UConn football determined to send seniors out on a high note

UConn coach Randy Edsall hopes to be able to send his seniors off on a high note when the Huskies close their 2017 season on the road against Cincinnati on Saturday at Nippert Stadium. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
UConn coach Randy Edsall hopes to be able to send his seniors off on a high note when the Huskies close their 2017 season on the road against Cincinnati on Saturday at Nippert Stadium. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Reality started to hit them like a sledgehammer to the midsection earlier this week.

Saturday's road game at American Athletic Conference foe Cincinnati will be the final time many of the UConn seniors will ever put on a football uniform. Game time is noon at Nippert Stadium (ESPNEWS).

"Absolutely, it's a crazy feeling," redshirt senior Tommy Myers said.

Coach Randy Edsall stressed to the entire team the importance of sending the seniors out on a high note and also appealed to their school pride.

"It's the last time they're ever going to put the Connecticut uniform on," Edsall said. "If that doesn't give them enough incentive and enough pride to go out and give it everything that they have ... then they've been stealing from the university for the last four or five years.

"What this university has done for them and the opportunity that it's given them, make sure you go out and show how thankful you are for the opportunity and go out and give it everything you've got."

Pride but little else is on the line for UConn (3-8, 2-5) and Cincinnati (3-8, 1-5), two programs sharing a similar bumpy path this season. The Huskies can beat last season's victory total with a win.

Record-wise, the Huskies fell short of their own expectations. But they'll take satisfaction, especially the seniors, in restoring respectability to the program and building a solid foundation for the future.

"The season has been full of ups and downs," Myers said. "Obviously, it didn't turn out the way we planned. But we're going to keep fighting and build a foundation for the program. More importantly, just go out on a good note, especially for the seniors, myself included. Just end our career with a win."

UConn has never won on the road against Cincinnati, losing in all seven visits, and trail in the series 10-3.

The Bearcats, who enter the game having lost seven of their last eight games, will be riding the emotion of Senior Day. They've been more competitive than the margins of defeat indicate.

"It's going to be a challenge going into their place on their Senior Day," senior Luke Carrezola said. "They're going to feel real emotional and they're going to want to get a win. But we need to come in there and set a tone. I just really want to leave on the right note.

"After all the work you put into something like this and a program like this, no matter what you really just want to end your football career the right way with a win."

Like UConn, Cincinnati's inconsistencies this season can be traced to relying heavily on underclassmen. About 69 percent of the Bearcat roster is comprised of freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores. First-year coach Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive coordinator, is in charge of the rebuilding project.

Cincinnati has struggled to score, ranking last in the AAC in scoring offense at 20.8 points per game. But the Bearcats have shown signs of life in recent weeks, recording their three highest rushing totals of the season in the last four games, averaging 213.3 yards.

Defensively, senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor, the conference's leading tackler (110) is the player to watch.

The Huskies are fading as they head toward the finish line. During their season-high tying four-game losing streak, they've averaged just 18 points and allowed 44.2 points.

"We play a team that I have a tremendous amount of respect for having played them a lot of different times being here before," Edsall said. "Again, it's going to be one of those games where we're going to have to play well in order to win. ... It just comes down to us executing, doing the things that we're capable of doing and doing them consistently for 60 minutes."

g.keefe@theday.com

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