Season review: Connecticut

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
12:07
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

There are two ways to look at Connecticut's season.

On one hand, the Huskies can be viewed as a disappointment. Co-champions of the Big East a season ago, they began the year 5-0 but lost five of their last seven to finish 7-5.

On the other hand, UConn is going to a bowl game -- the International on Jan. 3 -- in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the program moved to the FBS level. So it's hard to be too disappointed if you're a Huskies fan.

Donald Brown was the top rusher in the country, and the defense was sound as always under Randy Edsall. But an inability to generate any kind of dependable passing game, uncharacteristic turnovers and crucial special teams breakdowns are the reasons why Connecticut isn't going to a bigger bowl game.

Those last two reasons had to be particularly painful for Edsall, who preaches mistake-free football. UConn had 14 turnovers in its five losses, including five each against West Virginia and Pittsburgh, and it simply didn't have the offensive firepower to overcome those stumbles. Still, the Huskies were the only Big East team to beat Cincinnati, and if they top Buffalo in Toronto next month, they'll have an eight-win season and a bowl victory. Those are still achievements to celebrate in Storrs.

Offensive MVP: Donald Brown, RB. Was there any doubt? Going into the year, most people thought Brown would share time in the backfield with Andre Dixon, as he had his first two years. Instead, the junior took the job and never let go, becoming a 30-carry per-game workhorse. Brown led the FBS with 1,822 rushing yards and had at least 130 yards in nine games. That he did that with no help from the passing game makes it all the more impressive.

Defensive MVP: Cody Brown, DE. Another Brown who fulfilled his potential. The senior finished second in the Big East in both sacks (10) and tackles for loss (15). He also led the league with five forced fumbles and added eight pass break-ups.

Turning Point: After beating Cincinnati 40-16, the Huskies were 6-2 and fired up to face West Virginia at Rentschler Field. They led 13-7 at halftime against the Big East team they've never beaten. Then the Mountaineers scored the game's final 28 points as UConn's passing game weaknesses were exposed. Connecticut went on to lose three of its last four games to fall out of contention for the conference crown.

What's next: An interesting Northeast showdown with MAC champion Buffalo awaits in the International Bowl. Donald Brown announced today that he intends to come back for his senior season. The Huskies lose a lot of talent, including Cody Brown, Darius Butler and Julius Williams, but Edsall is building a program that should be able to reload.

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