury at Indiana dropped the duo from the two-deep. Robert Vaughn and Robert McClain saw their first collegiate action on Oct. 14 against Army on special teams. A year ago, six true freshmen saw action for UConn (Anthony Barksdale, Cody Brown, Dennis Brown, Jimmy McClam, Courtney Robinson and Anthony Rouzier), almost all of them in either reserve roles or on special teams. Edsall has kept the number of participating true freshmen consistent as eight true freshmen appeared for UConn in 2004 while six true freshmen played for the Huskies in 2003.
For the first time since 2001, UConn will have four captains as seniors Allan Barnes, Terry Caulley, Rhema Fuller and Jahi Smith were all elected to that post by their teammates. Caulley and Fuller are by far the bigger contributors on the field. Each has started most of their career games played and has proven to be one of UConn’s top players on their sides of the ball (offense for Caulley and defense for Fuller). Barnes and Smith are steady contributors, mainly on special teams, who are known for their off the field leadership. Both are popular figures in the UConn locker room who are respected by their peers.
14TH IN THE NATION IN RUSHING
Just past the midpoint of the season, UConn ranks 14th in the nation in rushing offense at 192.86 yards per game. Three of the top 10 teams play in the BIG EAST as West Virginia (319.00) ranks first nationally, Louisville (216.00) seventh and Rutgers (214.71) eighth. Not surprisingly, of the top 20 teams in the nation in rushing, all but three (2-5 Illinois, 3-4 Connecticut and 2-5 Marshall) have .500 or better records.
BRAVE, CRAZY, MOSTLY YOUNG
Due to some injuries and under-performing veterans, five freshmen are currently starters for the Huskies including three offensive linemen. Mike Hicks has started all year at right tackle and he is now joined on the offensive line by fellow redshirt freshmen Dan Ryan (left tackle) and Alex LaMagdelaine (center). Both Hicks and LaMagdelaine were forced into action after injuries to starters at their posts. At wide receiver, steady performances by true freshmen Terence Jeffers and Brad Kanuch have helped earn each a starting role. The rest of the offense isn’t bubbling with veterans either. Starting right guard Immanuel Hutcherson and tight end Steve Brouse are both sophomores while starting left guard Matt Applebaum is a senior but has played just two years on the offensive side of the ball. UConn’s lone bastion of starting experience on offense is in its backfield with fifth-year seniors Terry Caulley (tailback), Deon Anderson (fullback) and Matt Bonislawski (quarterback), although Bonislawski has just 11 career starts to his credit.
ROLL THE BONES
A week after UConn gained just 27 yards through the air at Indiana, senior Matt Bonislawski took over as the starting quarterback against Navy. In a game where UConn was playing catch-up for the entire game, Bonislawski completed 15 of his 37 passes for 176 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The two passing TDs were more than the team’s previous two games combined while Navy was UConn’s first turnover-free game of the year. On the road at USF, Bonislawski set career highs with 20 completions and 40 attempts. Both totals were the highest by a Husky signal caller since Dan Orlovsky went 20-for-41 passing against Toledo in the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27, 2004.
CAULLEY COLLECTS MORE RECORDS
Senior tailback and team captain Terry Caulley showed, during a 95-yard effort on 12 carries against Rhode Island in UConn’s season opener, that he is back to the form that helped him garner freshman All-America honors in 2002 when he led the nation in rushing yards by a freshman with 1,247. Almost every week since he has laid claim to a UConn career record. Against Wake Forest, he broke the school’s career rushing record during his 81-yard, 15 carry day. His 3,136 career rushing yards places him ahead of Wilbur Gilliard's previous school record total of 2,624 yards set from 1992-95. A week later at Indiana, he recorded his 12th career 100-yard rushing game (scampering for 152 in all against the Hoosiers) to tie Vin Clements (1968-70) for that school record. He broke that mark with a 135-yard day against Army on Oct. 14. Two weeks after that, Caulley surpassed Ed Long’s school record sum of 524 carries. He now has 549 to his credit. Another one of UConn's other major career rushing records is well within his reach at this point. With five more rushing touchdowns this year, Caulley would pass Gilliard's 34 for the most ever by a Husky. Caulley is presently ranked 28h in the nation in rushing at 89.00 yards per game.
D.J. PUMPS IT UP
Sophomore quarterback D.J. Hernandez started the 2006 season with the most efficient performance of his young career. The Bristol Central alum completed 8-of-13 passes against the Rams for 149 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 208.58 passing efficiency rating, a career high. His previous best was a 154.13 rating in last year’s season finale against Louisville. Hernandez’s performance against URI marked the first time a Husky signal caller recorded a 200-plus rating for a single game since Sept. 4, 2004 when Dan Orlovsky posted a 219.27 rating in a 52-15 win over Murray State, completing 19-of-29 passes for 382 yards with five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
CONNECTICUT BORN AND BRED UNDER CENTER
For the fourth time in Connecticut's five Division I-A seasons, a native Nutmegger started at quarterback on opening day as Bristol's D.J. Hernandez led the Husky offense against Rhode Island. The three-sport all-state star at Bristol Central High School, and son of the late former Husky Dennis Hernandez, earned the starting nod after his relentless work ethic helped push him past his competition due to vast improvements in his game since the end of the 2005 season. Hernandez was a fixture at the team's off-season workouts and distanced himself from the team's other signal callers during spring practices and the recently completed preseason camp. Each of UConn's first three Division I-A seasons (2002-04) opened with Shelton's Dan Orlovsky under center. Orlovsky is currently playing for the NFL's Detroit Lions. Last year, Matt Bonislawski of Natrona Heights, Pa. was UConn's opening day signal caller.
In his collegiate debut, redshirt freshman Donald Brown II dazzled fans late in UConn’s 52-7 win over Rhode Island on Aug. 31. Brown gained 118 yards on just nine carries, including a 53-yard touchdown run. Brown’s efforts also give the Huskies a total of three different active rushers with a 100-yard game to their credit. Lou Allen ran for 101 yards in UConn’s 15-10 win over South Florida on Nov. 26, 2005. Terry Caulley has eclipsed the century mark 11 times in his career, one shy of the school record. In four of UConn’s five Division I-A seasons, a freshman has accomplished this feat. Allen was a freshman last year when he did it. Cornell Brockington reached 100 yards twice during his freshman campaign in 2003 and Terry Caulley did it a school record-tying seven times in 2002.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL
A year ago, UConn went from the penthouse to the outhouse in terms of offensive line experience. The team’s 2004 line, which helped pave the way for the BIG EAST’s leading total offense, boasted 174 career starts. In 2005, seven of the 10 student-athletes on UConn's opening day two-deep had never played a single down on the Huskies' offensive line prior to this season. The group came together as the year went along and, under the watchful eye of new offensive line coach Mike Foley, a young but more seasoned unit hopes to play better in 2006. Four of the five starters returned for opening day in left tackle William Beatty, left guard Matt Applebaum, center Keith Gray and right guard Immanuel Hutcherson. Redshirt freshman right tackle Mike Hicks is the lone new starter, but Hicks was one of the team’s top blockers throughout the past spring and preseason camp and he is poised to demonstrate that on the field this fall. A left shoulder injury to Gray, suffered against Wake Forest, pushed redshirt freshman Alex LaMagdelaine into action at center for the rest of the season. Likewise a broken right leg suffered by William Beatty at USF is pushing redshirt freshman Dan Ryan into action. In all, UConn is now starting three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line along with a sophomore and a converted defensive tackle.
DAN-IMAL ON THE LOOSE
A candidate for the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, Dan Murray hopes to build upon an All-BIG EAST junior campaign in 2005. How much his progress will be hampered by a high ankle sprain suffered during a scrimmage on Aug. 21 remains to be seen, but Murray has been overcoming obstacles for his whole UConn career. A basketball player first and foremost at Gloucester High School north of Boston, Murray played just one year of football, as a wide receiver. Head Coach Randy Edsall liked his make-up though and signed Murray, adding weight to his frame and lining him up as a tight end. The move has paid dividends as Murray has steadily improved throughout his career at UConn, his blocking ability in particular, and he has blossomed into one of the country's top tight ends. Murray returned to the field on Sept. 30 for 10 snaps against Navy and was used sparingly in the following weeks against USF and Army. He saw his most significant action against West Virginia.
FINISHING IN THE RED IS GOOD
You wouldn't want your financial ledgers to be full of red ink, but UConn's Division I-A era success is in part due to finishing its time in the red zone in style. Since 2002, UConn has tallied on 176 of 209 (84%) of its red zone possessions. Of the 33 non-scoring drives, 22 came as a result of a missed field goal attempt. While this area has been a historical positive for the Huskies in their I-A tenure, it has been an area of concern of late. UConn was just 2-for-6 against Wake Forest and Indiana, turning the ball over twice, missing a 28-yard field goal and having another field goal try blocked. The eight non-scoring possessions so far in 2006 for UConn are already more than the team had in all of 2002 (four), 2003 (seven) and 2004 (five). Last year, UConn failed to convert on 10 trips into the red zone.
RAM-BLING HUSKIES RUN LIKE IT’S THE IDITAROD VS. URI
UConn’s 418 yards of rushing against Rhode Island was the second-best total in school history, eclipsed only by the 437 that the Huskies racked up against Massachusetts in 1956 in a 71-6 pounding of the then-Redmen in Amherst. UConn averaged an impressive 8.0 yards per carry against URI (52 rushes) as opposed to just a 7.4 average on its 59 carries in the 1956 UMass game. It marks only the second time in school history that UConn has eclipsed the 400-plateau in rushing yardage as the next best performance is 394 against Yale in 1995. UConn’s previous high in the Division I-A era was 376 yards set last Sept. 10 against Liberty. Through week seven, it is the third best single game rushing performance in the nation (behind Navy’s 464 vs. UConn and West Virginia’s 457 vs. Syracuse) and it is expected to remain one of the best nationally as the year progresses. Only eight times in 2005 and 10 in 2004 did a team gain 418 yards or more on the ground in a single game. UConn’s 418 yards narrowly missed cracking the BIG EAST’s all-time top 10 chart, which ends at 420 yards.
IF AT FIRST YOU DO SUCCEED
UConn has scored on its opening possession of each of the past six seasons. UConn opened its 2006 campaign with a three-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from D.J. Hernandez to Larry Taylor. UConn’s opening drive resulted in field goals in 2001 (at Virginia Tech), 2003 (vs. Indiana) and 2005 (vs. Buffalo). The 2002 and 2004 seasons opened with drives capped by Dan Orlovsky touchdown passes (2002 to Sean Feldeisen at Boston College and 2004 to Matt Lawrence against Murray State). The Huskies last opened the season with a non-scoring drive in 2000 when Eastern Michigan forced UConn to go three-and-out in Ypsilanti.
SHARING THE WEALTH
Edsall has made a point of having a deep rotation at wide receiver throughout his time at UConn. The unit’s depth is still settling out, but senior Brandon Young and junior Brandon McLean are the group’s veterans. Junior Larry Taylor is seeing his first consistent time at wide receiver this year after starting his UConn career as a running back. Also, two speedy true freshmen cracked the preseason two-deep in Terence Jeffers and Brad Kanuch and each made their first career start on Oct. 7 at USF. Whoever the names are, opportunities will abound. Last year, 13 different Huskies caught a pass while UConn's 14 TD passes were spread out to six different receivers. Regardless of who ends up in the mix, Edsall will keep them involved. During the 2004 season, 13 different Huskies caught a pass, nine hit double digits in receptions and nine different UConn players have caught a touchdown pass. In 2003, 15 different players caught a pass for UConn and eight Huskies hit double figures in receptions. A total of 10 different Huskies caught a touchdown pass in 2003. The stats were similarly diverse in 2002 when seven different Huskies caught at least 20 passes which tied for the fourth in the nation during the regular season. The shared receptions have also created an even distribution of receiving yardage. Despite the fact that UConn has thrown for 12,268 passing yards over the past four-plus seasons combined (227.2 ypg), the Huskies have had just 11 100-yard receiving games, with six different receivers reaching the plateau (Shaun Feldeisen, Keron Henry, Dan Murray, Jason Williams, O'Neil Wilson and Young).
AIMING FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR ON TOP OF BIG EAST
In 2005, for the second consecutive season, UConn led the BIG EAST Conference in total defense. In 2004, an average of 327.4 yards per game topped the league and in 2005, UConn again finished at the head of the pack, this time yielding just 297.2 yards per game. UConn is the only active BIG EAST member to ever lead the league in total defense in consecutive seasons. Miami and Virginia Tech both accomplished the feat in the past. The Huskies are looking to join Miami as the only school to lead the league in total defense for four consecutive seasons. The Hurricanes accomplished the feat four years in a row from 1991-94. Those immovable Miami defenses included several future NFL superstars, including Warren Sapp, Jesse Armstead and Ray Lewis.
HUSKIES FINISH A LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN IN NATION
UConn ranked amongst the top 10 nationally in several defensive categories in 2005 and pulled in at seventh in the nation in total defense at 298.3 yards per game. UConn also finished fourth in the nation in passing defense (158.45 ypg) and seventh in passing efficiency defense (99.81 rating). UConn’s defensive performance in 2005 was its best in 26 years since the Huskies allowed 289.4 yards per game in 1979. UConn led the nation in total defense entering both the Syracuse (Oct. 7) and Cincinnati (Oct. 15) games. The Huskies held a team under 200 yards of total offense three times this past season, most recently at Pittsburgh on Nov. 12. After a steady 79-yard opening drive, Pitt had just 113 yards of total offense in the final three and a half quarters. In the following game, against USF, UConn held the Bulls to a season-low 83 yards rushing. USF entered the game ranked 12th nationally at 229.8 yards per game.
HUSKY QUEST WAS OFF TO A GOOD START
UConn’s goal of leading the BIG EAST in total defense for the third consecutive season and finishing in the top 10 nationally for the second consecutive season was off to a good start. UConn entered the Navy game ranked 10th in the nation and second in the BIG EAST at 231.33 yards per game but got run over for 605 yards by the Midshipmen. UConn now ranks 60th nationally in total defense and seventh in the BIG EAST. UConn though is still ranks fifth nationally in passing defense (143.14 ypg). UConn is seventh in the nation with a startling 8.14 tackles for loss per game.
SUCCESS OPTIONAL IN SEPTEMBER
In the month of September, the discrepancies between UConn’s defensive numbers against triple option-based offenses and more conventional offenses are startling. Against triple option teams Rhode Island and Navy, UConn allowed 898 yards of total offense and 48 points while more conventional Wake Forest and Indiana combined for 401 yards and 17 offensive points. The 605 yards gained by Navy was the most against UConn in the Division I-A era and nearly topped the 694 UConn had allowed through the first three games combined. Navy’s 464 rushing yards allowed were the second-most in school history.
HOOSIER RUSHING GAME COMES CRUMBLIN’ DOWN
The stout UConn defense held Indiana to zero rushing yards in the team’s 14-7 win on Sept. 23. It marked the fifth-best performance in school history and the best since UConn set a school record by holding Florida Atlantic to minus-12 yards rushing on Nov. 2, 2002 during a 61-14 win in the penultimate game at Memorial Stadium.
THIRD DOWN INEFFICIENCY
A critical element to UConn’s defensive success a year ago was that the team’s opponents found third down to be a tough row to hoe. UConn led the nation in third down conversion defense at 24% (38-for-157). LSU was second in the nation behind UConn with a rate of 28.2-percent followed narrowly by SEC rival Alabama at 28.3. Helping UConn to this was steady first and second down defense, forcing teams to convert from longer distances on third down. Only 28 times last year did UConn's defense face a third down and three yards or less (2.5 per game). Of 157 third down conversion attempts faced by the Huskies last year, 90 were seven yards or longer (67%). Teams didn't fare much better when going for it on fourth down against UConn either as the Huskies were 4-for-20 (20%) in fourth down defense, tying the Huskies for third in the nation along with Middle Tennessee. UConn has done will in this area as well early in 2006. The Huskies rank 25th nationally with a 31.5% conversion rate. Helping this along against Wake Forest was UConn’s defense forcing the Demon Deacons into third and 10 or longer eight times. A week later, UConn forced Indiana into a third and 10 or longer situation nine times. On the season, UConn’s opponents have had to convert on third down from 15 yards or longer 16 times (converting twice) while the Huskies have faced this obstacle just seven times.
Linebacker Danny Lansanah has turned up his play of late and has helped be a defensive leader both on and off the field. The junior leads the Huskies with 60 tackles on the season, 4.5 of them for a loss. He also has made a pair of interceptions including a spectacular one-handed grab against Army.
THE BUTLER DID IT. THE BUTLER DID IT.
For the second consecutive season, Darius Butler had multiple interceptions against Army. On Oct. 14 at Rentschler Field, he snared a pair of Cadet passes and broke up two more. That game came a year after he tied a school, BIG EAST, and Michie Stadium record when he intercepted three passes in UConn's win at Army on Oct. 1, 2005. It was UConn’s first three-interception game since 1984. Butler returned his three interceptions in 2005 for a school-record 122 yards, including an 86-yard touchdown. Butler's 122 total return yards was the second-best effort in BIG EAST history. The three interceptions tied, and the 122 yards broke, facility records for Army's fabled Michie Stadium which has seen many of college football's finest since it opened in 1924. With four interceptions in UConn’s seven games this year, Butler ranks 12th in the nation with 0.57 interceptions per game.
MOORE AND MOORE TFLs
After winning a fierce competition against Justin DeRubertis for the starting nod at strongside “Husky” linebacker, Dontá Moore has not disappointed early in the season, ranking fourth for UConn with 34 tackles. He left a mark on the NCAA and BIG EAST record books against Wake Forest when he recorded 6.5 tackles for loss. The sum was just a half of a TFL behind both the BIG EAST and NCAA record of 7.0, set by Elvis Dumervil of Louisville last year against Kentucky. Since the NCAA began keeping defensive records in 2000, there have been four 7.0 TFL games and Moore’s is the third 6.5 game, joining Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs (2002 vs. Washington) and Wisconsin’s Alex Lewis (2003 vs. Purdue). Both Suggs (Baltimore) and Lewis (Detroit) are currently starters in the NFL.
ALL THE RUNNING LANES ARE FULL-ER
Named to the Outland Trophy's Watch List, senior defensive tackle and captain Rhema Fuller is a rock in the middle of UConn's defensive front seven. The Cocoa, Florida native has done an effective job stuffing the opponents' offense the past two years as he helped push the Huskies to two first place finishes in the BIG EAST's total defense leaders. In addition to eating up blockers, he has made an even 100 career tackles, 18.5 of them for a loss. His work off of the field is just as stellar though. A semifinalist for the 2006 Draddy Trophy, Fuller was named to the 2005 ESPN The Magazine CoSIDA Academic All-District I team and the BIG EAST's academic Honor Roll. He also received the Donald Kinsman Award from UConn's Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes to a student-athlete for his or her high academic achievement.
THE QUARTERBACK MUST GO DOWN
For the third year in a row, UConn is not only recoding a high number of tackles for loss, but the TFLs have been spread out over a high number of players. Over seven games this year, 18 different Huskies have contributed to a TFL and nine different UConn defenders have at least a half of a sack. UConn is seventh in the nation with its 8.14 TFLs per game and ranks 53rd with 2.14 sacks per game, the latter total coming despite the fact that five of UConn’s seven opponents attempted 18 passes or fewer. This season, only five teams in the nation (Air Force, San Diego State, NC State, San Jose State and Buffalo) have faced fewer than the 148 passing attempts against UConn. A total of 23 different UConn defenders factored in a tackle for loss last year and 14 different Huskies recorded at least a half of a sack. In the 2004 season, 17 different UConn players recorded a TFL and nine different players had a sack, numbers that UConn eclipsed after just four games last fall.
TAKES A WHILE TO GET GOING
When Navy scored on its opening possession of the game (the opening play, in fact) it snapped a significant string for UConn. In each of its 14 home games at Rentschler Field prior to Navy the Husky defense had held its opposition off of the scoreboard on their first drive. Previously, the last team to score on its opening drive in East Hartford was Murray State. On Sept. 4, 2004, the Racers opened the game with a 7-play, 73-yard march that culminated in a three-yard Nick Turner touchdown run. The Huskies turned the tables though and won the contest 52-14. Overall, just four times has a UConn opponent scored on its opening drive in the past 19 games regardless of site with it occurring in a pair of road losses last year at Georgia Tech (Calvin Johnson 42 pass from Taylor Bennett) and Pittsburgh (Steve Buches 2 pass from Tyler Palko) in addition to the Navy game on Sept. 30 and USF a week later. Against West Virginia on Oct. 20, UConn forced the Mountaineers to punt, snapping a WVU streak of eight straight games scoring on its first drive. UConn last won a game when the opponent scored on its opening possession on Nov. 25, 2004 in a 41-35 contest at Rutgers.
SECONDARY NOW A PRIMARY OBSTACLE
That through seven games UConn ranks for fifth nationally in passing defense at 143.14 yards per game should not be a surprise. The Connecticut secondary blends youth and experience as well as any team in the nation as the Huskies return all but one letterwinner from the 2005 secondary which helped the team rank fourth in the nation in passing defense by yielding just 158.5 yards per game. An astounding six different active Huskies have started at least six games as a defensive back in their UConn careers. They are Allan Barnes (8), Tyvon Branch (13), Darius Butler (18), Ernest Cole (14), Dahna Deleston (13) and M.J. Estep (24). This glut of talented players is a problem for Edsall, but a good problem to have. Further displaying the respect that this unit commands in the locker room, two members of the secondary (Barnes and Jahi Smith) were named as team captains for the fall. Having two defensive backs in this role is especially impressive considering that prior to 2006, UConn players had not elected any defensive back as a team captain since Roy Hopkins in 2001.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
TAYLOR MADE RETURNS
Larry Taylor is back to 100-percent and reassuming his role as UConn’s top return specialist. Taylor is ninth in the nation in punt returns, averaging 14.46 yards per run back. Behind Taylor, UConn is 17th the nation in punt returns as a team. Taylor’s 26.44 kickoff return average ranks 21st nationally. He is one of three players in the nation ranked in the top 21 of both categories, joining Oklahoma State’s Perrish Cox and NC State’s Darrell Blackman. Taylor hurt his knee in UConn’s game at Cincinnati on Oct. 15, 2005 and the loss was felt hard in the team’s return game. Taylor ranked 18th in the nation in punt returns (12.30 average) and seventh in kickoff returns (34.2 avg.) when he was hurt, but would fall below the national minimum to be ranked because of time missed due to injury. He started the 2005 season off on the right foot with 118 punt return yards against Buffalo on Sept. 1, marking the eighth-best performance in BIG EAST history and the second-best ever by anyone not wearing either a Miami or Virginia Tech uniform. Taylor was not far off of the UConn record of 145 yards set by Joe Markus at Maine on Oct. 20, 1979. Taylor returned in 2005 after an electrifying true freshman season in 2004 during which he became only the second Husky ever (and the first since 1975) to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. Behind Taylor, UConn ranked 18th in the nation in punt returns in 2004 after finishing the previous season ranked 116th out of 117 Division I-A teams.
WITH OR WITHOUT LT
The field position edge that UConn gains from Larry Taylor is palpable. In games when Taylor has played from start to finish, the Huskies are 16-6. When Taylor does not play throughout (including the Cincinnati game when he hurt his knee), UConn is 1-7.
OH, OH VICI-DOMINO
During the second quarter of UConn’s game at USF on Oct. 7, Graig Vicidomino took over as UConn’s place kicker. He made both a 19-yard field goal and an extra point in the contest. He went 0-for-3 against Army the following week and the kicking job has now been reopened. Vicidomino is a senior and former walk-on who has previously played sparingly. Matt Nuzie will continue to perform the team’s kickoff duties though Vicidomino was sent in to attempt an onside kick against the Bulls.
GOOD NUZIE, BAD NUZIE, YOU KNOW I’VE HAD MY SHARE
Matt Nuzie had a perfect place kicking day in UConn’s season opener against Rhode Island, connecting on all seven of his extra point tries and hitting his only field goal attempt, a 41-yarder. The seven extra points tied his career high set last year against Liberty. For his good work, Nuzie was recognized as the BIG EAST’s Special Teams Player of the Week. A game later, Nuzie missed both an extra point try and a 28-yard field goal in UConn’s loss to Wake Forest and was benched at USF after missing from 24 yards out. Still, Nuzie holds every career record for Husky place kickers and is not far off of several BIG EAST career charts, a remarkable feat considering that UConn didn’t join the league until 2004 stats from his freshman year, 2003, are not included.
EDSALL NEEDS NEEDHAM’S PAVASARIS
One of the more anticipated races in fall camp was that for the punting duties and the battle did not disappoint. Both senior Chris Pavasaris and charismatic true freshman Desi Cullen showed their potential and the race continued right up to the season opener with Edsall not declaring a starter (Pavasaris) until two days before the game. Pavasaris, a Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship nominee who carries a 3.9 GPA, was UConn’s starting punter down the stretch last year and performed well. Pavasaris has averaged 39.8 yards on his 41 punts this year. Keeping up this pace would come close to breaking the UConn seasonal record of 42.0 set by Adam Coles in 2003.
MOVIN’ ON UP TO THE EAST SIDE
The Huskies moved into brand new Rentschler Field in East Hartford for the 2003 season with the stadium opening its doors on August 30 when UConn defeated Indiana, 34-10. Conveniently located within miles of Interstates 91, 84 and 384, Adriaen’s Landing and downtown Hartford, the new home of the Huskies lies on 75 acres of land donated to the State of Connecticut from the historic Pratt & Whitney Airfield. The stadium, like the former airfield, is named for that company’s founder, Frederick Rentschler. The new stadium boasts a capacity of 40,000 with 38 luxury suites in a massive press box tower which helps enclose the natural grass field. The $91.2 million construction project is an integral part of former Governor John Rowland’s economic development program for the Hartford metro-area. While UConn football serves as the primary tenant, the facility also attracts other prominent events to Hartford. Rentschler Field hosted two concerts by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, September 16 and 18 of 2003 and one by the Rolling Stones on Aug. 26, 2005. Several prominent international soccer contests have been played on the pitch at Rentschler Field, most notably a World Cup Qualifier between the United States and Trinidad & Tobago on Aug. 17, 2005.
STARTING A COMMOTION
Swelling interest in the Husky football program as it gradually moved up into BIG EAST play can perhaps be best evidenced by the rise in attendance. For the 2006 season, UConn sold in excess of 30,000 season tickets at Rentschler Field, including a record 5,000 student season tickets, a pair of staggering sums considering that the 2001 season ticket base was around 4,000. In 2002, fueled by a season-ticket base of 11,300, UConn ranked 23rd in the nation by playing to 97.58% of Memorial Stadium’s 16,200 seat capacity. The burgeoning season ticket base more than doubled to 24,000 for the inaugural season at Rentschler Field and rose to 28,000 a year later in 2004. UConn reached an all-time high of 32,000 season tickets last fall.
40,000 HUSKY FANS CAN’T BE WRONG
The Huskies have sold out 17 of their first 24 dates at Rentschler Field including a recent stretch of 12 in a row. UConn has played to 97-percent of capacity all-time in East Hartford, drawing 932,546 fans, or an average of 38,856 per game. UConn finished 2005 ranked 18th in the nation in attendance based on percentage of capacity, a sum that led the BIG EAST Conference and ranked ahead of BCS participants Georgia, USC, Penn State and West Virginia, amongst many others. In fact, UConn sold more football tickets in both 2004 (275,129) and 2005 (240,000) than either men’s or women’s basketball tickets.
RENTSCHLER FIELD PROVES FRIENDLY FOR HUSKIES
UConn went 4-2 at Rentschler Field in 2005 after compiling a 6-1 home record last fall. The six home wins in 2004 set a school record for a single season. Seven times UConn has won five home games in a season. UConn turned the trick each of the past two years and also managed the feat five times at Memorial Stadium, going 5-0 in 1986 and 1989 and posting a 5-1 mark in 1987, 1995 and 1998. UConn presently stands at 17-7 all-time at Rentschler Field including a 13-3 mark in non-conference games. Due to the crowd noise, UConn’s opponents have been flagged for a total of 35 false start and delay of game penalties in the past 15 games at Rentschler Field.
A LUCKY SEVEN FOR HUSKY FANS
With the NCAA expanding schedules to 12 games starting with the 2006 season, UConn is able to reward its fans with seven home games this year for just the second time in school history. In 2004, UConn also played seven dates at Rentschler Field with the Huskies posting a 6-1 mark in those contests. The Huskies join West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati as BIG EAST schools who will play seven home games in 2006.
HAPPY THAT IT IS A DIRTY DOZEN
The NCAA schedule reverts back to 12 games for the 2006 season, news which will be welcomed by the Huskies if history is any indicator. In the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons, UConn used its 12th game to post a monumental win. On Nov. 23, 2002, UConn recorded a 37-20 win over bowl-bound Iowa State on Senior Day in Ames. On Nov. 15, 2003, the Huskies found more Week 12 magic with a 51-17 rout of Wake Forest, again on the road. The 2004 season was set up for 11 games but the Huskies earned a 12th opportunity to take the field by securing its first ever bowl berth and seized victory, topping Toledo, 39-10, in the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27, 2004. The Huskies would of course gladly welcome a 13th contest added to the 2006 season as it would come in a bowl game.
For the first time since leaving Division I-AA, UConn has a schedule full of opponents which it is familiar with. UConn has previously played each of the 12 teams on its 2006 schedule and, except for Rhode Island, has played them all within the careers of the current senior class. UConn routinely played between first-time opponents during its early days at the I-A level as of the 36 games UConn played from 2002-04, 16 of them inaugurated a new series with UConn going 10-6 in those contests. Last year, UConn faced just one first-time opponent in I-AA Liberty.
SYMPATHY FOR THE SCHEDULE
Just like in 2005, UConn is playing the longest regular-season schedule in the nation this year, covering the full 94-day regular season playing period permitted by the NCAA. August 31 is the first permissible playing date for Division I-A football, while UConn is also scheduled to play on the last permissible regular season date when the Huskies travel to face Louisville on “Championship Saturday,” Dec. 2. UConn is one of only six teams in the nation to have a regularly scheduled game on both the first and last days of the season, joining Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Oregon State and San Diego State. However, many teams will be able to also equal this feat if they were to advance to their respective conference championship games.