COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — As much as Maryland coach Randy Edsall would like to pretend otherwise, the matchup between the Terrapins and Connecticut this Saturday isn’t just another game.
It couldn’t be, given Edsall’s 12-year tenure as the Connecticut head coach before he abruptly left to take the job at Maryland after the 2010 season.
Edsall got his first head coaching job at Connecticut in 1999. He took the program from the Football Championship Subdivision level to the Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Big East.
He was the school’s all-time leader in wins (74) and games coached (144).
Although UConn beat Maryland last year at Byrd Stadium, this will be Edsall’s first trip back to East Hartford’s Renscheler Field. His list of priorities begins with helping the Terrapins improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2001.
“I have a lot of great memories of Rentchler Field and coaching there and a lot of good game splayed there and good fan support,” Edsall said Tuesday. “But you’ve got to put that behind you because the attention and the focus need to be on preparing this week and playing the best game we can in a hostile environment.”
Maryland will be playing its first road game of the season after two lopsided victories at home against Florida International (43-10) and Old Dominion (47-10). The Terrapins can expect to be surrounded by a home crowd more energetic than usual because of the circumstances surrounding Edsall’s departure.
Edsall coached the Huskies in their 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Afterward, he flew to Maryland for a job interview rather than returning home with his team. Many of the players learned of his departure through the news media. Edsall wasn’t able to meet with all the players personally to explain his decision, but did talk to most of the players on a conference call.
Edsall said last year that he regretted how he handled the situation. He expects he’ll hear plenty about it while on the Maryland sideline during the game.
“Anytime you go on the road, they’re going to boo you and they’re not gonna like you,” Edsall said. “I wouldn’t expect anything different. I’m sure there will be some people — maybe my golf buddies — that might cheer for us.”
Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni expects Edsall to receive a mixed reaction upon his return.
“Some people probably really appreciated the years and the work that Randy put in here,” Pasqualoni said. “I’m sure that there’s that population out there. There are other people that are probably still a little upset in the way things sorted out in the end.”
UConn senior defensive end Jesse Joseph expects the Huskies (1-1) to use Edsall’s return as motivation.
“There’s some guys on the team who feel like, because it’s Edsall, we need to come out as high as we can, more focused more violent than ever before,” Joseph said. “And that could be a good thing. We could always use that. Some people do use that. I could use that, and that’s something that you’ll definitely see on the field.”
Maryland’s players have been made aware of what to expect from the crowd. But they have their own reasons for wanting to win, and it’s got nothing to do with their head coach.
“We’re rolling right now and we just want to keep it going,” linebacker Matt Robinson said. “We’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve been doing.”