By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ The Connecticut football team is growing a bit weary of being labeled an up-and-coming program and underdogs of the bowl season.
After three bowl wins and four consecutive postseason appearances, coach Randy Edsall said Monday his team has earned some respect, and should no longer be considered overachievers.
“I think maybe we’ve maybe erased that kind of a stigma,” he said. “This is our fifth bowl … we’ve won two conference championships.”
But UConn (8-4) has been a Bowl Subdivision team for less than a decade and is going into its first BCS game, New Year’s Day’s Fiesta Bowl, as a 17-point underdog to Oklahoma (11-2).
The Sooners come into the game with a slightly more impressive history, having won seven national championships and 43 conference titles.
Connecticut linebacker Scott Lutrus said the Sooners, who average over 478 yards on offense, look fast on film, but not scary.
“They’re a team like anyone else,” he said. “We’ve played and beaten great teams and great offenses before.”
The Huskies ended the regular season with five consecutive wins, including the tiebreaking victories over Big East conference co-champions West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
Much of that had to do with the play of tailback Jordan Todman, the conference’s offensive player of the year. He ran for 113 yards against the Mountaineers, 222 against the Panthers and is averaging 143 yards per game.
“They all tried to stop us,” Todman said. “But we earned our respect, we earned where we are today.”
With the Huskies putting up 145 yards per game through the air, it’s no secret that they will try to run the ball in Arizona too.
“That’s who we are,” said Edsall. “That’s who we have to be.”
Quarterback Zach Frazer understands that. The senior transfer from Notre Dame is 8-1 in starts after October, and said he has no problem being the guy who simply manages the game.
“If you’re not managing the game, who is?” he said. “Being conservative, or anything like that, I feel like we’re just doing what works, and our game plan can vary from one game to another,” he said.
UConn will practice through Wednesday, then take a break for the Christmas holiday. The players head to Arizona on the 26th.
As for being underdogs, defensive tackle Kendall Reyes said UConn has played that role in every big game since he’s been here.
They’ve never been picked in the preseason to finish higher than fourth in the Big East.
A year ago, they were five-point underdogs to South Carolina in the PapaJohn’s Bowl, before winning that game 20-7.
“We’re going to be up-and-coming until we win a national championship,” Reyes said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)