The new era (finally) dawns: A UConn-Fordham preview

Just imagine that's Paul Pasqualoni with an exquisite 19th-century mustache.

After back-to-back season openers that ranged from "mildly interesting" (Ohio, 2009) to "genuinely exciting" (Michigan, 2010), the UConn football team is back for yet another yawn-inducing season opener akin to the early years of Big East membership.

And yet this afternoon’s kickoff between the Huskies and Fordham has a little bit more built-in excitement than your typical blowout. For today is the dawning of a new era. Finally, after nine months of waiting, Paul Pasqulaoni Presents UConn Football is no longer a theoretical abstraction. From here on out, the option runs to the short side of the field are all AUTHENTIC, BAY-BEE!

In some sense, this won’t actually be too different from any of the openers under Randy Q. Edsall (the Q stands for "inside handoff"). We all knew what we were eventually going to see, even if we convinced ourselves that this would be the year Randy would discover the forward pass.

Similarly, we all know the book on the 2011 UConn team by now: solid defense, should-be-solid special teams, good offensive line, a horror show at the offensive skill positions. For now (and for immediately after a sure blowout victory – hopefully – over an overmatched I-AA opponent), we can try to convince ourselves otherwise, but no one should be expecting any miracles.

On the other hand, that’s a cynical view to take for a new regime on its first day of action. Out of necessity, we’ll compare every little thing to the previous era – Edsall was the only coach most UConn football fans have ever known – but there’s no reason not to give Pasqualoni and his assistants a chance to show us what they can do.

So sit back and enjoy. The Huskies begin their first actual Big East championship defense; we will get to see Don Brown unleash unholy terror in the form of Sio Moore, Kendall Reyes and Blidi-Wreh Wilson; and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see UConn put a competent quarterback on the field.

More importantly, it’s a Saturday in September, and today we’ll get to see our team play football.

Welcome to Phase Two. Let’s go Huskies.

 The game: Fordham (5-6, 3-3 Patriot League last season) at UConn (8-5, 5-2 Big East last season)

The place: Rentschler Field (East Hartford, Conn.)

The time: 12 p.m.

The media: ESPN3.com (TVish), WTIC 1080-AM (radio)

 

Vegas line: N/L

Series history: Fordham leads, 1-0

Last meeting: Fordham 35, UConn 0 (sometime in 1915). According to UConn’s game notes, Fordham finished the 1915 football season with a record of 19-6. The Austro-Hungarian army had an easier year than Fordham in 1915.

Pregame reading:

Five to watch:

1) The Great(?) Quarterback Mystery Of 2011- WHO WILL IT BE? THE YOUTUBE GUY? THE KIND OF QUICK GUY FROM VIRGINIA? THE ALSO RELATIVELY QUICK GUY WHO’S TOTALLY THIRD ON THE DEPTH CHART? CAN YOU CONTAIN YOUR EXCITEMENT?

It won’t be Blaise Driscoll, that’s for sure.

2) The new defensive coordinator- Don Brown comes in with an excellent reputation; he was the one coach Maryland fans did not want to leave the program when Edsall was hired. He’s said to be loud, frantic, an excellent motivator, and plays the sort of aggressive, balls-out, crowd-pleasing defense that should keep the Huskies competitive in every game this season. Basically, he thinks Attila the Hun is a pansy and Brown would blitz him at the earliest opportunity.

3) The new offensive coordinator- George DeLeone’s reputation is…not quite as exciting. I am very interested in seeing what he can bring to the table each game, though today’s game may not be the best indicator. Still, even with Syracuse fans bemoaning his apparently-rather-uninspired playcalling, it would be tough to be more basic and boring than the last six years of UConn football (second half of 2009 excepted).

4) Lyle McCombs- Training camp reviews have been pretty positive for the undersized redshirt freshman. Can he show that he’s capable of picking up the slack in what’s shaping up to be a running back-by-committee?

5) Injuries- Defensive end Jesse Joseph is out with a knee injury, although he is listed on the two-deep so one would think this is just a precautionary measure. Middle linebacker Jerome Williams will be out until October as well.

The Huskies aren’t exactly a deep team anywhere, so not getting hurt in a glorified scrimmage will be nice.

Bottom line:

 

Fordham has more football history in its pinky finger than UConn does in its entire body, especially if that pinky finger is carrying Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl rings. That shouldn’t make much of a difference today, though.

Fordham is just starting to build up its program, as they are in their third year of offering scholarships. According to Pasqualoni, the Rams play an eight-man front on defense, and they run the spread on offense. Practice against both can’t possibly hurt, given that teams will force UConn’s inexperienced QBs to beat them, and the Huskies have historically been overwhelmed by the better spread teams.

The Huskies have a ton of questions to answer, and some live game action against a hostile opponent will put them (kind of) on the path to answering them. But seriously, if this game is close at any point after the first 20 or so minutes of game time, we may have to turn this into a soccer/field hockey blog until Midnight Madness.

Here’s hoping for competence all around, no injuries, and nothing but good feelings heading into a road trip to Vanderbilt.

Prediction:

UConn 52, Fordham 10

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