Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm awake and at the UConn women's basketball game versus Army at the, uh, XL Center. Really, I'd like to protest, but that's neither here nor there.

From all accounts, the Charlotte experience was one that everyone liked. The bowl committee, the city, the teams, the media. On my end, I'd like to thank my old friend Frank Kay and his assistant Mary-Kate for their hospitality at the Hilton and throughout the week. Kay went the extra mile to make the media's job as stress free as possible.

I'd also like to thank the folks at Tweed Airport for the luggage counter expereince. It's a series of steel gates with heavy plastic in front of them. The baggage handler cranks open the gates and the baggage area looks like a makeshift elementary school puppet show stage. The hillarity of the moment was priceless.

Oh, and the lady who traveled with her hamster in the cooler. That was great.

Getting back to the football end, Randy Edsall will have his final teleconference with reporters shortly. You have to imagine that the theme will be positive considering all things. Sure the game was rough and the playcalling was questionable at best. But when you look at where this team was supposed to have been, this last month shouldn't have happened and the previous three would have been depressing.

Who's going to forget what happened? The highs, lows and the incredible.

I caution UConn fans from saying their school is a top 25 team. Not yet. Don't talk about how a share of the conference title proves the Huskies can compete with West Virginia. We saw in these last few games that there is a big gap between the Huskies and the Mountaineers, Bearcats and Demon Deacons.

Now the hope is taking the experience of this season and using towards next season and making 2008 better than 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

With three minutes, 10 seconds left in the game and the Huskies having a chance to get the ball back, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner ran for 19 yards on a third-and-eight to all but ice the win.

Micah Andrews then rattled off a 30-yard run two plays later. He then scored from nine yards out to cap the scoring.
This is the game for the Huskies. Trailing by seven and at their own 11 with 7:01 to play. The Huskies need to learn how to use the passing game in a nhurry.
UConn's Tyvon Branch is hurt and has gone to the sidelines for examination.
Tyler Lorenzen was just sacked at the goal line, narrowly missing a saftey. Any momentum in this game is 100 percent with Wake Forest.
Just as the Huskies were about to lose the lead, senior Danny Lansanah recovers a fumble at the UConn four that was forced by Darius Butler's hit on Josh Adams.

It had appeared the Huskies had lost any edge as the Deacons were having their way with UConn's defense. But thanks to the co-captains, UConn has escaped a tight spot. Now they need to get away from their end zone.
Wake Forest tore apart the UConn defense on the second half's first possession, ending with a 38-yard scoring run for the Demon Deacons.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tyvon Branch took the return 62 yards to put the Huskies into Deacon territory. But Wake's Stanley Arnoux intercepted a Tyler Lorenzen pass after it was tipped to turn over possession.
Today's first half is the first time since Sept. 9, 2006 that Wake Forest has been shut out in the first half.
I had a good laugh at halftime. Wake Forest's band and flag teams came onto the field. Waving banners that read S N O C A E D. You know, on this side of the field that's how it read. On the other, it read D E A C O N S.

It reminded me of the first time I tried ot figure out those funny Chik-fil-A commercials.

By the way, the UConn band was MUCH better than Wake's.
It's halftime in Charlotte and UConn leads 10-0. But what made zero sense is what transpired in the closing seconds of the half.

Alex Polito sacks Wake QB Riley Skinner for a nine-yard loss. With the clock ticking at 44 seconds, Huskies coach Randy Edsall calls a time out. OK, so he wants to have at least one more shot with the ball. Maybe its just a punt return by Larry Taylor, in hopes that lightning strikes twice. But after Wake runs its next play, a run to the left, UConn doesn't call another timeout.

This makes no sense. Did Edsall just want to call a timeout for the sake of prolonging the half or hearing the official say, "Connecticut calls a timeout"?

If you aren't trying to get the ball back, force Wake to rush its offense against the clock. Don't give them time.
Tony Ciaravino kicked a 29-yard field goal to push UConn's lead to 10-0 with five minutes left in the half.
Donald Brown broke several tackles and sprinted out to the Wake 33 on a 58-yard run.
Wake tried going for some trickeration by running a reverse, but the Huskies snuffed out the play with Cody Brown making teh stop for a 9-yard loss.

On the next play, Robert Vaughn picked off Riley Skinner at the nine yard line, but needed help getting off the field. It appears he was hit in the stomach and may have the wind knocked out of him.
Wake's Kenny Moore has 90 receptions this season, breaking the ACC mark for catches in a season held by N.C. State's Tory Holt since 1998.
Pass interference called on Darius Butler on a ball that the Wake reciever had no chance of catching. Good going to the SEC officiating crew.
The Huskies seem to have picked up some momentum thanks to Taylor's return and will need it as they begin this possession at their own 13 yard line.
Larry Taylor returned a punt 68-yards for a touchdown to put UConn ahead 7-0.
On 3rd-and-3, De'Angelo Bryant made a catch and fell short of teh first down marker, forcing Wake to punt from its 15.
UConn actually picked up a first down, but that was about it on its third possession of the game.

Cullen's punt was hauled in at the 12 and Wake picked up a personal foul on John Tereshinski, driving them back to the six yard line.

Right now, the best UConn player has been punter Desi Cullen.
Josh Adams just took a shovel pass from Riley Skinner and slipped for a two-yard loss. Clearly, the field is still a bit damp.

To follow up on the fog, it has withdrawn considerably, so it shouldn't be a factor from here on out.
Two possessions and the Huskies have looked bad both times. No one has gotten open, Tyler Lorenzen is under heavy pressure and there have been two dropped pass (Terence Jeffers and Andre Dixon).
The Huskies dodged a bullet thanks to Cody Brown. Two plays after the Demon Deacons broke a 13-yard run, Brown knocked the ball out of QB Riley Skinner's hand for a fumble. Skinner recovered for a sack, creating a 3rd-and-18 situation. Skinner went long for Kevin Marion at the goal line, but over threw Marion by a foot. Marion dove and had his hands on the ball as he cross the goal line, but he couldn't pull it in.
On its first possession, UConn goes three and out, and Terry Baltimore picks up a 15-yard penalty when he prevented Kenny Moore from catching the punt.
Taking part in the opening coin toss is boxing legend George Foreman.
He's not offering burgers, though, which is good because Charlotte has been a gastronomical event.
There's so much riding on today's game for both teams. For Wake Forest, a bowl win makes the top team football-wise on Tobacco Road. For UConn, a win validates its rise to respectability and will all but lock up a final Top 25 ranking.

So what do these teams do to try and bring home the win today? Well, what I expect to see is a chance at redemption for UConn wide receiver D.J. Hernandez, who as the quarterback, cost the Huskies last season's game against the Demon Deacons at Rentschler Field.

Don't be surprised if you see Hernandez line up next to quarterback Tyler Lorenzen or if he throws a pass.

When I spoke to Hernandez last week and asked him about last season's loss, he said he doesn't remember anything. Spoken like a quarterback. Maybe more like a closer in baseball. Either way, this is his chance to erase the bitter feelings many have about that game last September.
USually, Johnathan the Husky looks pretty dirty and in need of a good bath. But today, the UConn mascot looks like a good supermarket-quality rug cleaner was taken to his, um, fur. I guess he's ready for his close up.
It's time for my prediction on today's game.


And the winner will be:

Expect a close game with the Huskies winning by no more than five, continuing the run of good, close games this bowl season.
Weather update: the fog is setting in and descending upon the stadium. It's starting to remind me of the Eastern League All-Star Game at Dodd Stadium last July. Only this game won't be called due to the fog.

Some observations from Charlotte...

* I got a great laugh when Zac Boyer of, who rode to the game with me, was called "young'n" by a North Carolina sherrif.

* The media lot is in the heart of a run-down industrial neighborhood. The walk to Bank of America Stadium went something like this: up a small incline, down a step, under a rusty chain, through a prking lot with tailgaters, across a street, down the block, up a steep street, a right turn down an alley, dodging a car driven by what is presumably a blind man, a left turn and into the Stadium. We past another writer who looked winded. Considering I am working on my aspiration to play the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the remake of Ghostbusters, I was gasping for air and sweating heavily.
Today is the day. The always cliche "big game" is under two hours away.

The field is in decent condition. Outside of the faded NFL logo at midfield, it has held up nicely with the rain Charlotte received last night. Speaking of he weather, it is overcast and bit humid. It must be in the low 60s and I wouldn't rule out rain. The forecasts had said rain early and then again late into tomorrow. But the rain stopped before midnight, so only time will tell what happens there.

Right now both teams are warming up. Look for the Huskies to wear their white jerseys with blue pants and the Demon Deacons to go with all black.

Remember to vote for who you think wins the game in the poll along the right panel.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's been a rainy night in Charlotte, making the events in uptown Charlotte not as successful as they would otherwise have been. The forecast here is for rain the rest of the night and into the early morning. It should have let up by game time.

The wet conditions favor UConn, as it played three games in the rain (Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers).

Walking through the city tonight, there is a very strong UConn following. Should much be made of this? Not really. Why? Well, considering the distance of Winston-Salem to Charlotte and the number of tickets sold by Wake Forest, I expect the black and gold armada to show itself tomorrow.
Here are some fo UConn's finest heading to their cars at the speedway.
Here are some more photos from the speedway. First is Randy Edsall and his son, Corey, as they prepare for the track.

Next up, Edsall climbs into the car.

These next two pictures are of Edsall and Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe after Edsall won the tire change challenge.

UConn QB Tyler Lorenzen exits his stock car at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Dan Ryan tries to escape his ride

Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe climbs out of his car

Jim Grobe exits his car

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One of the events was a tire change challenge between the head coaches. Wake's Jim Grobe has a bad back, so he was replaced by assistant coach Keith Henry. Henry was beaten badly by UConn coach Randy Edsall. Only once has the winner of the tire change challenge lost the bowl game. That distiniction belongs to former West Virginia Coach Rich Rodrigue in the bowl's first year.
The teams got to ride along in stock cars today. Everyone had fun and later one I will post a bevy of pics and videos to prove as much.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm in Charlotte and have finally escaped from the Turkish prison that is Tweed airport.

How well equiped was it? Well the same guy who issued my boarding pass also loaded my luggage and guided the plane out of the gate. With the next flight not leaving for another three hours, how my flight was delayed is amazing.

And the vending machines -- they had the selection of five sodas. I put a dollar in the machine and made my selction. I was prompted to make another choice. Ultimately, I was 0-for-5.

When I got to Philadelphia, I found myself with a gate change -- which was one over -- but the bigger issue was another delay. Forty-five minutes worth. Oh, and I was in what seemed like a glorified high chair in which I could fit a leg, an arm and my head.

The drive from Greensoboro was longer than I remembered, but it's good to be here.
Tweed Airport. What a masterpiece. What a hole.

If airports were dive bars, Tweed would be the crown jewel. It makes the fictional airport on "Wings" look like the first-class cabin on an international flight.

If Tweed was any more void of life and color, it could serve as a stunt double for a port-o-john. The need for employees is lacking to the point of having a "ring bell for service" button on the check-in counter.

Needless to say, this trip got off to a memorable start.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's time for the Huskies and Demon Deacons to get down to business. UConn's players arrived in Charlotte today from their various destinations. They won't be wasting too much time, as they have a team practice at noon tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, Merry Christmas!

If you haven't already, check out the interview with Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. You can find the link in a few posts below this or on the Norwich Bulletin website. Also, I will be sending postcards appearing in the paper every day starting Wednesday. And don't forget to pick up the paper Saturday for all of the coverage we'll provide.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Here's the link to the interview:
The audio clip of my interview with Jim Grobe has been up on the Norwich Bulletin site. If you haven't listened, go check it out.

Also, look for me feature on Huskies coach Randy Edsall in Sunday's paper. I sat down with Edsall recently for a one-on-one interview.

Right now the players have gone home for a few days before they regroup in Charlotte on Tuesday. Interesting side note, Darius Butler and Larry Taylor aren't flying to Charlotte -- they're driving. So for all of you hitting 95 South to 85 South to 77 South, keep your eyes out for the pair of Huskies.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I mentioned D.J. Hernandez's participation in halftime events next Wednesday at the Charlotte Bobcats' game. He will be joined by teammates Darius Butler and Cody Brown. While the details are still unclear, it appears to be a cooperative contest featuring three players from each team.
Check out Norwich tomorrow for a one-on-one interview I conducted with Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. It's lengthy, so don't expect a quick listen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When the Huskie shead to Charlotte next week, they will attend the Charlotte Bobcats game against Washington on Wednesday night. At halftime, D.J. Hernandez will take on a member of the Wake Forest team in a battle of the teams. D.J. is considered one of, if not the best, basketball players on the team, so it will be interesting to see that side of him.

Monday, December 17, 2007

If you read Sunday's Bulletin you saw my look at Charlotte and a list of places to eat, drink and have fun.

It's a great city and if you are attending the game, I think you'll find that out for yourself.

Also, with West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez bolting for Michigan, I want to know how many of you think the Mountaineers are going to see how much interest Randy Edsall might have in the vacancy. So check out the newest poll.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ESPN is reporting that Randy Edsall is a candidate for the head coaching position at Michigan. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming days, especially with Edsall signing a new contract with the Huskies after his flirtation with Georgia Tech.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

UConn fans should give themselves a good pat on the back. The team has sold 10,500 of the 12,500 tickets it needed to sell for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 29.

There was a lot of doubt whether the team and its fans, most importantly, could sell that many tickets. This shows that it can. Why this matetrs beyond thsi year is next season and beyond when UConn is being considered for a bowl game, bowl committees can look at what the Huskies' fan base was able to accomplish, making UConn more attractive.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Some more honors for UConn... Freshman linebacker Scott Lutrus was named to the Freshman All-American team and teammate Lawrence Wilson, a linebacker, was named to the second team.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Boy, do things change quickly. Published reports out of North Carolina are saying that Jim Grobe is not leaving Wake Forest for Arkansas.
Looks like Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe will be leaving for the same position at Arkansas. If this proves true, great hire by the Razorbacks.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Huskies will be heading to Charlotte for the Meineke Car Care Bowl to face Wake Forest. It doesn't seem like a sexy game but I think it will be a good game. A rematch of a game last season that UConn should have won but didn't, might as well as be a road game and not neutral site because Wake is a hop, skip and a jump from Charlotte.

Personally I get the feeling the Huskies are licking their chops over facing the Deacons. A game with Florida State or Maryland would have been tougher and I think Wake is a good matchup for UConn.
Sorry I have been absent for a few days...there's lots to discuss. Some of which will have to wait for a later time. But let's start with the news of the day.

Four Huskies are named to the All-Big East team with oniy two on the first team. Linebacker Danny Lansanah, who will be playing on Sundays, and offensive lineman Donald Thomas were named to the first team. On the second team were tailback Andre Dixon and kick returner Tyvon Branch.

The most shocking bit of news is that Randy Edsall wasn't named the conference's coach of the year. That went to Cincinnati's Brian Kelly who took a bowl team to...another bowl. Whereas Edsall took a team the COACHES (same folks who voted on the award) picked to finish seventh to a share of the conference title.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Statement from Randy Edsall on the team's co-Big East championship:

"This is another great landmark to achieve in only our fourth year in the BIG EAST. It is something that nobody thought could have happened four years ago or even at the start of this season. To have it happen in year-four in the league is a great compliment to the hard work of our student-athletes, assistant coaches and staff. It has been a season of milestones for us with our first national ranking, first undefeated home record, first win over a ranked team, the winningest regular season in school history and a bid to a great bowl game in Charlotte. Our first BIG EAST title is yet another incredible milestone on top of the many others that we reached during the 2007 season."