My colleague Pat already commented on this very issue, but I'll echo and expand on his sentiments. Thursday night was unquestionably a different Randy Edsall, and I loved what I saw.
The flea flicker to open the game was a solid call. Todman's pitch was errant, so it all went awry, but I liked the idea. I think we've seen a flea flicker to open the game before, I don't know where or when, but I feel like we have. That's not what makes me say Randy coached differently, I'm just pointing out something I liked.
The fourth and one call on the Huskies' second possession was surprising to me, and it was the right button to push. If Edsall doesn't make that call, we don't tie it up at seven right off the bat. Good, strong, aggressive call. It set the tone for the night.
I want to fast forward to the fourth quarter, and point out where I think Edsall showed a change in his philosophy. The Panthers had just cut the lead to two, and the Huskies had the ball on their own 10 with 4:35 to play. First play, a Todman rush for seven. Second play, another Todman rush, but this time for a loss of five. That left the Huskies with a third and eight on the Connecticut 12, in dire need of a first down. We'll come back to this series in a second.
Looking back at the Rutgers loss, a game which I don't believe the Huskies had any business losing, the Huskies were in a very similar situation. UConn's defense had just been on the field for over seven minutes, and stopped Rutgers on downs at the Connecticut 13 yard line. UConn was up seven, with six minutes left. The first play was a Todman run for two yards to the 15 yard line. The second was a Todman rush, this time for a loss of one. The Huskies found themselves in third and nine from their own 14 yard line, in dire need of a first down. Sound familiar?
That night, Todman ran a third time and gained only two yards. A play call I was extremely critical of, and to this day still am. You have to throw there. You have to at least try to pick up the first down. If you punt you put your gassed defense right back on the field, and a short one at that. A punt meant in all likelihood, Rutgers was going to tie the game, and that's exactly what happened. In case you can't tell, I'm still not over that series…
Back to Thursday night's situation. So, third and eight from the UConn 12, an eerily similar situation to the Rutgers game. I'm thinking "Here it is Randy, same spot, please throw it". Thankfully, that's exactly what he did. Frazer hit Todman for a seven yard gain setting up a fourth and one that Husky fans will never forget. The decision to go for it was as gutsy as the come, but it was also 100% absolutely the right call. If we punt there, barring a turnover or a missed field goal, we were going to lose the game. Edsall understood that, which is why he threw it on the third and eight play.
Edsall coached this game with a sense of urgency. He spoke before the game about the game's importance. He, like all of us, knew this was a sink of swim game. The West Virginia win kept the Huskies on life support. A win over Pitt would salvage a disappointing season, and thrust the Huskies into the thick of the Big East Championship race. A loss and the season was over.
Now, the real heroes of Thursday night's game were Jordan Todman, the offensive line and a defense that played pretty well, for the third consecutive game. But hat tip to Randy Edsall, for trusting his offense to get the job done in the waning moments.
I'd love to see Randy coach with that same sense of urgency all the time. I still look back at what could of been with that Rutgers game. If the Huskies had hung onto that lead, they'd be sitting in first place right now, but it is what it is. We have to look forward now. We have to win out, and that's by no means impossible.
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