By Dan Canavan
On a day that the UConn Huskies were run out of Philadelphia by Temple, the Hartford Colonials were celebrating a new kind of football at Rentschler Field. It wasn’t the Patriots, but the militia was stationed in the end zone. There was tailgating and cheerleaders, inflatable helmets and cannon fire. And the fireworks didn’t stop at the conclusion of the pregame warm-ups. Professional football debuted in Hartford on Saturday, and the Hartford Colonials brought their “A game,” defeating the Sacramento Mountain Lions 27-10. They also brought a quarterback that can really spread the ball around the field.
Quarterback and team Captain Josh McCown looked sharp, and not just with the Colonial’s classic gold helmets and dark blue jerseys. McCown, a player with significant NFL experience, threw for over 265 yards, 178 of which were registered in the first half. Although McCown shared time under center with Ryan Perrilloux, McCown was clearly the best player of the field Saturday, treating fans with a passing game not regularly displayed on UConn’s home field. Colonials running back Lorenzo Booker ran through the end zone and literally out of the stadium after a 80 yard completion from McCown early in the second half. Husky standout Andre Dixon carried the ball 21 times, rushing for 94 yards.
On defense, Tank Daniels led a linebacking corps that shut down the Sacramento offense. Lead by NFL veteran quarterback Dante Culpepper, the Mountain Lions struggled in the first half, registering only 3 first downs, and zero points. Culpepper’s climb back to the NFL could be a long one. His first toss looked minor league, and he completed only 6 of 18 passing attempts in the first half.
And while the Colonials are working out the kinks, fans seemed pleased with the game day experience, which was more big league than collegiate. Tailgaters arrived early and stayed late, youth groups had their run of the stadium, and the Colonials cheerleaders didn’t want for attention. And not so quietly, UFL officials were pleased with the turnout. 14,384 football fans showed up to Rentschler Field to set a UFL attendance record. Most were UConn Huskies fans, others were not. Many were serious football fans, others were just curious about the upstart UFL. But all were treated with a few former NFL and collegiate stars, a big league experience, and a new kind of Connecticut football.
McCown and his Colonials blew out the opposition on Saturday afternoon, but the real competition between Rentschler Field tenants for Connecticut football fans has just begun. Game on.