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Edsall bringing Maryland to his old home

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published September 11. 2013 4:00AM
P. Semansky/ AP Photo
Three years after leaving UConn to take over the football program at Maryland, Randy Edsall returns to Rentschler Field for the first time to lead his unbeaten Terps against the Huskies on Saturday night.

Storrs — Bitter feelings from his stunning departure likely still exist within the UConn football fanbase.

In fact, Randy Edsall expects to receive the bad guy treatment when he returns to the sidelines at Rentschler Field on Saturday night for the first time since bolting for Maryland right after UConn's first BCS appearance in the Fiesta Bowl in 2011.

Edsall has fond memories of his years (1999-2010) at UConn. He successfully guided the Huskies from Division I-AA to the FBS level, posting a 74-70 record, winning two Big East titles, appearing in five bowl games and setting the school record for career wins.

But he realizes not everyone will want to give him a warm hug on Saturday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

"There will be boos and probably people that will cheer," Edsall said Tuesday during a conference call. "That's the nature of the profession that we're in. I'm just very thankful for the people that supported the program when I was there and made me feel at home and got behind our team and allowed us to do the things that we did.

"But anytime you go on the road, nobody likes you."

Edsall might catch a bit of a break from UConn fans considering they're probably more concerned about their Huskies than their former head coach.

Home fans booed mistake-prone UConn during a stunning 33-18 loss to Towson in the season opener on Aug. 29. The Huskies worked on correcting their mistakes during the break. They're focused on playing better football, but some will be aware of the coach standing on the other sideline.

"We all know him well," said redshirt senior defensive end Tim Willman, who's from Fulton, Md. "I'm thankful for him. I respect him. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him.

"But this is almost three years later, so we're trying to beat Maryland."

Willman is one of several Huskies on the roster with ties to Edsall. He knows that some fans are still angry about the nature of Edsall's departure - most players learned the news when their plane landed from their return trip from the Fiesta Bowl - but he has no hard feelings.

That doesn't mean that playing Maryland with Edsall at the helm won't provide extra motivation for some Huskies.

"Some guys on the team who feel like because it's Edsall we - the players who have been recruited by him - need to come out as hard as we can, more focused and more violent than ever before," redshirt senior defensive end Jesse Joseph said. "And that could be a good thing. We could always use that. ... That's something that you'll definitely see on the field, the aggressiveness, the violence, the focus."

To the two coaches, Edsall and Paul Pasqualoni, the game is purely about getting a win.

Pasqualoni has not talked to his team about Edsall's return, nor did he mention it last year before UConn beat Maryland, 24-21, in College Park.

"There is so much to get ready for," Pasqualoni said. "There's so many distractions. It takes so much focus and energy to get ready to play the game and then it takes so much to play the game.

"I take the Phil Jackson approach. That approach is just focus and concentrate on the game."

Pasqualoni and Edsall are on the hot seat in their third year with their currant programs. They've both struggled, with Edsall going just 8-18 and Pasqualoni 10-15.

After an injury plagued season in 2012, Maryland is finally heathly and playing well. The Terps already own lopsided wins over Florida International (43-10) and Old Dominion (47-10).

Edsall is preparing to face a different UConn team than the stumbling one that showed up in the season opener. He hopes to enjoy the trip.

"I have a lot of fond memories of Rentschler and a lot of exciting games were played there," he said. "The fans were great. I know what kind of tough environment it can be, so I've got to just make sure we get our team prepared.

"I'm looking forward to it."

g.keefe@theday.com

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