Connecticut football Coach Randy Edsall was addressing members of the media earlier this week about his team’s road game Saturday against Virginia when a reporter asked for his recollections from the last time he visited Charlottesville.
It was Oct. 13, 2012, with Edsall in the middle of his second season at Maryland. A lucrative contract had lured Edsall to College Park on the heels of his first stint at Connecticut, when he led the Huskies program into major college football and then to five bowl games.
“I can remember some snap went by some guy, the quarterback, at one time, but I don’t want to remember it,” he said of the 27-20 win against the Cavaliers in which Maryland nearly wasted a 17-0 lead.
The victory would be Edsall’s last that season before a six-game slide, thus his impulse to forget the details of that afternoon along with his entire ill-fated tenure at Maryland. Edsall’s record following the Virginia game was 16-22, leading to his dismissal during the 2015 season.
Edsall spent last year working for the Detroit Lions as director of football research and special projects until reuniting with Connecticut late last December, soon after the firing of Bob Diaco.
Connecticut Athletic Director David Benedict indicated at the time that bringing back Edsall made sense because of his understanding of what’s required to win at the school. Edsall ended his first go-round in Storrs with 74 victories, including 33 in his last four seasons.
He also won two Big East titles and guided the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2011, his final game before departing hastily for what he called his “dream job” with Maryland.
The abrupt exit rankled many in the Huskies’ athletic community and compelled Edsall to begin his second introductory news conference at Connecticut by issuing an apology.
“Almost six years ago, I made one of the worst decisions in terms of how I left the University of Connecticut,” he said. “That is something that I have to live with and have lived with. I’m not perfect. Everybody makes a mistake. I regret it. It’s something that’s weighed on me very heavily over the years. I just hope I’ll be able to earn the trust back.”
A move several weeks later yielded another round of unwelcome publicity. After calling recruit Ryan Dickens to ensure his scholarship would remain in place under the new coaching staff, Edsall subsequently revoked it, citing a switch in defensive schemes.
While the practice is not uncommon upon the hiring of a new coach, the Dickens situation resonated nonetheless in part because of the acrimony from previous such cases involving Edsall.
In 2013, for instance, he pulled the scholarship of Maryland recruit Demetri McGill, who called the incident “kind of upsetting” and said it filled him with “hard feelings.”
Edsall’s return to Connecticut, meantime, unfolded almost as quickly as when he left in the first place. The school announced Dec. 26, 2016, Diaco had been relieved of his duties. Four days later, Edsall was speaking at a news conference as Benedict’s first major hire since becoming athletic director in March 2016.
“You have lots of conversations with people,” Benedict said. “You have fans. You have donors, other coaches that are in our department. You learn a lot about a lot of things, and Randy was someone who obviously had a lot of success here, so there’s a lot of people that refer and still talk about Randy Edsall.
“It wasn’t so much that I had to do a lot work to learn about who Randy was, so it was able to come together in a very short period of time.”
The first game of Edsall’s reboot nearly resulted in calamity. Trailing lower-division Holy Cross by 13 well into the third quarter of the season opener Aug. 31, the Huskies had to rally with 20 unanswered points to survive at home, 27-20.
Backup quarterback Bryant Shirreffs replaced starter David Pindell late in the third quarter to lead the comeback. Shirreffs, a redshirt senior, completed 9 of 13 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He had started 20 games the past two seasons, but Pindell, a junior college transfer, won the job midway through training camp.
Edsall named Shirreffs the starter last week heading into Connecticut’s scheduled game against South Florida. The American Athletic Conference opener for both teams eventually was postponed because of Hurricane Irma. The game was initially reported canceled because the programs don’t share a bye week, but Benedict tweeted this week that they were still attempting to reschedule.
“There became a point a few weeks ago when I was just really down and out, but I just kept attacking,” Shirreffs said. “I just decided I’m going to learn from this, and it’s going to pay off, and I just kept a positive mind-set. Thankfully I had a lot of people around me helping me, and it’s turned out to put me where I am today.
“But now it’s my job to continue moving forward and put all this past me too.”
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