Jordan Todman Leads Connecticut Into Big East Driver's Seat
UConn coach Randy Edsall got the message. If Todman did, he chose to ignore it.
The nation's second-leading rusher jogged onto the field with the Huskies facing fourth-and-one at the Cincinnati six with 16 seconds remaining before halftime. Todman carried the ball once for five yards and a first down. Then with four seconds to spare, Todman zipped around the left corner and into the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Huskies a 14-point halftime lead.
When the season is over, and the Huskies look back on their wild ride in 2010, that should be viewed as a symbolic moment – an illustration of where UConn has come from since its lowest moment. Todman rushed 31 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns Saturday as UConn (7-4, 4-2 Big East) defeated two-time defending conference champion Cincinnati (4-7, 2-4) 38-17 and moved one step closer to the first BCS bowl berth in school history.
"No, I didn't hear that," tailback Robbie Frey said with a grin, when asked about the chants of "BCS" that serenaded the Huskies off the field. "I'm not going to say we won't talk about it this week, but we're going to try not to. We want to keep our heads straight and just focus."
One month ago, the entire UConn team was considered down for the count after losing its first two Big East games to Rutgers and Louisville. A 26-0 loss at Louisville was especially devastating as it dropped the Huskies to 3-4 overall. Internet message boards were filled with pointed demands to fire Edsall.
All that has changed. UConn, in its ninth season since moving from Division I-AA to I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision), has rattled off consecutive victories over West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Cincinnati. The Huskies are bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season, but they don't want to settle for just any postseason game.
"We've had an attitude swing," said defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, whose 79-yard interception return set the table for Todman's big touchdown just before halftime. "There were only two ways we could have gone (after Louisville). We could have gone south or we could have stepped up. We've been inspired and we've had great practices.
"We've got an attitude about us now. We've got a new swagger and we've been riding with it the past few weeks."
The Huskies, who improved their home record to 6-0 before a sellout crowd of 40,000, control their own destiny and could at least share the conference championship by defeating South Florida (7-4, 4-3) on the road in their final regular season game. The BCS door opened Friday when West Virginia upset rival Pittsburgh 35-10 in the Backyard Brawl. Now a victory at South Florida on Dec. 4 would give the Huskies the BCS berth because UConn owns the tiebreaker over West Virginia and Pitt (6-5, 4-2), the other teams tied for first in the Big East.
If West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) defeats Rutgers and UConn loses to South Florida, the Mountaineers would represent the Big East in a BCS game – most likely the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
"We're going to focus on the South Florida game because that's our biggest goal right now," Edsall said. "Don't bother asking the kids about the BCS because I told them to keep their mouths shut. South Florida is going to be a hard game. They beat Miami today, so we know it will be hard.
"But this is what you want. This is why you play the game. ... It's not where you start but where you finish. These kids have put themselves in the position to finish at the top. And that's all you can ask of them."
One year ago, Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros passed for 480 yards as the Bearcats defeated UConn 47-45. This time around, Collaros completed 26 of 50 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 84 yards. But he threw four huge interceptions and UConn's defense continues to make big plays to decide outcomes.
Todman's third TD, a nine-yard run with 3:49 left in the game came after cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson picked off a Collaros pass and returned it 53 yards to the Cincinnati 14.
"There were four things I told them after the Louisville game," Edsall said. "I wanted to see them be more physically tough than we had been. I wanted them to be more mentally tough than we had been. I told them to let things go and focus on the next play. The last thing was I told them to let it fly and have fun. Whatever happens, happens."
Now the Huskies are on the verge of their greatest football moment ever. After joining the Big East in 2004, they tied West Virginia for the conference title in 2007. But the Mountaineers went to the Fiesta Bowl and the Huskies settled for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, where they lost to Wake Forest.
"We don't even talk about history," Todman said. "But our goal is to make history. Let's go do something that's never been done. Let's be a different UConn team, one that people haven't seen. We're doing that right now. We're one game away. And time will tell."