Hope dashed in UConn football’s opening game

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“One game doesn’t make a season. This is a twelve-game season, this isn’t a one-game season.” Those were the words spoken by the University of Connecticut’s football coach Randy Edsall in a virtual press conference Sunday. And yet, for many fans, one game was all that the Huskies had to play in order for pessimism about the team’s chances to fester. 

The team went into the season with optimistic remarks from many supporters. It was their debut as an independent team, following their AAC departure when the Huskies changed conference again. But the 0-45 defeat that Edsall described as “A tough first test” did little to inspire fans to believe this season would be different.  

It would be difficult to find part of the game that would inspire the hopes of Huskies fans. The team did not score a single point and, in the course of the second quarter, gave up 24 in 15 minutes. They ended the first half down 31 points, a deficit that was clearly nearly insurmountable. Had the Huskies climbed that mountain we’d be telling a very different story today, of one of the biggest comebacks of all time. 

Now, fans look forward towards what many fear will be another painful season for the Huskies. Sophomore quarterback Jack Zergiotis struggled his way to a 12-24 record that yielded just 61 yards, or just over five yards per reception. Zergiotis won the starting quarterback slot over Steven Krajewski this offseason. 

“He just outperformed Steven.” Remarked Edsall in the press conference. “Based on the stats that we took every day in practice. That’s how you do it, that’s how you win the job: You outperform somebody and he did that. That’s why he’s our starting quarterback.”  

Their running game wasn’t better; they averaged 1.1 yards over 31 attempts on the backs of running backs Kevin Mensah and Nathan Carter who combined for 19 of the 31 attempts. Zergiotis, who ran eight times in the course of the game, lost 11 yards overall. Mensah managed 30, while Carter got just 10 in his eight attempts.  

The defensive struggles were also significant. Besides giving up 45 points in one game, the team gave up over 500 yards and were unable to get a sack, fumble or fourth-down stop; Fresno went for two, and made both. The team also managed just four tackles for a loss, for a total of nine yards. 

Just where Coach Edsall found positives yesterday is still unclear. Perhaps it was in the fact that neither quarterback, Zergiotis or Krajewski who went 2-6, threw an interception. UConn’s sole turnover in the game was a fumble by Zergiotis in the first quarter.  

Perhaps it was the performance of Jeremy Lucien, whose interception was the highlight of the defense’s otherwise underwhelming effort against Fresno, or the fact Mensah now has the fifth most rushing yards of any player in Huskies history, according to the UConn Football program’s Twitter.  

Whatever it was that even for a moment inspired Edsall will need to be quintupled for their next game, the home opener against Holy Cross on Saturday, Sept. 4. That game will perhaps be the one that is more telling for the Huskies’ future; Holy Cross is not considered as strong a team as Fresno. 

I can’t tell if the Huskies can turn their season around now and swerve out of the lane of disappointment that every fan can see them drifting toward once more; but for now fans continue to fear that this season will be another that has them asking,  “When does basketball start?” 

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