STORRS - It may have been a dreary, drizzly morning in the eastern part of the state Tuesday, but the football players practicing on a grass football practice field high above the UConn campus were wearing a few more smiles than in recent weeks.
The Huskies, for the first time since the opening weekend of the season, is going through workouts this week following a victory. UConn is fresh off its first FBS win in two years, a 56-35 triumph over UMass on Saturday, and is getting ready to take on 6-1 Navy Friday night at Pratt & Whitney Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN2).
“The guys are up right now. We feel good. We’re feeling good going into Friday,” quarterback Jack Zergiotis said after practice.
Defensive end Kevon Jones, a sophomore from East Hartford, largely agreed.“The energy changed. You could see guys are putting in tons of work and it finally paid off. We’re just trying to go and get another one this week,” Jones said.
Some of the players at UConn (2-6, 0-4 AAC) admitted to feeling different but head coach Randy Edsall wasn’t quite as giddy on Tuesday.
In part because his team has to deal with Navy’s triple-option offense, and in part because he believes his team’s attitude and approach has been consistent all season.
“I think it’s been the same as it was before. They’ve come to work this week just as they’ve done in previous weeks,” Edsall said. “They might have a little bit more bounce in their step. Any time you win you feel a little bit better.”
Edsall may not admit to feeling relief from the victory, but he does admit it’s a welcome step in the right direction for his team.
“It validates the work that you’re putting in. And hopefully you can get some confidence from it,” Edsall said.
Q has the tools
UConn’s wide receiver option pass last week against UMass, in which Quayvon Skanes completed the back end of a double pass to tight end Jay Rose for a touchdown, was a key play in the Huskies’ victory. UMass had trimmed UConn’s advantage to one score, but after the trick play the Huskies pulled away for good.
Skanes, the junior from Chicago who was a high school quarterback, admits he was in some ways as surprised as the UMass defenders on the play.
“I definitely was excited but it was also unexpected,” said Skanes, who in addition to playing wide receiver is the Huskies’ primary punt returner. “They didn’t say ‘Q, get ready’ or anything like that. It was just called.”
He may have been called upon at the last moment, but Skanes says he wasn’t exactly anxious on the field.
“I wasn’t nervous. I did it in high school so I was pretty comfortable throwing the ball,” Skanes said. “When my number is called, I just make sure I go out there and execute.”
Zergiotis and the rest of the Huskies’ quarterbacks don’t have to worry about Skanes angling for their jobs. He admits he doesn’t really miss playing the position full-time.
“Not really. Quarterback is a pretty tough position,” Skanes said with a laugh.
Navy leads the all-time series between the teams 8-1, and has won the only two meetings between the two since their time together in the American Conference.
The teams haven’t played since the Huskies dropped a 28-24 decision in Annapolis, Maryland on Sept. 10, 2016. That game ended with then-UConn coach Bob Diaco’s inexplicable decision to call an up-the-middle running play on second-and-goal at the 1 with 17 seconds left when the Huskies were out of timeouts.
Bumps, bites & bruises
UConn safety Diamond Harrell (right hamstring) did not practice Tuesday and appears unlikely to play for the second-straight week. Linebacker Ryan Gilmartin, who also has been battling an injury, participated in some portions of Tuesday’s workout but also appears unlikely to return this week.
Linebacker D.J. Morgan, however, returned to practice with the first team defense and could return to face Navy this week after missing the UMass game. Likewise, cornerback Tahj Herring-Wilson has returned to practice and could play this week.
Quarterback Steven Krajewski, who had surgery to repair his clavicle Oct. 1, continues to practice and participate in many aspects of the Huskies’ practice. The redshirt freshman was not with the first team, however, and seems still a few weeks away from contributing again for the Huskies.
Tight end Donovan Williams continues to practice despite an undisclosed injury, however he has not played in the last six games.
UConn’s win over UMass snapped many of the program’s painful losing streaks but the Huskies have still lost 15 straight AAC games. … Navy leads the nation in rushing, averaging 350.7 yards per game. UConn is 102nd of 130 in rushing defense (196.4) … Navy is the top defensive team in the conference, based on yards allowed (310.3) and points (19.3). … Sean Young, a reserve place kicker for the Huskies, has apparently left the team. A graduate transfer from Florida International, Young appeared in one games for the Huskies this season as a kickoff specialist. … UConn RB Kevin Mensah’s five-touchdown game last week was the first of its kind in the nation this season.