With UConn set to leave the AAC and begin football independence after this season, it looked like Saturday’s meeting with UCF might be the final game of the storied ConFLiCT rivalry.
But the legend isn’t going down without a fight.
“We’ve had discussions with UCF (about scheduling),” Randy Edsall said in his weekly press conference.
While the Knights are in a (football) class far above the Huskies’ right now, a scheduling agreement would help both sides. In the short-term, UConn needs to fill eight games for next season and UCF may need to add an extra non-conference game as well depending on how the AAC schedule changes with the Huskies’ departure.
As for the long-term outlook, UConn needs to fill out future schedules, especially during the months of October and November, and adding a Florida team would be good for recruiting purposes.
In addition to UCF, Edsall mentioned that UConn would be open to playing other AAC schools in the future, but didn’t get into the specifics.
“There are some teams from the AAC that you still want to play because it makes sense from a recruiting standpoint,” he said.
Of those schools, USF fits both as another Florida school and because of the history between the Bulls and Huskies from their Big East days. Temple would also make sense considering its proximity to New Jersey for recruiting, its shared conference history with UConn and because it’s an easy trip for both sides. Cincinnati would also make sense for similar reasons.
Here are some other notes from Edsall this week.
In addition to losing the game itself to Indiana on Saturday, UConn also lost a handful of key defenders to injury as the game went on. Safety Tyler Coyle, linebacker DJ Morgan and cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson all went down and didn’t return. Luckily, none of the injuries appear to be long-term.
“We’re pretty healthy this week, I expect to have everybody for the game,” Edsall said. “I don’t expect anybody to miss unless something happens this the week during practice.”
Injuries are never good but UConn especially cannot afford to lose those three experienced defensive leaders. Morgan is the Huskies’ most active defender this season with 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, Coyle leads the secondary with 16 tackles along with a pick-six and forced fumble, and Herring-Wilson has been the team’s top cornerback.
While UCF will be a heavy favorite regardless of who plays for the Huskies, having those three players back will be a big boost to UConn’s efforts to slow down the Knights.
Call in the big guns
After quarterback Jack Zergiotis had a positive outing in his first career start against Illinois, he came crashing back down to Earth against Indiana. The true freshman got spooked early in the game and never seemed to recover. He got happy feet often in the pocket even when there was no pressure and struggled with accuracy throughout the day.
Edsall shouldered some of the blame and admitted he didn’t prepare the Zergiotis well enough before the game. So to get him back on track, the coach called on a Husky legend.
“I called Dan Orlovsky, I said ‘Hey do me a favor, call Jack and tell him what it’s like to be a freshman playing quarterback. Give him some insight’,” Edsall said. “I talked to Jack about it and I think that’ll help him. He’ll be fine. He’s a competitor.”
Orlovsky is the last true freshman quarterback to win a game for UConn, a 20-19 win at Rutgers in 2001. That season, Orlovsky didn’t exactly light the world on fire, as he only completed 47.6 percent of his passes for 1,379 yards while throwing nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions. But it laid the groundwork for a great run across his UConn career.
As long as the coaching staff can keep Zergiotis’ confidence up, and put him in an ideal position to win with successful gameplans, this season should be a strong foundation for the true freshman to build on regardless of what his final stat lines look like.