After a four-game respite, Bryant Shirreffs will take the reins again as the starting quarterback of the UConn Huskies football team.
“I made a decision, that I think, is best for the team,” Randy Edsall said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
He did not start the last three games of the 2016 season, benched by Bob Diaco even though he was playing through injuries sustained during the year, including a displaced rib. Shirreffs was not under center to begin the Huskies’ 27-20 win over Holy Cross because David Pindell won the starting job during summer camp.
Pindell’s numbers were not bad. He completed 19-of-28 of his passes for 154 yards. He had a 68 percent completion percentage, but it felt like he was checking down with every pass he completed and he only put together two solid drives. One was a touchdown and the other saw a turnover on downs at the Holy Cross six-yard line when Nate Hopkins was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on 4th and 2. Everything else sputtered almost as soon as it began.
With 1:33 to go in the third quarter, the Huskies were down 20-7 to an FCS team and to Edsall’s credit, he felt as though a change needed to be made.
He sent Shirreffs to the field to begin a drive on his own 47-yard line and five plays later, he was 3-for-3 for 22 yards, Nate Hopkins had broken free for a 28 yard run and the Huskies were in the end zone.
The defense forced a three-and-out and gave him favorable field position again. Shirreffs took them 59 yards in eight plays, capped off by an 11-yard pass to Hergy Mayala. Barely five game minutes had passed since he had entered and UConn had a 21-20 lead.
Shirreffs threw for 124 yards on 9-for-13 passing on four drives, plus one where they ran out the clock, almost equaling Pindell’s performance on less than half as many throws and in a third of the game time.
Edsall deserves praise for this move. He made a decision that did not work out against the Crusaders and instead of digging in, he made a change and it proved effective. It won them the game.
Now, he is going with what seems to be the best option; play the hot hand and see what happens. And if Shirreffs struggles for a while on Saturday, Pindell, or someone else, should get a chance to showcase what they can do.