The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Turning the page
Huskies aim to improve with new coach, QB
Feeling down in the dumps about UConn football?
No question, it’s been a rotten couple of weeks for the Huskies. First, they were pummeled by Fresno State 45-0 in their season opener. Then they were embarrassed the following week by FCS product Holy Cross 38-28 to kick off their home slate.
But wait ... it got worse. Head coach Randy Edsall resigned Monday, just one day after announcing he would stick with the program through the end of the season before retiring.
And now in comes Purdue, ready to add to the Huskies’ woes. The Boilermakers (1-0) are 34.5-point favorites Saturday at Rentschler Field (3 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
Despite all that’s gone wrong, players insist they haven’t lost hope.
“We need to get better at consistently putting together an entire 60-minute battle,” junior cornerback Jeremy Lucien said. “I’m confident that we can do it. We’re only two games in, we still have 10 games left.”
UConn will move forward with not only a new coach in interim boss Lou Spanos, the defensive coordinator since 2019, but also a different quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Steven Krajewski will be taking over under center, replacing sophomore Jack Zergiotis.
The hope is that Krajewski, who played in garbage time against Fresno State and appeared in four games in 2019, can spark a unit that’s underwhelmed so far.
“Steve has a chance to go out there and prove what he can do,” senior left tackle Ryan Van Demark
said. “I think Steve’s up to the task. I’m confident in all my guys no matter who’s back there. I know they’re going to play well.”
The Huskies gained just 107 yards against Fresno State, and the shutout was their first since a 30-0 loss to Boston College on Nov. 19, 2016. They followed that up by committing four turnovers against Holy Cross, three on interceptions by Zergiotis.
Simply put, much more was expected after a one-year hiatus from competition.
“Everybody wasn’t feeling good after these first two games,”
Lucien said. “We’ve been off for two years putting in all this work, and then we come out against Fresno and Holy Cross, and both of those games didn’t go very well.
“The main thing that everybody is focusing on going forward is just … practices have been good. We’ve been giving a ton of effort in practice. We’ve been fighting a lot during the games. We just need to get better at execution at the end of the day.”
Only time will tell if that happens. The Huskies have dropped 32 of their last 38 games, and now are onto a new head coach. But players have spoken highly of Spanos, 50, and his personality.
“Everybody on the team loves Coach Spanos,” Van Demark said. “He’s a great guy and motivates everybody in a different way. With me being on the offense, I haven’t interacted with him that much, but I’ll stop in his office and go over defensive schemes and we’ll talk. We have a good relationship.”
Spanos has an open-door policy with his players.
“I value the players’ input. I want the input and I enjoy talking to them,” he said, before poking fun at himself. “Surprisingly, they are a lot smarter and more mature than me. It’s great to see how they express themselves.”
For what it’s worth, Spanos maintains confidence that the Huskies will turn around their fortunes sooner than later.
“They’ve fought a lot of adversity throughout the last two seasons, and they want this season to be special,” Spanos said. “We want it to be special. We’re doing our best, we’re working hard, we’re enjoying this moment.”
For now, at least. Contrary to results, the Huskies don’t think they’re far off from fixing what’s been wrong.
“All the changes that have been going on, that kind of stuff is enough to confuse anybody and kind of bring the mood down, but the energy was super high (in Tuesday’s practice) and everybody was really eager to get back after it,” Lucien said. “I definitely still have 100% faith in these guys.”