It was like the Waltons, said Addazio, the second-year coach at Temple. It was, "Good night guys … good night coach." And while Pasqualoni enjoyed a similar walk down memory lane Tuesday, talking about watering the grass, painting the field and passing out the towels in Danbury, the hard truth is it's not exactly "The Waltons" or "Little House on the Prairie" for the UConn coach these days.
"We all know we are better than what our record shows — last year and this year," sophomore running back Lyle McCombs said.
To put it as delicately as possible, if UConn loses to Temple on Saturday at Rentschler — something that should not happen — a whole bunch of ugly is going to jump out of the box.
At 3-3, with victories over the likes of UMass and Buffalo, and 8-10 in the Pasqualoni era, the Huskies do not appear to be on any kind of run. They are barely at a brisk walk. There is, in fact, a growing disconnect among the world that Pasqualoni paints at his press conferences, how the state media views his team's progress and how the chat rooms/twittersphere/blogosphere view Pasqualoni.
Week after week, Pasqualoni, 63, calmly re-employs his favorite phrase, that it's a work in progress. Each week, the media wonder when the construction pace is going to pick up. And the chat rooms/twittersphere/blogosphere? They seem to want Pasqualoni gone yesterday.
Where and when the three parallel universes do intersect, well, that's a Big Bang Theory that booster Robert Burton could appreciate. Obviously, this week presents such a possibility. Burton wanted Jeff Hathaway to hire Addazio in January 2011 and threatened to take his ball and $3 million home when the former athletic director paid him no heed. Being mediocre and exciting is one thing, of course. Mark Whipple would have tossed the ball around the Rent. Addazio moves rooms with his motivation. A year and a half into this, Pasqualoni and his offensive coordinator, George DeLeone, seem content to move the ball 2 yards on first down and embrace the lack of excitement.
"Believe it or not," Pasqualoni said. "I have fun every week."
That's good, because it doesn't appear a lot of others are these days. How much the unrelenting online criticism of Pasqualoni represents the larger fan base is not easily quantified. A record can be. With Temple, Syracuse, South Florida and Pittsburgh forming two-thirds of the remaining schedule, the Huskies could just as easily finish 5-7 again as 7-5 and bowl-bound. Those four teams are eminently beatable. Piling on a coach in Year 2 seems like a miserable thing to do, but right now folks are seeing a slow, repetitive slog and wonder when it is going to change. And with a new athletic director, one who played football at Michigan, it will be fascinating to see if his patience is as Job-like as Pasqualoni's.
The UConn running game is at the heart of the dissatisfaction. After the 19-3 loss at Rutgers, it ranks 112th of 120 teams nationally (102.2 yards a game) and 115th in yards a carry (2.8). And after McCombs was arrested Friday for the second time by campus police, there is a level of dissatisfaction with the primary runner, too.
For that, McCombs apologized profusely Tuesday. He and his girlfriend, Sasiamarie Jones, were arrested for misdemeanor breach of peace Friday after what the police report said was a fight that included pushing, spitting and scratching.
"I apologize to UConn, the coaches, my teammates, for being a distraction this weekend," McCombs said. "I want to apologize to Sasiamarie Jones, specifically. It was a tough situation for both of us. Now she looks violent when she's really not. It makes both of us look like people we are not."
"I want to apologize to the fans for getting into trouble, for being a distraction on a big weekend for our program. … All I can do is hope and pray and learn from it."
Although he said he heard from "very reliable" sources exactly what happened, Pasqualoni came off weak in holding McCombs out for only one quarter on Saturday. McCombs, who like any other student faces a university review process, should have been punished for at least one game. Asked if he felt fortunate to only miss 15 minutes, McCombs was honest: "Very fortunate."
This is Strike Two. McCombs was busted for possessing a small amount of marijuana shortly after Pasqualoni was hired. After that arrest, he also said that was something he was not. Forgiveness is a good thing, yet at a certain point you become what your arrest warrant says you are.
"I hope people can forgive me for this situation," he said. "It is uncharacteristic of me to do some of the things that happened."
Pasqualoni, meanwhile, wasn't apologizing for allowing McCombs to play or the mess of a running game. Pasqualoni has forgotten more football than many of the reporters in the room know, but let's be honest: When he starts talking about how the problem with the run is wide-reaching and involves the tight ends and wide receivers … well, suffice to say that Nick Williams isn't the problem. The problem is the predictable play calling, the offensive line or the running back, and if Pasqualoni refuses to apportion that culpability, it leaves him wide open to the "experts."
The way that Jawan Jamison absorbed contact and kept moving, my eye tells me that UConn doesn't have the running back Rutgers has. My ears tell me that at least against Western Michigan and Rutgers, the Huskies line had real trouble with slants. My mind tells me when you run 26 of 27 times on first down against UMass and 22 of 26 against Buffalo, you are reactive, not setting rhythm with the pass, not inclined to really throw until you fall behind. That, in turns, leads Chandler Whitmer reverting to his JUCO instincts and throwing interceptions of desperation.
So now does Pasqualoni go more to Scott McCummings at Wildcat? Should he take a look at 200-pound freshman Joe Williams? Is McCombs 100 percent for Temple? His lower left arm was in a light cast for immobilization Tuesday. He said he slightly sprained his wrist when he tried to brace himself for a fall at Rutgers.
"I don't think I'll miss anything," McCombs said.
You can, however, miss an entire Pasqualoni press conference without missing anything. Bill Belichick is unquotable by design. Pasqualoni is not. It's growing more and more maddening. Mum is fine at 8-4. But the truth is a program that needs selling is selling second-and-8 and 5-7.
"I certainly understand it," said Pasqualoni when asked if understood why there is criticism of his run game. "My point to you guys is in no way am I discouraged about it."
A lot of other people evidently are right now.