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Huskies Close Season At Ball State

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    The University of Connecticut Football team finishes the 2000 season with a Saturday, November 18 contest at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. Game time is 1:00 p.m. The Huskies enter the contest with a record of 3- 7 and come off a 26-21 loss to the University of Rhode island. Ball State enters the contest at 4-6 following a 31-3 loss to Toledo.

    The Huskies and Cardinals will meet for the first time in the sport of football.

    Randy Edsall (7- 14 overall record in two seasons) became the 27th head coach in UConn Football history on December 21, 1998. Edsall, 42, brings 20 years of coaching experience to the UConn program, including 16 seasons at the Division I-A level and three seasons in the NFL. He came to UConn after spending one season as the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. Prior to that he spent three seasons as the secondary coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He began his coaching career in 1980 at his alma mater, Syracuse, where he spent 11 seasons before moving on to Boston College, where he coached for three seasons before going with coach Tom Coughlin to the Jaguars.

    UConn scored 21 second half points, but were unable to overcome a 13-point halftime deficit and fell to Rhode Island by a score of 26-21. Junior tailback Taber Small ran for 107 yards and a touchdown and senior John Fitzsimmons caught a pass for a school-record 36th consecutive game, including his ninth TD catch of the season. Sophomore linebacker Razul Wallace led the defensive effort with a career-best 18 tackles, four for a loss.

    Middle Tennessee scored on its first eight possessions of the game and rolled to a 66-10 decision over UConn at Memorial Stadium. For the second straight week, UConn lost its starting quarterback to an injury with junior Luke Richmond suffering a hand injury in the first half. Sophomore Chris Willis had his first significant playing time at UConn and was 16-of-26 for 163 yards. Senior John Fitzsimmons caught four balls for 108 yards and a TD. Sophomore Jamal Lundy had 13 tackles.

    South Florida scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and UConn was unable to overcome high winds and a devastating injury, falling to the Bulls by a 21-13 count. UConn entered the final quarter with a 13-7 lead, but the Bulls had the 40 mph winds at their back in the fourth and parlayed that edge into a pair of TD's for the win. UConn junior QB Ryan Tracey left the game in the second quarter with a serious injury to his left knee and did not return. Freshman Evan Benson made his first career start at tailback and ran for 119 yards and a score. Sophomore kicker Geoff Heyl made a pair of field goals to account for the other Husky scoring.

    With the crowd of 9,951 vs. URI on Saturday, UConn finished the 2000 home season with an average attendance total of 14,166 to set a single season average attendance record. The previous record was 13,345 set in 1970. The Huskies total of 70,832 for five games is the second highest season total in school history, but the highest for a five-game schedule. The overall record is 71,974 in 1994, set over six games.

    Senior flanker John Fitzsimmons set a new UConn record in the Rhode Island game by making a catch in his 36th consecutive game, dating back to his freshman season of 1996. The previous record for consecutive games with a catch was 35, held by Alex Davis (1989-92).

    Connecticut Football Record Book Consecutive Games w/Reception

    Rank Receptions Player Years
    1. 36  John Fitzsimmons 1996-present
    2. 35  Alex Davis 1989-92
    3. 33  Carl Bond 1996-98
    3. 33  Mark Didio 1989-91
    5. 31  David Dunn 1985-87

    Freshman punter Adam Coles has had a very impressive first season as the Husky punter. Coles, a 24-year old former Australian Rules Football player, is averaging 41.2 yards per punt, including a career- best 64-yarder vs. URI last week. He had a long of 56 yards vs. Colgate and had kicks of 53 and 54 yards against Akron. The UConn single season mark for punting average is 41.0, set by Jim Carriere in 1988 and Mike Morelli in 1999.

    Senior defensive end Jamar Wilkins became the UConn career record holder for tackles- for-loss during the loss to South Florida. Wilkins now has 30 career TFL's, surpassing the record of 26 held by former All- American and Green Bay Packers standout John Dorsey (1980- 83). Wilkins had tied Dorsey when he snuffed out a fake field goal attempt by Akron on October 21. Wilkins has 15 tackles for a loss in 2000, third on the single season list.

    Sophomore linebacker Razul Wallace recorded four tackles for a loss in the game vs. URI, running his season total to 19 and setting a new single season UConn record. The previous mark of 18 was set by Khalid Riley in 1998. Senior Jamar Wilkins is not far behind Wallace and Riley with his 15 in 2000.

    Sophomore safety Jamal Lundy leads the Huskies with 91 tackles, nine for a loss, and has one interception. Lundy is in his second college season, but is already a grizzled veteran by UConn standards on the defensive unit. Lundy has started 17 consecutive games, including the final seven as a true freshman in 1999. The other seven players in the Husky two-deep in the secondary have a total of 31 career starts between them.

    Three key defensive performers and starters for the Husky defense were lost for the season due to injury. Junior linebacker Jamie Lenkaitis suffered a torn right MCL in the loss to Northeastern and junior cornerback Roy Hopkins suffered a torn MCL in his left knee against Eastern Michigan. Hopkins will apply for a medical redshirt at the end of the season and is expected to return in 2001 with two years of eligibility remaining. Senior linebacker Brandon Smith, the 1999 Team Defensive MVP, suffered a concussion during pre-season and has decided to end his playing career rather than risk further serious injury. On offense, junior quarterback Ryan Tracey suffered a season ending knee injury vs. South Florida. Tracey torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee and underwent surgery.

    A total of 12 true freshmen have seen action in 2000, five earning starts on defense and one on offense. Ten saw action for the Huskies vs. Eastern Michigan, marking the second straight season that UConn has had ten or more true frosh see action in the opener. Last season, 12 true freshmen played in the opener vs. Hofstra. In 2000, the following first-year Huskies have seen game action: Evan Benson (two starts), Chris Clarke, Adam Coles, Jason Dellaselva (three starts), Davion Dixon, Trenton Jones (five starts), Terry McClowry, Chris Meyer (four starts), Sean Mulcahy (five starts), Chandler Poole, Terrance Smith (six starts) and Michael Ziccardi. UConn had 17 true freshmen see action in 1999.

    Sophomore linebacker Uyi Osunde has totaled four double-digit tackle efforts on the season. Osunde leads the team in that category with his efforts against Eastern Michigan (ten tackles), Boston College (11), Akron (ten) and South Florida (ten). Sophomore Jamal Lundy, the team's leading tackler, has three double-digit efforts, as does sophomore linebacker Razul Wallace. Junior linebacker Justin Cook has two, while senior defensive end Jamar Wilkins and true freshmen defensive backs Terrance Smith and Chris Meyer each have one.

    True freshman tailback Evan Benson entered the game with Akron with five carries for five yards on the season. In the three games since, he has 225 yards on 61 carries. Against USF, Benson cracked the 100- yard mark in his first career start, totaling 119 yards and a touchdown. Against Akron, Benson took advantage of a second half injury to junior Taber Small and ran through Akron to the tune of 70 yards on 19 carries, 51 of those yards coming in UConn's 17-point fourth quarter.

    Freshman tailback Evan Benson became the seventh true freshman in UConn history to hit the 100-yard mark in a game and the first since Barry Chandler had 118 yards vs. Boston University on November 1, 1997. Tory Taylor holds the true freshman record with five 100-yard games in 1995. Ed Long had four in 1991, Chandler (1997), Jeffrey Gallaher (1985) and Tony Jordan (1978) each had two, while Joe Markus had one in 1979.

    Stadium site work has begun at the future home of Connecticut Football, now known officially as Rentschler Field. An official groundbreaking was held on October 20, 2000. The name commemorates the history of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company and its founder, Frederick B. Rentschler. The stadium address is 615 Silver Lane in East Hartford, CT.

    The name Rentschler Field will remain on the stadium for a 15- year period beginning with the first event in the stadium. The name can then be sold with stipulations. The first football game at Rentschler Field is scheduled for August 30, 2003 when Connecticut hosts Rutgers University.

    A trademark of the Husky offense in 2000 has been the ability of the Husky quarterback to use all of his available options. The Huskies have 12 different players with a reception and nine of those 12 have caught at least 12 passes. Senior John Fitzsimmons (42 catches, 676 yards, nine TD) and junior Steve O'Connor (45 catches, 604 yards, two TD's) lead the unit.

    Sophomore Geoff Heyl won the placekicking job with a solid pre-season and has continued his stellar play throughout the season. Heyl hit the game-winning 30-yard field goal with four seconds remaining in the win over Akron and has hit on 10-of-15 FG's in 2000 and 22-of-24 PAT's. He made a career-best 48-yard FG in the loss to Boston College. With Heyl handling the placekicking duties in 2000, he has become the eighth placekicker in the last six seasons to handle the starting kicker role. The Husky kicking carousel looks this way: 1995-- David DeArmas, 1996-- Jon Cohen, Mike Morelli, 1997-- Robb Myers, 1998-- Jim McManus, 1999-- Jeff Cammuso, Marc Hickok, 2000-- Geoff Heyl.

    Junior QB Ryan Tracey had a tremendous debut season as the Husky signal caller, despite suffering a season-ending knee injury vs. South Florida. His eight-game totals were 159-for-292 for 1,984 yards and 15 touchdowns. He only threw five interceptions. With four 300-yard passing games, Tracey neared uncharted territory for UConn QB's. He tied the single season record for 300- yard games and will be only two off the career mark entering his senior season.

    All-Time 300-Yard Passing Game Leaders

    Career. Years Passer No. Season
    6 95-98 Shane Stafford 4 1998
    4 00-+ RYAN TRACEY 4 2000
    4 87-91 Cornelius Benton 3 1991
    4 87-90 Matt DeGennaro   2 1988
    2 78-81 Ken Sweitzer 2 1981

    Junior QB Ryan Tracey now holds the mark for passing yards in the first five games of a season with 1,493, breaking the mark of Cornelius Benton, who threw for 1,474 yards to start the 1991 season. Benton had a pair of 400-yard games and one 300-yard effort in that stretch. Tracey's 14 TD's are also a five-game best.

    In 1998, Shane Stafford had 12 TD passes through five games. Tracey fell just short of the six-game mark with his total of 1,668. The six-game mark for passing yards is 1,692, held by Benton in 1991. Tracey's 14 TD's in six games also surpasses any six-game total in school history.

    Ryan Tracey's four TD passes against Northeastern tied a single game UConn mark, held by five other QB's. Shane Stafford threw four TD's in a game four times in his career, Matt DeGennaro did it twice, and Brian Hoffmann, Larry Corn and Ken Sweitzer also tossed four TD passes in one game at UConn.

    Junior quarterback Ryan Tracey made his first appearance as a Husky vs. Eastern Michigan and, statistically, his debut was among the top quarterbacking performances in school history. His 340 passing yards were the ninth highest single game total in UConn history and the most-ever by a QB in his first game. His 49 pass attempts were the fifth most by a Husky QB and his 55 total plays rank tenth in school history. Tracey completed 23-of-49 passes, threw three TD passes and had one interception.

    Junior tailback Taber Small has 533 yards and eight touchdowns in the 2000 season. In his career, Small has 1,309 rushing yards, 22 rushing TD's (tied for sixth all-time at UConn) and he has had six multiple TD games in his career. He has cracked the 100-yard mark in a game on three occasions. In 1999, Small had a school record streak of eight straight games with a rushing touchdown and he finished the year with 757 yards on the season and 14 rushing touchdowns. He had 15 touchdowns overall. He averaged 8.2 points per game, placing him tied for 27th in the country in the final Division I-AA statistics. His 14 rushing touchdowns and 15 total TD's are both tied for third on the UConn single season list. Walt Trojanowski totaled 22 TD's in 1945, all rushing and Wilbur Gilliard's 17 rushing TD's in 1993 was the best I-AA total in Husky history.

    Senior John Fitzsimmons went scoreless against BC, snapping his streak of games with a TD catch at five. He had a TD catch in each of the first five games in 2000, the second such streak for Fitz in his Husky career and one that matches the school record. Alex Davis is the only other Husky to catch a TD pass in five straight games, doing so in the 1992 season. Fitzsimmons also had a TD catch in the first five games of the 1998 season.

    UConn set a single game attendance record of 16,632 in the win over Colgate, breaking the old mark of 16,464 set in 1970 vs. Rhode Island. The game was the first advance sellout in UConn Football history. The game vs. Northeastern was the second straight advance sellout and the attendance of 16,549 is the third largest crowd in school history. The homecoming contest vs. South Florida was the third straight advance sellout and the attendance total of 16,585 is the second biggest home crowd in UConn history.

    UConn's 2000 schedule is noteworthy in part because of the team nicknames their opponents seem to share. UConn plays two Eagles (Eastern Michigan & Boston College), two Cardinals (Louisville & Ball State), two Bulls (Buffalo & South Florida), the Red Raiders and Blue Raiders (Colgate & Middle Tennessee) and also has the always popular battle of the Huskies with Northeastern. Akron (Zips) and Rhode Island (Rams) lend little to this note, but both do have four letters in their nickname.

    UCONN ON TV IN 2000:
    The Huskies had five games televised during the 2000 season. The opener at Eastern Michigan was carried by Connecticut Public Television, as was the week three match-up at Buffalo. The contest at Boston College on October 7 was carried throughout the New England region on NESN. The October 28 game vs. South Florida will be broadcast by ESPN Regional, seen locally on NESN and in Florida on Fox Sports Net and WMOR-TV in Tampa. The game vs. Rhode Island on November 11 was broadcast by Cox Communications of Rhode Island, with local television on Connecticut Public Television.

    UConn moves into a new era of Division I-A football during the 2000 season. The Huskies will spend the 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons playing I-A football with Memorial Stadium (cap. 16,200) as their home field. The 2003 season will bring the opening of the Stadium at Rentschler Field (cap. 40,000) in East Hartford, CT. UConn is scheduled to compete as an independent for five seasons and in 2005 begin play in the BIG EAST Football Conference.

    RANDY ON RADIO-- During the 2000 season, UConn head football coach Randy Edsall will join Joe D'Ambrosio for a weekly radio show on WTIC-AM 1080. The show will be on Monday nights, beginning at 6:00 p.m. and all of the shows will be held at Rookies Sports Bar in Cromwell.

    WEEK SEVEN RECAP-- UConn overcame a 14-point first quarter deficit and used a 17-point fourth quarter to post a stunning 38-35 win over Akron. Sophomore kicker Geoff Heyl's 30-yard FG with four seconds remaining provided the final margin of victory. UConn finally got its running game in gear, as junior Taber Small scored three touchdowns and true freshman back-up Evan Benson gained a career-high 70 yards, including 51 in the fourth quarter. Junior QB Ryan Tracey threw for 293 yards and one TD, while rushing for another.

    Boston College scored on seven of eight first half possessions en route to a 41-3 halftime lead and an eventual 55-3 decision over the Huskies. UConn turned it over on its first two possessions and got a career-long 48- yard field goal by Geoff Heyl with 11 seconds left in the first quarter for its only points of the day. Junior QB Ryan Tracey had a tough outing, throwing interceptions on the first two Husky drives of the day and finishing 17-of-33 for 175 yards. Junior WR Steve O'Connor had career-best totals of nine catches for 129 yards, while sophomore linebackers Razul Wallace and Uyi Osunde each totaled 11 tackles.

    The Huskies put together a gritty effort against the heavily favored Cardinals, but a big Louisville third quarter was the difference in a 41-22 victory. UConn trailed only 10-9 at the half, but the Cardinals outscored the Huskies 17-0 in the third to pull away. Junior QB Ryan Tracey continued to put up big numbers, going over the 300-yard mark for the fourth time in five games. Senior John Fitzsimmons caught his seventh TD pass of the season and junior Rashad Drayton had five catches and a TD reception.

    It was a tale of two halves in the battle of the Huskies and UConn came up on the short end of a 35- 27 score after going into halftime with a 27-15 lead. Connecticut junior QB Ryan Tracey was clicking on all cylinders in the first half, throwing four TD passes, two to senior John Fitzsimmons. But the Northeastern defense stiffened in the second half and tailback L.J. McKanas churned out 225 rushing yards on a school-record 47 carries.

    The Huskies extended Buffalo's winless streak to 18 games by holding off the Bulls for a 24-21 win in Buffalo. Junior tailback Taber Small gained a bruising 137 yards and scored a TD, while senior wideout John Fitzsimmons had four catches and a touchdown. Senior defensive tackle Ronel Jumpp's sack with under 20 seconds remaining forced the Bulls to attempt a 58-yard field goal at the buzzer, which fell well short.

    UConn earned its first win of the Division I-A era in convincing fashion by routing I-AA Colgate 37-7 in front of a sellout and UConn record crowd of 16,632. Junior QB Ryan Tracey put up big numbers for the second straight week, throwing for 327 yards, while junior tailback Taber Small rushed for 82 yards and three TD's. Senior wideout John Fitzsimmons caught a TD pass and senior defensive end Jamar Wilkins led the defense with a pair of sacks on the night.

    UConn's Division I-A debut went down to the wire and ended in a heartbreaking 32-25 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles capitalized on a mistake in the Husky punting game and scored the game-winning TD with under two minutes to go. The Huskies had rallied from a 24-10 second half deficit to take a 25-24 lead. Senior John Fitzsimmons caught four passes for 124 yards and two scores, while junior Ryan Tracey's debut at the QB position was stellar, as he threw for 340 yards and three TD's on the night. Defensively, sophomore linebackers Razul Wallace and Uyi Osunde both recorded ten tackles and seven of Wallace's were for a loss.