Please forgive me for not being excited about UConn's matchup with West Virginia tonight. It shouldn't be too hard, I doubt you're excited either. Sure, there is the faint hope that UConn will stun us and pull off a miracle upset, but let's be honest, this Husky team isn't that good and West Virginia is almost certainly going to destroy it tonight.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Tonight's game was supposed to be the moment where UConn football finally made it. It was going to be the biggest game ever played at Rentschler Field. The Huskies were supposed to be 7-0 or 6-1, and, with a victory, they'd confirm their spot in the driver's seat of the Big East. They were finally going to knock off West Virginia, show the world they were for real and head on toward the BCS.
At least, that's what we told ourselves before the season. We fooled ourselves. We looked at the high points of last year - the wins over Notre Dame and South Carolina - and instead of realizing we were seeing a middling team hit its absolute peak, we saw what looked like a new baseline for UConn football. Clearly, we were wrong.
UConn is now 3-4 and doesn't have a conference win after a bad loss to Rutgers and a pathetic effort against Louisville. The team is a mess. The secondary is young, and bad. The defensive line has been bullied and pushed around. Lawrence Wilson and Sio Moore have played superbly, but a stinger has hampered Scott Lutrus both physically and mentally. That's just the defense.
Jordan Todman and the O-Line have put in fine work (well, the members who haven't quit the team have), but an offensive can't survive on inside draws alone. Unfortunately, UConn's wide receivers are better at dropping balls than they are at catching them a problem which isn't helped in the slightest by the miserable situation at quarterback. In the beginning, UConn had Zach Frazer who was a walking personification of the phrase "mediocre at best." Unfortunately, he was rarely at his best and spent most of his time being terrible, so UConn turned to his replacement, Cody Endres. Endres was noteworthy because he was often not terrible, but he had a nasty habit of failing drug tests, so he's gone now. Then came redshirt-freshman Mike Box, who started against Louisville last week. Box played exactly as poorly as you'd expect from someone making their first start, which I was okay with. Unfortunately, he got a concussion, so now we're back to Frazer. Frazer, by the way, went 6-8 last week, but his throws still looked awful and one of those completions directly led to a fumble because the ball was so high that his receiver never had a chance to protect it from being stripped.
Then there are the special teams. UConn plays special team's like Randy Edsall recruits talent - poorly. I guarantee one of three things will happen tonight: Dave Teggart will miss a field goal he should have hit, UConn will have a punt blocked or blown coverage will lead to a devastating return for the Mountaineers. Make sure to note that if by some miracle the game is close, the missed field goal is an absolute guarantee. Nothing marks a close game for UConn like Dave Teggart hooking one of his kicks.
Finally, there is the coaching. I'm not as upset with Randy Edsall as some are, and I'm not calling for him to be fired, but the bloom is off the rose. He's a fantastic role model, he does things the right way, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. But he is not some sort of magician who can turn two-star recruits into studs. Nor is he a good playcaller, as the endless parade of bubble screens and inside drives attest to. He is also entirely predictable. Someone pointed out to me the other day that in his entire 12-year tenure, Edsall has NEVER called a fake punt or fake field goal. I'm not sure how I could verify that stat, but I can't recall a single fake and it certainly feels true. Edsall built this program. UConn is nothing without him and he has earned a few more seasons to prove he can once again take the Huskies to a higher level, however, it's getting harder and harder to shake the feeling that he has plateaued at best and peaked at worst.
Three years ago, West Virginia embarrassed UConn 66-21 in what was the defacto Big East title game. Tonight, UConn was supposed to get its revenge as everything came full circle and the Huskies took over the Big East. That won't happen tonight, and that's a shame. Even if UConn wins, it'll feel like this year's team only won an insignificant battle long after the war was ultimately decided.
I'll be back around kickoff with TheOpenThread. Feel free to join in.