UConn-RU rivalry on the horizon
STORRS, Conn. — The question comes up every year around this time, likely because each installment in the series is filled with more intrigue and excitement than the last.
Does the annual meeting between UConn and Rutgers qualify as a rivalry game?
"I don't think we've been playing each other long enough to have a rivalry," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "I think what's happening, though, is that we are close by location and we have had some exciting games, and since that occurs, there's seeds for a rivalry."
Though Saturday's game at Rutgers will mark the 28th meeting between the two rising Big East powers – the two teams have been playing each other since 1940 – the importance of the game has risen with UConn's entrance into the Division I Bowl Subdivision.
The match-up between the two schools in 2001 was the first in 18 years, and though Rutgers holds an 18-9 edge all-time in the series, UConn has won four of the last six meetings.
"To me, it's very, very difficult to start a rivalry after three or four years," said UConn head coach Randy Edsall. "I think it's something that takes time to do that."
The makings of a solid rivalry certainly exist. The two conference foes recruit the same talent – UConn has eight players from New Jersey, Rutgers has one player from Connecticut and there are a combined 18 players from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale metro area.
Games between the two are also often close: four of the recent six meetings have been settled by a touchdown or less, including a 26-24 Rutgers win in 2005 that was settled by a safety.
Most importantly, however, their recent struggles to become the fresh new face in the old guard of college football makes any battle between the two that much more important.
"I think this has the potential to be a good rivalry game," said UConn running back Donald Brown, who grew up 30 miles from the Rutgers campus. "The close proximity, you play every year due to our schedule and a lot of guys know each other."
"Will it come to fruition? Who knows," Schiano said. "I think when people try to make something like that happen, it never works. I think what happens is you let it develop on the field and that takes time."
A chance to rest
With the weekend off due to the bye week, several UConn players took advantage of the free time and spent it in a variety of ways.
Quarterback Zach Frazer and his girlfriend went to Boston for the day, while defensive tackle Rob Lunn and his girlfriend went apple-picking in Massachusetts. Brown, wide receiver Kashif Moore and cornerback Dwayne Gratz spent Saturday at home in New Jersey and defensive end Cody Brown took the day to watch college football in his apartment.
Even the coaches escaped the confines of the Burton Complex. Edsall took the weekend off to spend time with his family – he watched his son, Cory, and Manchester (Conn.) East Catholic play West Hartford (Conn.) Northwest Catholic on Saturday, then went to see "The Express," the film about former Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. The assistants hit the road recruiting.
Running back Andre Dixon, who has carried the ball just twice for two yards this season, may find home to be a bit comforting this weekend. A New Brunswick, N.J. native, Dixon figures to see a little bit more time at running back in relief of Brown.
Edsall said Dixon, who was not made available to speak to reporters on Tuesday, will be factored into the game plan this week and will be expected to contribute.
"We hope to get him in there a little bit more, but Andre's fine," Edsall said. "His psyche's good. He knows that when his number's called, he's going to get in there and play the way he needs to play and knows he's got to be ready."
Shake-up at tight end
Redshirt freshman Yianni Apostolakos suffered a hip injury in practice last week and will be out up to eight weeks, clearing room for true freshman tight end John Delahunt to slide into the No. 2 role on the depth chart. Steve Brouse, who started at tight end for the first five games, will still be out approximately six weeks with a broken right fibula. Martin Bedard started against North Carolina, and reserve offensive lineman Dan Ryan figures to see time at tight end, especially as a blocker. … Defensive end Mike Cox, who was projected to be available in mid-October after suffering a knee injury in the spring, is still a ways away from returning, Edsall said. It does not appear that Cox will be able to contribute this season. A medical hardship waiver remains a possibility for the redshirt sophomore. … Frazer on how he would grade his first start against North Carolina: "Poorly. I threw three picks." Frazer finished 22-of-44 with 210 yards in the 38-12 loss.