COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Randy Edsall’s voice cracked with emotion a few times during his postgame press conference Saturday.
The tough Maryland coach kept playing down what it meant for the Terrapins to play against his former team. But after Connecticut scored a 24-21 victory over Maryland, Edsall’s feelings showed through.
“I have emotions,” Edsall said. “I don’t think you are human if you don’t have emotions. It was good to see some of the guys and to wish them well.”
Edsall caused some controversy when he left Connecticut abruptly after the 2010 season. But he talked with some players and other people on the field after the game.
“I went up to him after the game and told him I love him,” senior linebacker Sio Moore said. “He is one of those guys that really saw something in me when I didn’t know I had anything in me myself, so I really appreciate him giving me the chance.”
Connecticut’s defense proved too much for Maryland and freshman quarterback Perry Hills. The Huskies harassed him all day, sacking Hills six times and limiting him to 109 yards passing.
Linebackers Yawin Smallwood (2 1/2 sacks) and Moore (2 1/2 sacks) led the charge as the Huskies often had Hills running for his life, despite the fact that several Connecticut players were battling the flu.
“Tough team, tough game,” Hills said. “I just have to learn from it. We left plays out there that could’ve been game-changers, so we just have to keep getting better.”
Maryland freshman Stefon Diggs nearly did enough to win the game by himself. He accounted for 223 yards — 98 on kick returns, 68 on punt returns and 57 on receptions — including a 29-yard touchdown pass from Hills in the fourth quarter.
But the Huskies took a 14-0 lead early and never looked back, even though they gained only 223 yards of total offense.
Connecticut opened the scoring on a Nick Williams 58-yard punt return, and Chad Christen’s extra point gave the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first quarter.
They took advantage of a short field to score their second touchdown, gaining possession at the Maryland 36 after the Terrapins were forced to punt from their 4. Scott McCummings’ 3-yard run seven plays later made it 14-0 with 12:35 left in the half.
Maryland’s offense finally awakened on the next possession. A key play came on fourth-and-4 from the Connecticut 37, when Hills completed an 18-yard pass to Diggs.
One play later, Wes Brown ran for a 19-yard touchdown, and Brad Craddock’s extra point cut the lead to 14-7 with 10:24 remaining in the half.
Smallwood sacked Hills and forced a third-quarter fumble that Angelo Pruitt recovered for the Huskies at the Maryland 23. They couldn’t pick up a first down, but Christen kicked a 34-yard field goal with 3:29 left in the quarter for a 17-7 lead.
Smallwood caused problems for the Terrapins throughout the game, with four of his 14 tackles coming for losses, including the 2 1/2 sacks.
After a 75-yard drive, Maryland made it 17-14 on the second play of the fourth quarter when Hills threw the 29-yard touchdown pass to Diggs on third-and-10. The Terrapins’ Marcus Leak tipped the pass and Diggs grabbed it for a touchdown to make it 17-14.
But the Huskies answered on their next possession, driving 76 yards to take a 24-14 lead on McCombs’ 11-yard touchdown run. McCombs rushed for 94 yards overall.
Hills ran for a 10-yard touchdown that cut the Connecticut lead to 24-21 with 4:39 left.
After getting the ball back following a Huskies punt, Maryland reached the Connecticut 39 before its drive stalled with 17 seconds left, all of which clearly frustrated Hills, whose team faces No. 9 West Virginia next Saturday.
“I have to watch the film, get better, improve and put it behind me,” Hills said. “I don’t accept losing, don’t like losing. But I promised my team and everyone that I’m going to prepare like I’ve never prepared before to get ready for this next game.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)