- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
It was only a week ago that Connecticut fans were lamenting the team's two fourth-quarter collapses and criticizing the coaching. How small and insignificant that all seems now.
The season is merely a backdrop now for the Huskies, who are dealing with the senseless stabbing death of one of their teammates, junior cornerback Jasper Howard. He was killed after a homecoming dance on campus of all things, an event that should be a joyous time for a college student. And we found out this afternoon that Howard's girlfriend is pregnant.
How do his teammates even begin to process that sort of thing? Just hours earlier, they were celebrating a win over Louisville in the locker room with Howard, who had 11 tackles and a key forced fumble and recovery.
"I can’t imagine what that football family and the Howard family is going through," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "My God, how short and sweet life is and what we take for granted."
UConn now must somehow regroup and go play football next weekend against the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said today the game would go on as scheduled. Stewart said he's talked to both his administration and the Big East about measures or gestures that can be done Saturday to honor Howard.
Edsall has to not only be a football coach but a grief counselor for his players, who will look to him this week for guidance. Perhaps the two hours each day at practice and the three-and-half hours at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday will provide a brief escape for the team, venues where players and coaches can distract themselves from the thoughts that must weigh on them. Perhaps the team will channel its emotions toward playing as well as possible to honor Howard in some small way.
There aren't many road maps for how to deal with the death of a teammate in the middle of the season. UConn will have to find its own way through this.
Howard's death is a tragic reminder that no win or loss is worth getting too worked up about. How fortunate we would be if we were discussing only football problems today.