STORRS, Conn. -- College football seems intent on giving us a season straight out of Bizarro World, some sort of perverse parody from another dimension that includes programs with little tradition or -- even worse -- reputations as "basketball schools." The perfect example of this strange scenario rests in the middle of this week's Bowl Championship Series standings.
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the No. 13 team in the BCS ... the University of Connecticut.
That's right, UConn. Is that
Pretty heady stuff, at least for Huskies fans who normally view football as a frustrating diversion leading up to basketball season. But don't expect Edsall to get caught up in the moment. Edsall, 49, is a graduate of the
Beating South Florida -- a team that had been ranked No. 2 in the nation just two weeks earlier -- in his 100th game as UConn coach forced Edsall to soften his stance just a bit. He agreed it was the biggest victory in school history. When asked about the fans storming the field for the first time at Rentschler Field (the stadium opened in 2003 to accommodate UConn's move from Division I-AA), he acknowledged it was "pretty cool."
He even stopped to listen to the UConn marching band, still pounding out fight songs as Edsall conducted his postgame press conference. "We're just a bunch of ordinary people trying to do extraordinary deeds," Edsall said.
And it truly is extraordinary, considering UConn jumped to Division I-A as an independent in 2002. It took five years and 10 weeks to climb into the AP poll. Only Marshall (two years, four weeks) got there faster.
The Huskies, 4-8 last season, were picked to finish seventh in the Big East. Critics try to discredit UConn's record, pointing to victories over Temple and Louisville that included officiating errors that favored the Huskies, and a non-conference schedule that included Duke, Maine and Akron. But the fact remains the Huskies could be playing for the Big East championship if they take care of business before the season finale at No. 7 West Virginia on Nov. 24.
"I don't want to think about last year, but you can't forget about where you came from," said
Hernandez approached Edsall during spring practice about moving to wide receiver. That essentially opened the door for junior college transfer
"I think it sends a big message to your whole team," Edsall said of the decision by Hernandez. "It shows his unselfishness and how committed he is to the team. I think that's one of the biggest things about this group of young men. They're all very unselfish. And I think that's one of the reasons we're having some of the success we're having."
Hernandez is UConn's second-leading receiver, making big contributions to an offense sparked by sophomore running back
"That position is so vital to the success of your team," Edsall said. "We have a guy who is only a first-year player in the division we're in and fortunately he has come in and played extremely well."
UConn's defense ranks 10th in the nation and second in the Big East behind West Virginia and is anchored by senior tackle
Edsall was the first candidate UConn interviewed in December 1998 when athletic director
"I remember telling Lew, 'We'll end up back here,' " UConn AD
Those are qualities this program needed during an important transition period. Edsall says his vision for UConn required tweaking from time to time, but he remains focused on bigger goals. That's why he was back in his office at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, reviewing film and preparing for Rutgers.
The biggest win in school history and a national ranking won't change his approach after all these years. "There were lots of naysayers who never thought a day like this would happen here at UConn and with this football program," Edsall said. "I'm sure there are people who are shocked.
"Ultimately what you want to do is win your conference championship. And if you do that, you get all the benefits that go along with winning a conference championship. The vision hasn't changed."