Flu, Former Coach Can’t Keep Huskies Down
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) _ Connecticut had a lot to deal with
heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland.
Several Huskies, especially on defense, were battling some kind
of flu making its way through the team. They also were trying to
rebound from a tough 10-7 loss to North Carolina State and had to
face their former coach for the first time.
Despite all that, Connecticut did just fine. Lyle McCombs and
Scott McCummings both ran for touchdowns, and Nick Williams
returned a punt for another score as the Huskies defeated Maryland
The defense played especially well, as Connecticut (2-1) limited
Maryland (2-1) to 205 yards of total offense and never trailed.
“I would say that I’m proud of the team in the sense that we
had the flu, and we had guys a little bit under the weather,”
Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “Some of them couldn’t
play and some of them played. We had to get a great performance out
of the defense … I told the kids it was a really good team win.”
The Huskies entered the game ranked third in the country in
total defense and scoring defense, and they made life tough for
Maryland and freshman quarterback Perry Hills.
They pressured Hills constantly and sacked him six times, led by
linebackers Yawin Smallwood (14 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) and Sio Moore
(seven tackles, 2 1/2 sacks). Hills completed 10 of 24 for 109 yards
with one interception and one touchdown.
“Coach always tells us that there is going to be adversity, but
we stepped up and played throughout,” said defensive tackle Ryan
Wirth. “We got the `W,’ and that’s all that matters.”
The biggest issue might have been the Huskies going against
former coach Randy Edsall. He left after the 2010 season in a move
that upset some, but both teams spent the week playing down any
extra motivation coming from this meeting.
It was no different after the game, as Moore talked about his
meeting with Edsall in a positive tone.
“I went up to him after the game and told him I love him,”
Moore said. “He is one of those guys that really saw something in
me when I didn’t know I had anything in me myself, so I really
appreciate him giving me the chance.”
Edsall also showed a bit of emotion in his postgame press
conference, his voice cracking a few times when talking about his
feelings toward his former team.
“We went through the week and conducted business as usual,”
Edsall said. “When the game was over, you go over and say hello to
the people you have worked with, any people you have coached. You
wish them well, and you tell them that if there is anything you can
do for them after they graduate for them to give you a call.”
Maryland’s defense, which came into the game ranked ninth
nationally, also played well. It held Connecticut to the 223 yards
and limited the big plays.
Maryland freshman Stefon Diggs nearly did enough to win the game
by himself. He accounted for 223 yards _ 98 on kick returns, 68 on
punt returns and 57 on receptions _ including a 29-yard touchdown
pass from Hills in the fourth quarter.
But the Huskies took a 14-0 lead early and never looked back,
even though they had a tough time with the Maryland defense.
Connecticut opened the scoring on Williams’ 58-yard punt return,
and Chad Christen’s extra point gave the Huskies a 7-0 lead with
7:05 left in the first quarter.
They took advantage of a short field to score their second
touchdown, gaining possession at the Maryland 36 after the
Terrapins were forced to punt from their 4. McCummings’ 3-yard run
seven plays later made it 14-0 with 12:35 left in the half.
Maryland’s offense finally awakened on the next possession. A
key play came on fourth-and-4 from the Connecticut 37, when Hills
completed an 18-yard pass to Diggs.
One play later, Wes Brown ran for a 19-yard touchdown, and Brad
Craddock’s extra point cut the lead to 14-7 with 10:24 remaining in
Smallwood sacked Hills and forced a third-quarter fumble that
Angelo Pruitt recovered for the Huskies at the Maryland 23. They
couldn’t pick up a first down, but Christen kicked a 34-yard field
goal with 3:29 left in the quarter for a 17-7 lead.
After a 75-yard drive, Maryland made it 17-14 on the second play
of the fourth quarter when Hills threw the 29-yard touchdown pass
to Diggs on third-and-10. The Terrapins’ Marcus Leak tipped the
pass and Diggs grabbed it for a touchdown to make it 17-14.
But the Huskies answered on their next possession, driving 76
yards to take a 24-14 lead on McCombs’ 11-yard touchdown run.
McCombs rushed for 94 yards overall.
Hills ran for a 10-yard touchdown that cut the Connecticut lead
to 24-21 with 4:39 left.
After getting the ball back following a Huskies punt, Maryland
reached the Connecticut 39 before its drive stalled with 17 seconds
left, all of which clearly frustrated Hills, whose team faces No. 9
West Virginia next Saturday.
“I have to watch the film, get better, improve and put it
behind me,” Hills said. “I don’t accept losing, don’t like
losing. But I promised my team and everyone that I’m going to
prepare like I’ve never prepared before to get ready for this next
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)