Connecticut overcame lots of odds to end up in the Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma's Fiesta Bowl opponent, Big East co-champion Connecticut, looked like it might not make any bowl — much less a BCS bowl — early in the season.
By Jake Trotter Modified: December 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm •  Published: December 5, 2010
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photo - Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (99) celebrates with Kijuan Dabney (19) after the team defeated South Florida 19-16 to win the Big East conference title during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (99) celebrates with Kijuan Dabney (19) after the team defeated South Florida 19-16 to win the Big East conference title during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Eleven years ago, the University of Connecticut still competed in the Colonial Athletic Association. A Division I-AA conference.

Now, the Huskies are in the BCS.

Scheduled for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to face Oklahoma, one of the powerhouses of college football.

UConn, known for its women's and men's basketball, is now constructing a football program that's far from a finished product — but made astonishing progress in just a decade under coach Randy Edsall.

“When I got here, I wanted to build a program that would stand the test of time,” Edsall said. “But it's hard to think of all the things we've accomplished in such a short period of time.”

A few weeks into the season, however, it seemed like the last place UConn would end up would be a BCS bowl. Two weeks after dropping the opener at Michigan, the Huskies were stomped by Temple, 30-16. Following losses at Rutgers and Louisville, UConn's bowl hopes altogether were flailing.

But the Huskies turned a corner on Oct. 29, coming from behind to knock off Big East favorite West Virginia in overtime, 16-13.

UConn hasn't lost since, winning five in a row, including Saturday night's 19-16 victory at South Florida to earn a share of the Big East championship. The Huskies earned the Big East's automatic BCS berth through a tiebreaker, having defeated both West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

“After our players got slapped in the face by Louisville, losing 26-0, they had had enough. And they went out and started doing it ever since the West Virginia game,” said Edsall whose Huskies are the fourth team ever to qualify for a BCS bowl with four losses (the other three were from the ACC).

The Huskies have had to overcome more than just a lack of football tradition. In October of last season, starting junior cornerback Jasper Howard was fatally stabbed outside a university-sponsored dance.

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