September 15, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Connecticut Huskies defensive end Trevardo Williams (48) pressures Maryland Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills (11) at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Down three, on third and fourteen, with just 36 seconds on the clock, Randy Edsall called a screen pass. Of course he did. The man who drove UConn fans crazy with his conservative offense went conservative on the most important play of the game, and his hold team made him pay as UConn's swarming defense stuffed the play immediately. One too-deep throw into the endzone later and that was it. Ballgame. Edsall's old team beat his new one.
It wasn't easy, and it was certainly stressful, but UConn fans have to be happy walking away from this win, especially considering that guard Adam Masters and corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson were both out (apparently with some sort of illness). Some unexplained and ridiculous officiating didn't help either, as a bizarre end to the third quarter (and start of the fourth) probably made this a 24-21 game instead of 24-14, but that's nitpicking.
UConn's offense still wasn't great, but it looked better than it has in its previous two games and the offensive line looked worlds better than it did against North Carolina State. Chandler Whitmer didn't get his elusive first touchdown, but he didn't turn the ball over either (at least in the air -- he had an early fumble which the defense erased with a pick on the next play), as he ran an extremely conservative offense (even by Geroge DeLeone standards). He did have a few standout moments, converting some big third downs, so hopefully he'll be able to build on that going forward.
The defense was stellar as always, especially Sio Moore who appeared to be anywhere and everywhere the Huskies needed him to be. Yawin Smallwood had a great game too, and you'll have a hard time convincing me that UConn's linebacking corps isn't one of the absolute best in the nation. Maryland tried to pick on corner Taylor Mack who was filling in for Wreh-Wilson, but Mack performed admirably, especially in breaking up what would have otherwise been a touchdown pass in the third quarter. The one time Mack got beat Maryland quarterback Perry Hills overthrew his receiver, so no harm no foul. However, UConn should be concerned about the loss of Jesse Joseph who had to be helped off the field late in the game. I'd like to think he'll be back next week, and UConn could certainly use him, but it definitely didn't look good.
The final score was close, but a win is a win and by going 2-1 UConn has put itself in good position for the rest of its non-conference schedule. Assuming Masters and Wreh-Wilson are back next week it's not unreasonable to picture the Huskies entering Big East play at 4-1, which will put them in prime position to secure a bowl bid. Adding in the joy of beating Edsall only makes this victory sweeter.