Cumberland Times-News

September 13, 2012

Just another game? Don’t buy that one

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— Maryland football coach Randy Edsall says he has nothing but fond memories of his time as the Connecticut football coach. The Connecticut football players, most of whom Edsall recruited and then left in the middle of the Bob Irsay night following their blowout loss in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, to a man say that while the manner in which Edsall departed likely bothers some people around Storrs, it certainly doesn’t bother them.

Just another game, the Maryland coach says of Saturday’s match-up at Byrd Stadium when his current team hosts his former team. Just the next game to come along on the schedule say the UConn players.

Mm-hm, and Gary Williams and Geno Auriemma were just the next basketball coaches to come along in College Park and Stoors (It’s just too nice of a day to mention Calhoun).

As of Thursday afternoon the Huskies were listed as three-point favorites, meaning if this game were being played at a neutral site (say, Glendale, Ariz.?), the Huskies would be a six-point favorite. That means the oddsmakers believe UConn is better than Maryland, which, despite the Terps’ surprising win at Temple, is not too difficult to grasp at this stage.

Thus, since there is unlikely to be a raucous sellout crowd going Dawg Pound tomorrow at Byrd, an intangible advantage for Maryland might be Edsall, who should know the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of most of the UConn players better than UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni does himself, as Edsall is the one who recruited them. On top of that, despite his cardboard demeanor, Edsall could serve as a lightning rod tomorrow afternoon, whether he wants to or not, for given the circumstances, which make even the most ardent Maryland supporter wince, this being just another game for the Connecticut players is an emotional impossibility.

Just as any college football coach will on the recruiting trail, Edsall promised these players and their parents, if not the moon, that it would always be Us against The World. Yet when the The World, or in this case Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, came a courting, Edsall left without so much as a “See ya.” This just after teaching former UConn running back Jordan Todman a life’s lesson by ordering him to tell his teammates face-to-face he was leaving the Huskies early to turn pro.

“It’s something I have to live with,” Edsall said Tuesday. “I wish I could have talked to those players in person. But the circumstances in our profession didn’t allow that, and that’s something I have to live with.”

If the circumstances were greed and self-fulfillment, then no, they wouldn’t have allowed that. Living up to the example of the face-to-face lesson he was seemingly trying to teach Todman, though, would have demanded it.

“It is a game that is UConn versus Maryland,” senior UConn linebacker Sio Moore told the Middletown (Conn.) Press, crystal clear in his awareness that if the Huskies take the field tomorrow psyched out of their gords for personal payback purposes, they could be in for a very long day. “We have to go in there and play. If we go in there full of emotion like that, we won’t be able to concentrate on what you need to. What we need to do is make sure we execute.”

Edsall, who has maintained that Maryland has long been his dream job, told the media this week he scheduled this game as the UConn coach with the intention of coming back to the area, as he is a native of Glen Rock, Pa., a mere 90-minute drive from College Park. “It’s just one of those things, when I came here, this is where I grew up,” he said. “When I was at Connecticut, I just thought it would be a good game for us in terms of recruiting down here, but also from the standpoint, just to get back down in this area.”

Well, he’s back in the area, and after a disastrous first season at Maryland, on the field and in the PR department, he revamped his coaching staff, turned in an outstanding recruiting year and even took some instruction on working and playing well with others. After two games, the Terps, at 2-0, have already equalled their win total of a year ago and enter tomorrow’s game with their coach’s former team on the mission of approaching it as just another game.

 “People that you (have recruited), you’ve gotten to know, you do,” Edsall said. “You follow them. But hey, you wish them well in every game except when you’re going to play them.”

Or after you lure them to a place they had likely never heard of in their lives, then leave them without so much as a goodbye.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com