The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
A reason to cheer
UConn hoping to give Rentschler fans something to celebrate
HOLY CROSS at UCONN
Saturday, noon (CBSSN)
Home sweet home? Rentschler Field hasn’t felt that way for UConn football. At least not in recent years.
The Huskies haven’t won much there lately. Then again, they haven’t won much of anywhere. UConn is just 4-15 at home and 6-31 overall since coach Randy Edsall returned in 2017.
Edsall and Co. are hoping to change that narrative this season. While last Saturday’s 45-0 loss at Fresno State — UConn’s first game in 637 days — didn’t give the fan base any reason to believe they actually will, the Huskies continue to preach positivity.
With their home opener on tap Saturday (noon, CBS Sports Network) against Holy Cross, they hope fans will listen.
“I know a lot of fans are disappointed with that performance in the first game, but I just want to say that the team is hungrier than ever, and we hope that fans still support us,” quarterback Jack Zergiotis told reporters on Zoom. “I truly believe that we’re going to have a solid season.”
The Huskies were abysmal on both sides of the ball against Fresno State, allowing 538 yards and
gaining just 107 of their own. It resulted in one of the most lopsided losses of the Edsall era — a reminder of just how far they have to go to become a respectable program, let alone one capable of contending for bowl games every year.
Edsall said his players took accountability for the loss and have responded well in practice.
“They understand what took place,” Edsall said. “They’re doing the things necessary in order to correct what we have to do to continue to move forward.”
Holy Cross, the two-time defending Patriot League champion, is one of the better programs in the Northeast. Still, this is a game the Huskies, who opened as mere 2.5-point favorites, should win. The Crusaders last beat an FBS team in 2002 (Army).
Crusaders coach Bob Chesney called Saturday a “great measuring stick” for his team, telling the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “Any FBS team like this is going to expose you quickly where you’re weak, whether it’s schematics or personnel, and that is something you’re going to have to deal with.”
UConn has won 14 of its 17 home openers at Rentschler Field and is 17-1 against FCS opponents since 2002. Included in that is a 27-20 comeback victory over Holy Cross to kick off the 2017 season.
Granted, history won’t matter if the Huskies can’t put forth a better effort.
“We know what we’ve got to do,” safety Diamond Harrell said. “The first game, that’s the first game. That’s behind us. That’s in the past. (This Saturday), we’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve got to do and come out with a ‘dub. We’re not here to lose, we’re here to win and come out and be 12-1 — try to get to that bowl game.”
At this point, give how far UConn’s fallen, any rational fan would be happy with five wins.
But first things first: The Huskies could use a win — any win — to validate their efforts and provide some reason for optimism, if even for just an afternoon.
The Huskies’ last home game was Nov. 23, 2019, a 31-24 loss to East Carolina. The announced attendance that day was a shade over 12,000. About 20,000 tickets have been distributed for Saturday. We won’t know until kickoff how many people actually show up in East Hartford.
“It’ll be great to be at home in front of our fans,” Edsall said. “We haven’t been in Rentschler Field except for a couple (recent) scrimmages. I know our guys are looking forward to playing in our home field and getting in front of the fans and having that opportunity to be in our home locker room.”
The Huskies want to start fast — and finish strong, too.
“That’s our goal each and every week,” Edsall said. “We talk about that all the time. We always want to start fast, and we always want to finish strong. That’s nothing new for us.”