Huskies continue search for first win
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 00:10
Homecoming is a time to remember the past, to think about the way things used to be.
But with a new coach and a new quarterback leading UConn into its first ever American Athletic Conference game, Homecoming brings a new beginning for the Huskies – a changing of the guard that it hopes will lead into a brighter future.
Twelve days after the firing of Paul Pasqualoni, interim head coach T.J. Weist and freshman quarterback Tim Boyle will lead the 0-4 Huskies onto the field at Rentschler Field in search of their first win of the season.
Standing in UConn’s way will be their biggest rival in the new conference, a familiar foe from the days of old: South Florida.
After two straight 5-7 seasons and a 0-4 start in 2013, UConn decided to part ways with Pasqualoni. The Cheshire native replaced Randy Edsall after the Huskies trip to the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season. While Edsall’s career at UConn was a steady upward climb, Pasqualoni’s was a rapid, destructive fall.
At 0-4 and entering a bye week, athletic director Warde Manuel decided the time was right to make the move, and Weist, entering his first head coaching gig, is ready to take the field.
“We’re excited about getting out on the field at the Rent on Saturday at noon, 12:08, and to get our first win and start off this conference 1-0,” Weist said.
When the Huskies take the field on Saturday, there will be an easily recognizable change on offense, as Boyle, a 6’4” freshman from Middletown will replace 6’1” junior Chandler Whitmer at quarterback.
Whitmer, who was also the starter in 2012, has completed 55 percent of his passes for 896 yards and five touchdowns, but Weist says that he, Pasqualoni and quarterback coach Shane Day all felt the time was right to move Boyle into the starting role, and that the plan was to start him Saturday even before Pasqualoni was fired.
“Tim’s ready,” Weist said. “He’s responded well. He’s shown the maturity that we saw in him coming out of high school, that I’ve seen with him since he stepped on campus. Every day he knows he has to get better; he knows he has to get better in the next four days. From an experience standpoint, he gets more mature every day, like every young man does, but he’s shown good pocket presence – good grasp, intelligence of game plan, of the things we want to do.”
Having played for Xavier, one of the premier high school programs in Connecticut, Boyle is no stranger to the spotlight. During his four years at the all-boys school in Middletown, the Falcons won three straight CIAC Class LL state titles.
The Middlefield native was a standout during his junior and senior seasons. During his junior year, Boyle shared the quarterback duties, throwing for 850 yards and 15 touchdowns in six games. In his senior season, he stole the show, throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns, including a 94-yard strike against Norwich Free Academy in the championship game at Rentschler Field, where he is about to make his debut for the football team he grew up cheering for.
UConn has struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position since Shelton native Dan Orlovsky carried the Huskies to their first ever bowl game and bowl victory in 2004. For a player with the statewide reputation carried by Boyle, the expectations are high, but he is not letting that distract him, and prefers to look at the advantages he has based on his Rentschler experiences.
“Definitely just being familiar with the environment at Rentschler will help me a lot,” Boyle said. “I’ve heard it loud; obviously the Michigan game was really loud. Definitely playing there for four games of my own – three state championships and the All Star Game and the four that we’ve played here at UConn – will definitely help me with the atmosphere and feeling comfortable when it comes to game time.”
The last time Boyle was on the field against South Florida was in 2007, when he was 13 years old. Boyle was one of the many fans who stormed the field after the Huskies knocked off then-No. 11 South Florida, the first ranked team UConn had ever defeated.