It is a pity that Connecticut quarterback Zach Frazer is required to wear a helmet, for it obscures from public view the grandeur of what is known by Huskies insiders as "The Flow."
Most watching UConn on TV only get hints of the mystery and majesty of The Flow. It peaks out from beneath Frazer's blue helmet, warming his neck and perhaps warning the quarterback if a defender is near with diabolical intentions.
Oh, some might dismiss The Flow. Some might call it a mullet. Some might call it a mess. Some might wonder if Frazer is channeling Elvis. But Frazer's hair is not to be trifled with. As the Dude abides, Frazer defines the existence of The Flow in similar philosophical terms: "It happened," he said.
"Everyone on the team is jealous of The Flow, we'll just put it like that," he explained.
Perhaps. Medusa surely would feel upstaged.
"He thinks it's pretty," UConn linebacker Scott Lutrus said.
What isn't terribly pretty, however, is the Huskies passing game. The Huskies rank 112th in the nation with just 145.1 passing yards per game. And it's not just about a lack of trying: They also rank 113th in the nation in passing efficiency.
Nor has the situation at quarterback been pretty. In fact, it's been a bit of a soap opera. Frazer and Cody Endres had gone back and forth with the starting job for a couple of years, but Frazer seemed to take control when Endres injured his shoulder in 2009. Then Endres got suspended and the job became Frazer's this fall. But Frazer, who transferred from Notre Dame in 2007, was benched after the first four games for inconsistency and Endres took over, a demotion that Frazer didn't take particularly well.
Then Endres got kicked off the team for a team rules violation, and the Huskies opted to go with redshirt freshman Mike Box over Frazer. Box started the 26-0 loss to Louisville that dropped the Huskies to 3-4 overall. Back to Frazer.
Yet, when things looked most dire and the season seemed to be in a tailspin, something clicked. Frazer didn't start passing for 300 yards. Heck, he didn't even start passing for 200 yards. But the Huskies started winning. And that five-game winning streak is why The Flow is on display before the Huskies face Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
There is no question what the UConn offense is all about: All-American running back Jordan Todman, the nation's second-leading rusher, and a veteran, physical offensive line. But Frazer has been behind center since a midseason transformation, and his game management is notable for an important characteristic.
"He's won games for us," Lutrus said. "Look at his record as a starter. He's a smart quarterback who is great with checks and makes smarts decisions."
Frazer's numbers don't sparkle. He completed 53 percent of his throws with five touchdowns and four interceptions. But, again, he's 5-0 since he regained the starting job and the Huskies won the Big East championship.
"He makes good decisions. He avoids sacks. He's productive in the red zone," offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead said. "He's made plays when he's needed to. We've got an All-American running back and three All-Big East guys up front. The bottom line is whatever we need to do offensively in order to help us win games."
And Frazer believes that if Oklahoma shuts down Todman, the Huskies can throw the ball well enough to win.
"Our game plan is based on whatever they are going to do," he said. "We can run the ball. We can throw the ball. If they are geared to stop the run, I feel confident we can execute in the passing game."
Oklahoma hasn't been great against the run the this year. The Sooners have given up 151.8 yards rushing per game, which ranks 63rd in the nation, and they have been particularly vulnerable to big plays in the run game: They've surrendered 42 run plays of over 15 yards this season. Only four teams have yielded more, and none had winning records.
Still, the Sooners have played far more balanced offenses. They certainly will crowd the line of scrimmage and key on Todman and force Frazer to throw. The Sooners have been particularly good on third down this year, with foes converting at just a 34 percent clip, which ranks 15th in the nation. The Huskies struggle on third down: Their 32 percent conversion rate ranks 112th in the nation.
In other words, Frazer is going to have to get into The Flow. And we're not just talking about his notable hair.
"If we can run the ball, then good," he said. "But if we really need it, our passing game can step up."
Reply hopeful Huskies fans: May The Flow be with you.