The question, innocently enough, was about uniforms. Just jerseys. Nothing more.
His response? A perfect deadpan.
“I don’t know if I have any fans,” Edsall said before breaking into a wide grin. “Do I?”
Edsall’s curiosity is understandable. Emotions will swirl among Huskies fans still bitter over Edsall’s unceremonious departure two years ago. After Connecticut lost to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011, Edsall never boarded the team flight, instead accepting a job offer at Maryland, leaving many of his players to discover the news from friends and family via text message.
Edsall told reporters Tuesday that he wished he could have had a face-to-face conversation with the Huskies, many of whom will walk into Byrd Stadium with revenge on their minds, relishing the opportunity for their first crack at an Edsall-coached team.
But how much are the Terrapins — who are on the verge of their first 3-0 start since 2001 — really thinking about facing Edsall’s former team? When asked, every player repeated the same sentiment: This is a non-issue. The reason? Edsall won’t allow them to care.
“He hasn’t really mentioned it being a homecoming,” wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. “He told us before, this is no more important than any other game, no more important than the first game or any ACC game. At the end of the season, we’re trying to get to a certain point and having a certain goal in mind.”
At Maryland’s first team meeting Sunday following last weekend’s 36-27 win over Temple, the Terrapins’ coach told his players that reporters will circle all week, asking questions about Edsall and his 12 seasons leading Connecticut.
Otherwise, it has been business as usual inside Gossett Team House. During that meeting, according to Dorsey, the first thing Edsall said was, “It’s not about me.” Maryland players and coaches alike, when asked about what some articles have dubbed the “Edsall Bowl,” have all given similar answers.
“This is the first time I’ve heard it called the ‘Randy Bowl,’ ” defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. “The great thing about Coach Edsall is that we do everything the same. We practice the same, do meetings the same, recruit the same, so I haven’t noticed anything different. I just know that we have another football game against the University of Connecticut and we’re going to do everything we can to win that game.”
Huskies defensive coordinator Don Brown, who left Maryland in early 2011 after Edsall was hired, guides a unit that features seven seniors, many of whom were recruited by Edsall. Though NCAA rules have prevented him from having a further relationship with his former players, Edsall said he shook off the idea that Saturday’s game will somehow be a “weird” experience, playing down the story like he’s done all week.
“This week is no different than any other week to me,” Edsall said Tuesday. “This is Game 3 on our schedule, and our preparation and my focus, I haven’t done anything different up until this point, and I won’t do anything different from here on in. When the game’s over, there will be people I’ll see and say hello to and wish them well. But my approach, my focus, what I need to do to prepare my players, the University of Maryland players, that’s what I’ll continue to do the rest of the week.”
Granted, the Huskies aren’t exactly firing direct shots either. Defensive tackle Ryan Wirth told reporters that “it’s not going to be hard to get fired up for that one, definitely.” Other than that thinly veiled comment, however, Connecticut has likewise kept things tame.
This matchup only exists because of the childhood admiration Edsall felt for Maryland when he grew up in Glen Rock, Pa., attending basketball camps and cheering at Orioles games. Before he departed U-Conn. under those all-too familiar circumstances, Edsall scheduled Maryland for a chance to return home.
But if emotions indeed surface Saturday, when Edsall stands on the sideline opposite the players he brought to Connecticut, don’t expect them to affect the Terrapins.
“We’re not running around panicking,” safety Sean Davis said. “Everyone seems cool, calm and collected. We’re just treating it like it was a regular game.
“Honestly, that’s it.”