STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut fans are expected to boo at least one head coach on Saturday, but whether their wrath will be directed more at Randy Edsall or Paul Pasqualoni will have a lot to do with how the Huskies play against Maryland.
The Terrapins, after all, are the team Edsall left UConn to coach after guiding the Huskies to the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
Many still harbor resentment over the way Edsall departed Connecticut, taking a plane from the bowl game to Maryland, without notifying the team of his plans.
“I don’t feel like the fans have ever forgotten about Coach Edsall,” UConn receiver Deshon Foxx said. “So him coming back to Connecticut is going to be interesting. It’s going to be cool.”
Edsall built UConn from Division I-AA power to Division I upstart and took the program to five bowl games in his 12 years in Storrs. Connecticut hasn’t had a winning season since he left.
The Huskies went 5-7 in Pasqualoni’s first two seasons at UConn and opened this season with a 33-18 loss to Towson out of the Football Championship subdivision.
But Pasqualoni disputes any assertion that the program has taken a step backward.
“I like the people we have, I like the team, I like the players, I like young players we brought in,” Pasqualoni said. “There are certain positions that I think we have more to work with. From that standpoint, it’s on solid ground.”
A loss to Maryland would give the Huskies an 0-2 start for the first time since 2002 and make that ground a bit shakier with No. 11 Michigan set to visit next week.
The Terrapins, meanwhile, are off to a 2-0 start with wins over lightly regarded Florida International and Old Dominion. Edsall has won just eight games at Maryland, and lost to UConn last year in College Park.
But he said this one should not be about him, or anything that happened in the past.
“I’ve been in this business long enough that there will be boos and people who will cheer, and that’s the nature of the profession,” Edsall said. “I am thankful of the people that supported the program when I was there made me feel at home, got behind our team and allowed us to do the things we did.”
Here are five things to watch as Maryland visits Connecticut:
WHAT BROWN CAN DO: Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown didn’t play in the Terps’ 24-21 loss to UConn last season, missing the entire season with a knee injury. The senior has put up an average of more than 345 yards in total offense in the first two games of this season, throwing for five touchdowns and running for four. He is Pasqualoni’s biggest concern going into Saturday night. “I think what he’s done is really boosted the confidence in the team,” he said.
HIGH OCTANE: Maryland’s offense ranks 10th in the nation, having put up 576 yards and 587 yards in the wins over FIU and ODU. The Terps have been getting off to fast starts, outscoring their opponents 71-13 in the first half.
BREAKING 100: Maryland running back Brandon Ross has rushed for 100 yards three times in his last five games, including 149 against ODU. Receiver Stefon Diggs added a career-high 179 yards receiving last week after putting up 98 in the season opener.
LAYING THE WOOD: Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood was credited with 16 tackles in the Huskies opener. The junior captain led the Huskies with 120 tackles last season.
YOUTH MOVEMENT: True freshman Tim Boyle is on the depth chart as backup for UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer. The 6-foot-4 Boyle is listed along with redshirt freshman Casey Cochran in the No. 2 slot. “Timmy gives us a taller guy and a stronger arm,” Pasqualoni said.
SWITCHING SIDES: UConn has moved sophomore E.J. Norris, who had been getting playing time as a reserve defensive end, to tight end, a position he played in high school.
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