|Meineke Bowl features sought-after coaches in UConn's Randy Edsall, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 09:52|
As their teams prepare to face off Saturday in the Meineke Bowl, Grobe and Edsall are among that select group of coaches always mentioned when a job opens.
That's what happens when you develop successful football programs at basketball schools.
``Both teams pretty much have gone from ashes to riches,'' Wake Forest defensive end Jeremy Thompson said Friday.
True, neither UConn (9-3) or Wake Forest (8-4) have much experience at this bowl thing.
The Huskies, who moved up from what used to be called Division I-AA six years ago, have a brief bowl history: a 2004 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl.
Wake Forest has played at the big time level for decades. The Demon Deacons just didn't play big. This marks the first time they've played in bowl games in consecutive years.
Grobe, in his seventh season, was determined to end Wake Forest's annual contest with Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar. Using a complex misdirection offense and stubbornly redshirting true freshman, Grobe made the Demon Deacons respectable.
Then came last season's breakout year, where Wake Forest won an improbable ACC title and earned the school's first Bowl Championship Series berth.
Wake Forest's 0-2 start ended hopes of another league title this season, but behind sophomore quarterback Riley Skinner, freshman running back Josh Adams and a nation-best eight defensive touchdowns, the Demon Deacons won eight of their last 10 games.
``We haven't done this a lot at Wake Forest in the past,'' Grobe said. ``It's good for our players.''
Edsall was hired in 1999 with the difficult task of leading UConn's transition to college football's highest level. It included a quick bowl appearance, then two losing seasons.
But behind Iowa State transfer quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, the tailback tandem of Andre Dixon and Donald Brown and an opportunistic defense, this was UConn's breakout year.
The Huskies started 5-0, and after a 17-16 loss to Virginia, they beat Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers in consecutive weeks to earn their first national ranking.
UConn was in the running for a BCS berth until blowout losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia.
``The more you win, the more pressure that's on you,'' said Lorenzen, who has 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions. ``We worked real hard and fortunately things worked out for us.''
It wasn't long until both teams started wondering about their coach. Grobe's name was tossed around when the Michigan and Nebraska jobs opened up. Then things got serious with Arkansas. One report had Grobe accepting the job.
``We were hearing coach Grobe is already on a plane going out there,'' Thompson said.
Instead, Grobe gathered the team and said he was staying.
``So many jobs were open this year, so every one that was open, my name was associated with,'' Grobe said. ``It makes you feel good knowing other people are interested in you because you've been successful. But at the same time it can be a distraction.''
There wasn't as much drama at UConn, but Edsall did visit with Georgia Tech officials before withdrawing from consideration.
``He's the reason why this program is in the situation it is now,'' said linebacker Danny Lansanah, UConn's leading tackler. ``I don't think he would leave something that he gave his all to.''
With the job-hopping talk on hold, the game figures to be close. Wake Forest's defense will be tested by UConn's efficient offense, and Skinner, who avoided turnovers late in the season, faces a Huskies defense with 22 interceptions.
Before this season, the schools had combined for eight bowl appearances. Keeping their coaches could help make these postseason games routine.
``I think stability and continuity is good,'' Edsall said. ``I just hope what we can do is continue to build off this year.''