Monthly Archives: October 2009

UConn Football: Mid-Season Report Card

Cody Endres

(AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

The UConn Huskies are half-way through their season, and currently stand 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big East. While that record wasn’t what the Huskies were hoping for at the beginning of the season, the team is better than their record indicates. The team should really be 5-0 and 3-0 in the conference. All three of the losses this year came after the Huskies gave up a fourth quarter lead. Against North Carolina the Huskies had a ten point lead, but lost the game 12-10. Against Pittsburgh the Huskies had a fifteen point lead at one point, but lost the game 24-21 on a last second field goal. Against West Virginia this past weekend the Huskies scored with four minutes to go to take the lead 24-21, but once again they gave up a late score and lost the game 28-24.

The team has had to face a great deal of adversity this year in dealing with the injury of captain and defensive playmaker Scott Lutrus, the switching of quarterbacks during the season, and most recently the loss of a teammate, Jasper Howard, who was murdered a day after the Huskies homecoming win over Louisville.

So after 5 games and a lot of adversity, here are my mid-season grades for the team:

QUARTERBACKS: Zach Frazer started the season as the starter, but after two mediocre performances and a knee injury in the first two games of the season, the stage was set for Cody Endres. In the four games he has played since taking over for Frazer, Endres has completed close to 65% of his passes for 1314 yards and 6 touchdowns. Endres has made some mistakes, but overall he has improved throughout the season and is doing things to help his team win. OVERALL GRADE: B

Andre Dixon

(AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Jerry Larson)

RUNNING BACKS: The duo of Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon has given the Huskies one of the best running games in the conference. One question heading into this season was how was UConn going to replace the production of Donald Brown, the nation’s leading rusher from a year ago? In the first five games Todman and Dixon have made up for the lost of Donald Brown. Dixon has rushed for 654 yards and 7 touchdowns, while Todman has rushed for 596 yards and 7 touchdowns. The duo has played well in every game, but they disappeared in the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh game, when the team really needed them to step up. Overall though, the Huskies have proven once again that no matter whose rushing the football, they will have success here at UConn. OVERALL GRADE: B+

RECIEVERS: One of the biggest question marks coming into this season was the receiving core. After a terrible season last year, the Huskies were looking for playmakers on the outside. Through the first few games, the Huskies were still looking for that go-to-guy. A few players made some plays, such as Brad Kanuch, Michael Smith, and Isiah Moore. But no guy really stepped up and became that deep threat and consistent playmaker. However, over the past three games, Senior Marcus Easley has become that guy for the Huskies. Easley has had over 100 yards receiving and has had a touchdown in each of the last three games. With his emergence and hopefully more consistency from the other receivers, the offense will have a passing attack it can rely on. OVERALL GRADE: C

OFFENSIVE LINE: The big guys up front have been solid for most of the year. Besides a few sacks here and there, and the one holding penalty on Dan Ryan against North Carolina for a safety, the offensive line has been a strong point for the Huskies. They have given Dixon and Todman room to run, and have given Endres decent protection in the pocket. OVERALL GRADE: B+

Lindsey WittenDEFENSIVE LINE: The Huskies front four on defense have been pretty consistent this year. Lead by Senior Lindsey Witten, who is second in the nation in sacks, the defensive line has been a strong point for UConn this year. Freshman defensive end Jesse Joseph has proven to be a playmaker as well, while Kendall Reyes has played well at the tackle position. They did have a bad game against Pittsburgh when they were man-handled by the Pitt offensive line. OVERALL GRADE: A-

LINEBACKERS: Captain Scott Lutrus has been out for all but two games this year (he has been cleared to play this weekend against Rutgers), however the linebacker core has played extremely well even without their leader. Lawrence Wilson is leading the Big East in tackles and has become more of a vocal leader. Greg Lloyd has been very consistent and Lutrus’ replacement Jory Johnson has played very well. Once Lutrus is back on the field the Huskies will have the best linebacker group in the Big East. OVERALL GRADE: A

Robert McClain #42 DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Defensive Backs have played well all season, but they lost one of their leaders in Jasper Howard. Team captain Robert McClain and fellow senior Robert Vaughn have played extremely well, as both have 4 interceptions on the year. Jerome Junior and Jonathan Jean-Louis have split time at the other safety spot and have been solid players. Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz will be competing for playing time at the corner position that was Jasper Howard’s. OVERALL GRADE: B+

SPECIAL TEAMS: Desi Cullen is having a good senior year as he is one of the top punters in the Big East. Kicker Dave Teggart, who was one of the most consistent kickers in the conference a year ago, has struggled so far this year. He is just seven for twelve on field goal tries this year, and missed two costly ones against West Virginia that could have given UConn the victory. Teggart needs to find his rhythm again, and when he does the Huskies will have a solid special teams duo. OVERALL GRADE: C+

Randy Edsall with Desi Cullen
HEAD COACH RANDY EDSALL: Coach Edsall has built this program to what it is today, and has done it with class and integrity. Coming into this year the Huskies had a lot of question marks, and overall the team has played better than their 4-3 record indicates. Coach Edsall and his assistants have done a good job with this team, but they need to continue to preach the concept of “Finishing” to the team. The only downside to the coaching this year has been that the team has blown three fourth quarter leads, and some of that falls on the coaching staff. While on the field, Coach Edsall may have a little work to do, off the field he has been “Coach of the Year” in my book. Dealing with the tragedy of losing a player is never easy, but what Coach Edsall went through was just awful. He had to identify the body, call Howard’s parents to tell them what had happened to their son, call Jazz’s girlfriend to tell her the bad news, then tell the team that they had lost a teammate and brother. Coach Edsall has handled this entire situation with class and has been the leader and support for the team, the program, the Howard family, and the entire UConn community. Coach Edsall has done a marvelous job leading this team through this horrific time, while trying to get them back to normal business of playing football. OVERALL GRADE: A+

The Huskies have plenty of talent, heart, and desire to win every game the rest of the season. If the team can continue to improve, play together, play the entire game, play for Jasper Howard, and follow the lead of Coach Edsall, then they can have a very successful season.

The team will return to the field this Saturday when they host Big East rival Rutgers at Noon at the Rent. It will be the first home game since the death of Jasper Howard, and many tributes will be made at the game. The team hopes its ultimate tribute will be a win in Howard’s honor.
Jasper Howard

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UConn Men’s Basketball Ranked #14 in Preseason Coaches Poll

Jim CalhounIn the first ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll of the season, the UConn Men’s Basketball team is ranked #14. Kansas is the top vote getter at number one. The rest of the top-5 are Michigaan State, Texas, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

Looking at the Preseason top-10, UConn has the chance to play 5 of the top 10 teams. With games already scheduled against Texas, Kentucky, Villanova, and West Virginia, plus the likely chance of playing Duke in the championship of the preseason NIT tournament, the Huskies will be playing the top teams this season.

The Huskies have less than a month until their first game when they play William & Mary on November 13th.
Stanley Robinson

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UConn Honors Howard, but Upset Bid Comes Up Short

Andre Dixon and Kasif Moore with Jasper Howard's Helmet and Jersey   (AP Photo/Michael Switzer / October 24, 2009)

Andre Dixon and Kasif Moore with Jasper Howard's Helmet and Jersey (AP Photo/Michael Switzer / October 24, 2009)

After dealing with the tragedy of losing teammate Jasper Howard, the Huskies traveled to West Virginia searching for their first ever victory over the Mountaineers, as well as closure to a terrible week. While the effort was there, the final result was not as the Huskies lost 28-24.

Quarterback Cody Endres hit Marcus Easley for an 88-yard touchdown with four minutes to go in the game. However, the Huskies blew their third, 4th quarter lead of the season as West Virginia running back Noel Devine scored on a 55-yard run with two minutes left in the game to give the Mountaineers the victory.

Head Coach Randy Edsall decribed the loss as “heartbreaking” because the team wanted to win “so badly for Jazz.” Edsall went on to say, “I just feel empty. The kids played their hearts out and did what we asked them to do. This is a special group of kids. We’ve got to take this and just learn how to play like this all the time.”

Coach Randy Edsall and Andre Dixon      (AP Photo/Michael Switzer / October 24, 2009)

Coach Randy Edsall and Andre Dixon (AP Photo/Michael Switzer / October 24, 2009)

The team will travel to Miami on Monday for Howard’s funeral. After they return, the team will look to move on and move forward in Big East play as the Huskies host Rutgers next Saturday, at 12 o’clock, at the Rent.

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Football Press Conference on Tuesday October 20: Notes on the Game, The Team, and Jasper Howard

Coach Randy Edsall at news conference    Courtesy of Hartford Courant

Coach Randy Edsall at news conference Courtesy of Hartford Courant

The UConn football team held its weekly press conference today. However, this week’s conference had a different feel to it. Following the tragedy of the murder of player Jasper Howard, the number of media members in attendance tripled. Coach Randy Edsall spent more time talking about Jasper and the team, instead of on-field issues. Here are some important notes from Coach Edsall’s conference:

Coach Randy Edsall made it clear that the team is trying to move forward as best as possible. They had practice for the first time today, and will look to take their anger and frustration out on West Virginia this Saturday.

“(We’re) Getting back to what we do on a normal basis,” said Edsall. “The field is a place to get away from (the tragedy).”

Coach Edsall said that West Virginia and UConn have talked, and have decided they will honor Jasper Howard with a moment of silence before the game followed by a handshake at mid-field before kickoff. West Virginia will also wear a #6 decal on the back of their helmets.

The amount of support that has come from so many places around the country has been remarkable. Coach Edsall said so many former players and coaches of his at Boston College, Georgia Tech, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and here at UConn have reached out to him, the program, and the UConn community. The most recent call he received came from Tom Coughlin, the head coach of the New York Giants. Coughlin, who Edsall considers his “mentor,” worked with Edsall when Edsall was an assistant coach for Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars team in the mid-1990s.

“The amount of love and generosity has been unbelievable, and so greatly appreciated,” said Edsall. “It comes from how Jazz handled himself and how the program handles itself.”

Vigil for Jasper Howard   Courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Vigil for Jasper Howard Courtesy of the Hartford Courant

When asked about the vigil for Jasper Howard last night, Edsall said the entire evening was a very special moment for the team. Jasper Howard’s family and the team, were gathered together to remember the man they all loved. Coach Edsall said that the Howard family spoke to the team in the locker-room about Jasper’s life and his love for UConn, his family, his teammates, and football. The family then went around and hugged each and every player.

“The mom’s and dad’s words were just incredible. What they had to say to those kids at that point and time was what those kids needed to hear,” Edsall said. “What put it over the top was going down to locker room. We had Jazz’ locker decorated in terms of helmet and jersey and it’s going to stay until the time he would graduate.

Jasper Howard's mother Joangila Howard  Photo courtesy of Hartford Courant

Jasper Howard's mother Joangila Howard Photo courtesy of Hartford Courant


Jasper’s uncle, who was a police officer in Miami for 25 years, spoke to the team as well. He gave a “heart-warming” speech to the team. Edsall described it as, “you could see the tears dry up; you could see the faces start to shine a little bit; see more color come to the face of these kids as this was going on.” Edsall said his uncle told the team that “we lost one young person; we don’t need to lose anymore.”

Edsall described the entire night, with the vigil, the moment in the locker-room, and how all the love that has been spread between the family and the team, as “the most loving moment I’ve ever been a part of.”

Coach Edsall said that Desi Cullen and Kijuan Dabney have stepped up and lead the team through this tragedy. “They have shown great courage and love, and have been the leaders of this team during this time,” said Edsall.

Coach Edsall finished the news conference by saying that he and Jasper Howard’s family will create a foundation in Jasper’s name. It will focus on giving resources to inner-city kids who have unfortunate upbringings, as well as going to help terminally-ill kids and their families.

Jasper Howard's Locker... Photo Courtesy of Hartford Courant

Jasper Howard's Locker... Photo Courtesy of Hartford Courant

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Students Reaction to Jasper Howard Tragedy: ESPNU Campus Connection Video

Jasper HowardThe UConn community is dealing with the loss of Jasper Howard. Students are shocked in what happend, but feel the campus will become stronger and move forward.

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Details and Footage From the Jasper Howard Murder Press Conference:ESPNU CAMPUS CONNECTION VIDEO

Head Coach Randy Edsall and an emotional Desi Cullen     (PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

Head Coach Randy Edsall and an emotional Desi Cullen (PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

Head Coach Randy Edsall and Punter Desi Cullen put tears into everyone’s eyes this afternoon at the school’s press conference concerning the murder of Jasper Howard. Here’s my ESPNU Campus Connection video with more from the emotional press conference.

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Howard Murder Press Conference Notes (October 18, 2009 4:15pm)

Head Coach Randy Edsall and Punter Desi Cullen speak to the media    (PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

Head Coach Randy Edsall and Punter Desi Cullen speak to the media (PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

I just got back from the press conference that the school had concering the murder of Jasper Howard, the starting cornerback for the UConn Huskies. UConn President Mike Hogan, UConn Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway, UConn Head Football Coach Randy Edsall, and UConn Punter Desi Cullen all spoke. They spoke of how this a horrific tragedy and how the school will come together and move forward while remembering the fallin Husky. Coach Edsall and Cullen both faught off tears as they spoke of the man, not the player, that Jasper Howard was.

“He was a person that always made you smile,” said Edsall. “He was always looking to help others, and always made an effort to be there for others.”

The hardest news to hear from Coach Edsall was when he announced that Jasper had been recently informed that he was going to be a father. His girlfriend, who still lives in the Miami area where Howard grew up, had spoken to Coach Edsall multiple times today. Cullen was taken back from this news. “It kills me to learn that he was going to be a father,” said Cullen. “It’s so sad to know that the child will never know his father.” Cullen went on to say that “the child will have 104 uncles who will always care for it,” referring to Howard’s teammates.

(PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

(PATRICK RAYCRAFT / HARTFORD COURANT / October 18, 2009)

The UConn Police Chief also spoke, and said that the UConn and State police have been interviewing witnesses since early this morning. He also said the investigation is still underway and that they do not have a suspect at this time.

Edsall and Cullen made it clear that the team will be playing for Howard the rest of the year, and that he will never be forgotten. The team will do something to remember Jasper at the Burton Football Complex on campus, as well as on either the team’s jerseys or helmets. The team has today and tomorrow off before returning to practice on Tuesday. The Huskies travel to West Virginia this upcoming weekend.

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UConn’s Howard Killed in Campus Stabbing

courtesy of uconnhuskies.com

courtesy of uconnhuskies.com

The entire UConn campus is mourning the lost of Jasper Howard, the starting cornerback on the football team. According to reports, he was stabbed around 12:30 am, this morning outside of the Student Union in the center of campus. It was after a school dance had been let out, and a fire alarm was pulled. Police are still looking for the suspect. Head Coach Randy Edsall spent the night in the hosptial with Howard.

Howard was a key player for the UConn defense. This was his second year starting, and he was quickly becoming one of the best defensive backs in the Big East.

A quote from Hartford Courant UConn Football Beat Writer Desmond Conner, “Just devastating news. Good kid. All he wanted to do in life was take care of his mom and sisters and now he’s gone.”

UConn President Mike Hogan Hogan said the school was arranging for Howard’s mother to come to Connecticut.

“It’s such a tragedy. All I can say is how sorry we all are and how sad we all are that something like this happened in the middle of our campus,” Hogan said.

Howard, who is the first person in his family to attend college, often talked about wanting to make it the NFL one day so he could take care of his mom and his sisters. He was described as a fun-loving, outgoing person who loved his family, friends, and football.

JASPER HOWARD
January 28, 1989 – October 18, 2009

Jasper Howard #6      courtesy of the Hartford Courant

Jasper Howard #6 courtesy of the Hartford Courant

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The “How to Get Back On Track” Guide for UConn

PHOTOSHOP

PHOTOSHOP

The Huskies are 3-2 on the season, and 0-1 in Big East play. Five games into the season, and the team is at a crossroads. They can either give-up and this season become a total bust, which would be the easy thing to do. Or they can come together and realize that it’s going to take a lot of work and dedication to get this season “back on track” and finish the season with a winning record and a bowl bid. As a UConn fan, I hope they pick the second choice. To help them find their way I have created a “How to Guide” to getting the Huskies back to their winning ways.

The “HOW TO GET BACK TO WINNING GAMES GUIDE”

1) Go Back to Basics
The first thing UConn needs to do is go back to the basics. The defense needs to learn how to tackle better and the offense needs to learn how to move the ball consistently. Head Coach Randy Edsall needs to get his team to make the simple plays, the easy plays. If they make these plays, then the harder, more complicated plays will be easier to handle.

(Hartford Courant Photo)

(Hartford Courant Photo)

2) Play the Entire Game
The Huskies are two fourth quarter collapses away from being 5-0 on the season. Against North Carolina they were up 10 points in the fourth quarter but lost the game 12-10. Against Pittsburgh they had a 15 point lead late into the third quarter, but couldn’t hang on as they lost 24-21. Take away the Rhode Island game from this year, and the Huskies have been outscored 40-10 in the fourth quarter. If the team wants to be in the top-25, this has to change. They need to learn how to finish games. Learn that just because you have a lead does not mean it is safe. The offense and defense need to continue to be aggressive and attack the other team, not sit back and watch the other team make a comeback. Through the first three quarters the Huskies have been easily a top-20 team, but in the fourth quarter they are one of the worst in the nation. In order to win games at this level, the Huskies have to learn to finish and play aggressive the entire 60 minutes.

3) Don’t “Shoot Yourself in the Foot”
In the past few years, UConn has been known as a team that plays good team football and doesn’t make mistakes that hurt themselves. They’ve been known as a team that wouldn’t “shoot themselves in the foot.” However, this year has been a different story. Whether its interceptions, fumbles, missed tackles, or penalities, the Huskies have been killing themselves with mistakes. Looking at the Pitt game, the Huskies had two big mistakes that I thought ended up hurting them in the end.

(Hartford Current Photo)

(Hartford Current Photo)

The first was in the second quarter, as the Huskies were in Pittsburgh territory after a good offensive drive. On a second down play, Cody Endres dropped back and threw one of the prettiest balls a UConn quarterback has thrown in awhile. It was the perfect play call, a “go”-route for Jordan Todman out of the backfield. Todman split the linebackers and was wide open in the endzone, with that perfect pass right on his hands….but he dropped the pass. He didn’t catch it, and ruined a perfect opportunity for the Huskies to increase their lead. On the VERY NEXT PLAY, Endres drops back to pass but this time Pittsburgh got pressure on him and tackled him, as well as knocked the ball out of his hand. A fumble. The panthers recovered, and the Huskies got no points on that drive. That should have been 7 points, or at least 3, but it ended with nothing to show for it except a turnover.

The second play was in the fourth quarter. The Huskies were still hanging on to a 7-point lead. Pitt was driving and with the ball around mid-field. It was third down and six, Pitt QB Bill Stull finds a receiver to the right. He catches the ball, but is still 3 yards shy of the first down marker. All UConn has to do is make the tackle and force a punt and they get the ball back. However, linebacker Greg Lloyd misses the tackle. The receiver is able to drag Lloyd across the first down marker for a gain of eight and a first down. The Panthers go on to score a touchdown and tie the game. After forcing a three and out from the Huskies, Pitt drives down the field and kicks the game winning field goal as time expires.
Mistakes such as these cost the Huskies a victory, and if the Huskies hope to have a successful season the rest of the way, they need to stop making big mistakes like these.

UConn is a good team. The silver lining in all of this is that the Huskies are just two quarters and a few mistakes away from being 5-0 and nationally ranked. If they can do the things I pointed out in this blog, then they should be able to bounce back and have a successful season. They get their first chance this Saturday, when Louisville comes to East Hartford, for a Big East matchup. It’s homecoming for UConn, and with the game already sold-out, the team needs to play well if they don’t want their fans to give up on the season.

UConn hopes to avoid letting another team celebrate at the end of a game this season. (Hartford Couarnt Photo)

UConn hopes to avoid letting another team celebrate at the end of a game this season. (Hartford Couarnt Photo)

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Offense, Endres Still Improving Despite Loss: Palestra.net VIDEO

Cody EndresEven though the UConn lost this past weekend to Pitt, there was one bright spot…the offense. Under Quarterback Cody Endres, the offense has continued to improve every week. This past week was no different. Watch this video for more insight on Cody and the Offense.

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