Not only did the Huskies win three conference games as rookie Big East members this season, they also earned the program's first-ever bowl invitation. Connecticut (7-4) will face Toledo (9-3) in the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27.
Coach Randy Edsall's team entered the league a year ahead of schedule, which proved to be a prescient decision. Connecticut was able to take advantage of the Big East's weakened state and make history with the bowl berth.
"It feels good to be out here (practicing) from the standpoint that you know you're going to play for something," Edsall told the Hartford Courant. "Last year we came out and weren't sure what was going to happen. This year we're out here and we're practicing with a purpose because we're going to a bowl game."
The game's outcome may rest with the quarterbacks, who each played critical roles in the teams' success this season.
Connecticut senior Dan Orlovsky passed for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career and is considered the program's cornerstone.
Toledo junior Bruce Gradkowski is as tough as they come. He dislocated his shoulder and broke bones in his right (throwing) hand during the Mid-American Conference championship game against Miami of Ohio ... yet he threw three second-half touchdowns to rally the Rockets from a 14-7 deficit.
He recently had surgery on the injured hand, but is expected to play against Connecticut.
As long as QB Dan Orlovsky is on the field, Connecticut has a chance in most games. The 6-5, 236-pound Orlovsky may be the Big East's top pocket passer. He threw for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season. WR Keron Henry (58 catches, 5 TDs) and TE Dan Murray (27 catches, 5 TDs) are Orlovsky's primary targets.
The Huskies must cut down on turnovers if they are to push Toledo. Connecticut committed 23 turnovers, which tied for fifth place in the Big East. Though Orlovsky's numbers were prolific, he threw 14 interceptions in 416 attempts.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Connecticut 41, Rutgers 35 (Nov. 25) -- A Thanksgiving Day victory all but guaranteed the Huskies their first-ever bowl invitation. QB Dan Orlovsky passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns, while tailback Cornell Brockington added three scores.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Connecticut QB Dan Orlovsky vs. Toledo FS Patrick Body -- The 6-5, 236-pound Orlovsky completed 268 of 416 pass attempts for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in the regular season, second in the Big East behind Rutgers' Ryan Hart for passing yards per game (283.2). Body managed two interceptions and led Toledo with 95 tackles.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Everybody recognizes the kind of season we've had. People know what we've done. There are not as many negatives that people can use against us. It's been a totally different experience going on the road recruiting. All that exposure is what you're looking for." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall to the Hartford Courant, regarding recruiting off a successful season.
BOWL AT A GLANCE
Connecticut (7-4) vs. Toledo (9-3), Motor City Bowl, Detroit, Dec. 27 -- Coach Randy Edsall has the UConn program on a solid enough foundation that bowl appearances could become a regular occurrence.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
TB Cornell Brockington -- The 6-0, 195-pound Brockington leads the Big East in rushing yards per game (104.2). He managed 1,146 total yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns.
CB Justin Perkins -- The All-Big East selection picked off four interceptions and delivered 11 pass breakups in the regular season. Perkins also managed 35 tackles.
QB Dan Orlovsky -- The senior has the size and arm strength to merit a good look on the next level. Doesn't do much with his feet, either scrambling or on a rollout, but he gets rid of the ball fast to avoid taking more sacks.
DE Tyler King (broken leg) has not been cleared to practice, but may be available for the Motor City Bowl. TB Cornell Brockington (neck stinger), P Shane Hussar (hamstring) and CB Ernest Cole (shoulder) should be ready to play.