STORRS - The UConn football team may be saying goodbye to the American Athletic Conference, but that doesn’t mean the Huskies’ head coach isn’t sorry to be exiting.
Randy Edsall’s team visits Temple on Saturday in what will be the program’s final game in the league as it transitions to independence next season.
“I just think it’s a very good league. There’s really good players in this league. I think there’s really good coaches in this league,” Edsall said Tuesday. “I don’t think this league gets the respect it deserves and I don’t know if it ever will.”
UConn (2-9, 0-7 American) has lost all of its league games this season, and didn’t win a single one in league play last season, either.
UConn’s last victory in AAC play came against Tulsa two years ago. The Huskies have lost 18 straight such games since.
The Huskies’ losing streak aside, Edsall believes the AAC is in an impossible position nationally to compete for championships.
“It’s not geared toward the Group of 5. The College Football Playoff is all geared towards the Power 5,” Edsall said. “What Central Florida did (going undefeated in 2017) and can’t get in? I worry about the AAC and all the Group of 5 conferences, because I think at some point in time probably within the next 10 years, the Power 5 is going to go off on their own.”
The larger implications of the league aside, the UConn players would simply like to exit with a much-needed victory.
“Especially because this is our last game in the conference,” UConn linebacker Omar Fortt said. “We want to leave on a high note.”
The majority of UConn’s athletic teams will be joining the Big East. Meanwhile, the Huskies will play five Power 5 opponents on next year’s 12-game football schedule as an independent.
BRUISED AND BATTERED
The Huskies will enter their final game of 2019 with a litany of injured players, especially in the secondary.
Cornerback Myles Bell (knee), cornerback Jeremy Lucien (head), safety Diamond Harrell (clavicle) and cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson (head) all missed practice Tuesday. Bell is having surgery to repair a torn ACL and is obviously out of action, while the other three defensive backs are seemingly unlikely to play in the finale
Running back Art Thompkins (knee) practiced Tuesday, though perhaps in a limited capacity. Safety Tyler Coyle (shoulder), too, was in attendance for Tuesday’s practice but was wearing a red jersey, indicating he was not allowed in full-contact drills.
Also among those hurt last weekend against East Carolina was linebacker Terrence Ganyi (ankle), though he appeared to be participating fully in practice on Tuesday.
“It’ll be a game-time decision on some of those kids,” Edsall said. “But I don’t worry too much anymore. It used to bother me when we had injuries but now it doesn’t because I’m really excited and anxious to see how a young man, if he has to go in and play for the first time, to see how he handles it. If you recruited the right type of guys, they’ll go in there and compete.”
GOOD PHILLY MEMORIES
The last time UConn played a game in Philadelphia, Coyle played a key role in the Huskies’ victory. The then-freshman from Windsor intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in UConn’s 28-24 victory Oct. 14, 2017.
His teammates would love for Coyle to turn the trick again this weekend.
“I forgot about that but I’m definitely going to bring that up. Hopefully he remembers,” running back Kevin Mensah said.
Edsall said that a number of graduating seniors who work with the football program were supposed to be honored prior to the East Carolina game but were accidentally removed from the pregame video tributes.
He mentioned each by name Tuesday with an apology.
“We wouldn’t be able to function without their help and their support,” Edsall said. “I apologize to them.”
The departing seniors are Jordan Burgess, Meg Garcia, Greg Lapeine, Chris Maddox, Carter Orce, and Matt Ortiz from the video staff; Sam Collins, Nick Lajara, Ricky Velasquez, and Joe Vernieri from the equipment staff; and Christian Battey and Akash Kumar from the sports medicine staff.
Mensah is seven yards short of 1,000 this season and is in line to become just the second Husky back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in two seasons. Jordan Todman is the other. … Temple leads the all-time series between the two teams 13-6. The Owls have won five of the last six meetings, including last year’s 57-7 thumping in East Hartford. … Scouts from the NFL’s Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers were in attendance for Tuesday’s workout.