STORRS - UConn head coach Randy Edsall knew there would be a learning curve for both his staff and players when he was hired in January for a second stint as coach of a program he once brought to the Fiesta Bowl.
That curve has proved to pretty steep.
A quarter of the way through the season, the Huskies are 1-3 (0-2 American Athletic Conference) heading into Friday night's matchup with Memphis (3-1, 0-1). The only win came in the season opener against FCS opponent Holy Cross, 27-20, a game in which the Huskies had to rally from a 20-7 second-half deficit.
Last week, UConn was tied 28-28 with SMU, before giving up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lose 49-28.
Edsall said the problem has not been in learning the new offense and defense.
“We have to teach them how to win because they don't know how to win, they haven't won,” said Edsall said during his weekly meeting with the media. “There's a lot with that, but you're not going to go from here to here and skip all those steps, at least I'm not going to. We have to learn how to win and earn the wins, and that's as big a part of anything.”
UConn is 25-52 since that Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2011.
Memphis, which had been riding high after a win over UCLA in Week 2, is trying to rebound from its first loss of the season, a 40-13 rout at the hands of Central Florida.
The Tigers, who were picked to win the AAC's West Division, view the game against the Huskies as a chance for redemption.
“Our guys were kind of embarrassed for how we played,” said coach Mike Norvell. “I'm embarrassed as a coach for how we had them prepared to play. So we're going to respond.”
Here are some things to watch for as the Huskies host the Tigers:
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE?
Edsall said he has an issue with the consistency of effort in the Huskies’ game preparation. He paraphrased UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who famously said his teams don't work on something until they get it right, they practice until they can't get it wrong.
“Everybody thinks it's a quick fix and everything can happen instantly for them,” Edsall said. “But if you're going to be successful and you're going to be as good as you can be, there's a process that you have to go through, if, in my opinion, you want it to be sustainable.”
IMPROVING OFFENSE, DISMALL D
Edsall said his team has been improving, especially on offense. The Huskies have put up an average of 467 yards a game under new coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who reclaimed his starting job from last year after coming on in the second half of the opener, has put up back-to-back 400-yard games. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns against SMU.
But, the Huskies rank 126th out of 129 FBS teams in total defense, giving up 542 yards a game, with a secondary that has four freshmen in the two-deep depth chart.
This is Memphis’ second trip to New England in program history. The last visit also was to East Hartford, where the Tigers lost to the Huskies 45-10 in 2013.
UConn is playing its third game in 12 days and coming off a late Saturday afternoon game in Texas. Memphis played on Saturday night. Edsall said something should be done about those short weeks.
“You get tired of hearing people talk about the welfare of the student athlete, then nobody, when you have an opportunity to do something that's right, doesn't seem like it gets done because we're at the mercy of the television people because of the money that's involved,” he said. “You should be playing the first possible time slot that you can play the week before so you get done and you get that extra rest.”