Anyone who thought UConn would hold South Carolina to a season-low 205 yards raise your hand.
That’s what I thought.
Just about to leave the press box after UConn 20, South Carolina 7.
It was a pretty impressive win by the Huskies, who looked like they had the Gamecocks scouted very well.
— UConn coach Randy Edsall said he was actually a little worried that the Huskies weren’t very excited this week in practice.
“They’re not a rah-rah group. They were very business like. I was a bit nervous this week, to tell you the truth, when we got down here,” Edsall said. “Not from that standpoint that they didn’t work, but this season has been long and so tough on them, that I didn’t see a whole lot of emotion from them. But I guess they were just saving it up for today.”
Apparently yes. They showed plenty of fire, especially on defense, in handling USC (no, the other one).
And when Edsall held Jasper Howard’s No. 6 jersey aloft alongside the Papajohns.com Bowl trophy, a lot more emotions came pouring out of the Huskies.
— The UConn defense had looked, well, terrible of late. But it was the same group that stifled North Carolina, played well against Pittsburgh (for the most part) and in years past was impenetrable.
Saturday, however, it was again on top if its game. The Huskies played a lot more base (regular 4-3) and didn’t use the nickel package very often, even on third downs.
“If you give Todd Orlando four weeks to prepare, it’s going to be dangerous,” cornerback Robert McClain said, “at least for the other offense.”
A number of players, and Edsall, gave credit to Orlando, UConn’s inside linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, for the game plan.
“What coach (Todd) Orlando was showing us on film and on the white boards was basically what they showed today,” said UConn defensive tackle Twyon Martin, who had six tackles including a sack. “So it was pretty easy for us to read. That’s why we did so well.
“Formations, we knew what plays were coming,” Martin continued. “It was to the point that we knew when they dotted the I-formation, when the fullback was up in the two-point (stance), they were running either a draw or perimeter-type plays.”
The Huskies obviously blitzed a lot more than they have been recently. Many of those were zone blitzes, too, with DE Lindsey Witten often dropping into coverage. (Witten played well, though he did drop an INT that might have turned into a TD).
“We knew we’d have to be a little bit more of a pressure defense,” Edsall said.
— Andre Dixon, the game’s MVP, ran 33 times for 126 yards. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Edsall gushed over his senior after the game (rightly so).
“This guy is somebody who is very, very special to me. One day I might even grow my hair just like him,” Edsall said.
— Dixon and Jordan Todman became the first UConn teammates to each run for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
They are the first duo in the Big East to turn that trick since West Virginia’s Pat White and Steve Slaton.
Across the nation this season, Nevada (three) and Georgia Tech (two) also had multiple 1,000-yard runners.
— South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s explanation of the fourth-and-1 from your own 32 play in the first quarter?
“We hadn’t made a first down,” Spurrier said. “I was hoping Stephen (Garcia) would look over at us. They had three big guys in there, so we were going to punt it. But he went ahead and snuck it. That was our fault for not yelling out to him.”
The UConn defense felt a bit disrespected by the decision and it fired the players up.
“That fourth down really helped us out,” defensive end Jesse Joseph said.
— UConn nearly earned its first shutout since a 38-0 win over Maine Sept. 8, 2007. If South Carolina hadn’t scored a late TD it also would have been UConn’s first shutout of a Division I-A (FBS) team since a 38-0 win over Buffalo Sept. 1, 2005.
The last time South Carolina was shut out was Sept. 9, 2006, in an 18-0 loss to Georgia.
— SC is now 4-11 all-time in bowls.
— UConn is now 3-1 all-time in bowls.