With a disappointing loss at USF still fresh in their mind, UConn football (1-6, 0-4) spent a rare outside October practice preparing for their homecoming game against UMass on Saturday. Their 38-30 loss to USF might have been the Huskies’ most complete game of the season, perhaps giving the team a morale boost prior to their game against the Minutemen.
“We’re just focused on doing the little things right and being the complete team we can be,” said sophomore running back Kevin Mensah. “[UMass] is fast, they’re really aggressive. Their D-line is really big but if we can just keep doing what we do, I think it will be a good fight.”
The team traveled to USF without Eli Thomas after the senior linebacker suffered a stroke during the team’s bye week. Linebacker Santana Sterling wore Thomas’ number 22 and recorded an interception on the defenses’ first drive, fueling a first-half defensive effort that held the number 21-ranked Bulls to just seven points.
“Spiritually, he was out there with us. We just wanted to come together and realized that if we start to put all the things together we could be the team that we want,” said Mensah.
Head coach Randy Edsall does believe that there has been a change in the demeanor of the team. It has gone unspoken between the players and coaching staff, but is a tangible change in his mind.
“If you don’t have a better appreciation for going out there and giving it your best and each and everyday and trying to be the best at everything you can do, you’ll never learn the lesson,” Edsall said. “It’s unfortunate that sometimes that has to happen for some young men to wake up and for the light switch to go on, but I would be hopeful that for the rest of these young men’s lives that they will understand just how important life is and how precious life is.”
According to Edsall, the week of practice following Thomas’s injury was better than previous weeks. Although he was undoubtedly pleased with the Huskies’ strong showing against a nationally-ranked opponent, he hopes that the team doesn’t need any outside factors to get them to reach the same level of play.
“You only get 12 opportunities to play and if you really love the game, you’re going to go out there and play and give it your all without having any extra motivation,” said Edsall.
After a great week of practice leading up to USF, he hopes the team now knows they can play at a higher level then their record would indicate.
“I saw a team that was a little more confident than they were. A little more confidence, a little more zip,” said Edsall. “Now, we’ve got to improve upon it. Now, we’ve got to get better this week.”
Some players noted that the Tuesday practice had a different mood from earlier sessions.
“The biggest difference is that we’re just having fun,” said sophomore cornerback Tahj Herring- Wilson.
Backup quarterback Marvin Washington was left in Connecticut during the trip to South Florida. Edsall originally said it was because he didn’t meet the team’s standards. Tuesday, Edsall implied that it was because the redshirt freshman had missed a team meeting.
“If he doesn’t show up for a meeting and is late, [he wont play],” said Edsall. “As of today, he will, but we’ve got Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to go.”
There will be a familiar face on the opponent’s sideline on Saturday. Brice McAllister swapped in UConn blue and white for UMass-maroon this offseason. The safety spent four years at UConn and tallied 54 tackles. While McAllister has said he wasn’t offered the chance to return for his final year of eligibility, Edsall says that was not the case.
“He decided to leave,” said Edsall. “He decided he didn’t want to be here as part of our program.”
The Huskies and Minutemen will kick off at 12 p.m. this Saturday at Pratt and Whitney Stadium.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.