If Michael Box doesn't get sacked during a two-minute drill Wednesday, maybe Cody Endres doesn't get the reps in practice and maybe he doesn't even play Saturday.
Then again, if Cody Endres had performed as well as he could have in the spring and hadn't stupidly sacked himself during the summer, he might have been the starting quarterback all along.
There is always some degree of supposition in athletics, yet there also is no denying Randy Edsall saw something in the first half and wide receiver Michael Smith saw something in the second half that could explain a major shift in the course of the UConn football season.
Edsall saw a team that wasn't moving the football under Zach Frazer. Smith saw a quarterback who was able to move his teammates.
What Edsall saw from the Huskies in the first half of a 45-21 victory over Buffalo fired him up enough to switch quarterbacks on the final play before halftime. What he saw in his team's multitude of mistakes and lack of energy fired him up to the point where he peeled paint off the wall in a locker room diatribe.
"More than paint," Edsall said.
What Smith saw, meanwhile, calmed him. And it was that rather remarkable transformation from fevered to laid back in the opening moments of the third quarter that soothed Smith's and arguably his teammates' soul. Endres found Smith for a 27-yard pass on the opening drive that led to a field goal. On the second possession, he found Smith over the middle for a 56-yard touchdown pass. So here was Smith slipping into the media room afterward, repeatedly whispering the name of UConn's new starting quarterback through a huddle of reporters. "Cody, Cody, Cody …"
"Cody always has fun when he's out there," Smith said. "That rubs off on everybody. It's amazing how calm he stays in every situation. I know he relaxes me."
Matters were anything relaxed at halftime. Buffalo, a three-touchdown underdog, was tied at 14 with the Huskies. A 1-2 start was bad. A 1-3 start would have been disastrous. Edsall had made a number of changes on both sides of the ball in recent days. Endres would catch wind of the biggest change on the headsets as he was watched from the sideline.
Endres would take a knee for the final play off the first half. And when he came back for the second half, well, let's just say there was no knee-taking.
"The guys were wound up a little bit [at halftime}," said Endres who finished 7-for-11 for 139 yards and two touchdowns. "I think I bring a calming attitude a little bit. They have confidence in me. I have confidence in them. I just told them, 'It's tied: New game, just not as long."
As late as Wednesday, Frazer was taking four reps, Box two and Endres one. During the two-minute drill, Box was sacked. Not good. Endres came in and took the group down the field. Edsall said it showed Endres had confidence and no rust. Endres felt it clicking. Edsall had offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead immediately increase Endres' reps to two, told the offensive staff that night it would stay that and then he told the three quarterbacks.
"I told Mike Box, nothing against him," Edsall said. "Cody has the experience. He's won for us. But nothing was predetermined today. I was hoping Zach would play extremely well. As head coach you've got to make the tough decision, right, wrong or indifferent, based on your heart and what you see on the field."
So Edsall watched to see how Frazer responded. He saw good field position wasted after the first drive. He made his move.
"A lot of times it's a gut feeling," Edsall said. "I think I've been doing this long enough to have a pretty good gut.
"Some guys have the ability to rally guys and create an influence on people. "
The keys to the car officially have changed hands.
"Cody Endres came in and gave us a spark," Edsall said. "He has earned his right to be the starter."
It will be an immensely popular decision with the fans, many who will wonder what took Edsall so long. The truth is Frazer was sacked twice and threw his first interception of the season under duress. But the truth also is Frazer hasn't played well this season. Sometimes his throws are too wild or too hard. Sometimes he misses reads. Sometimes he does both.
"Don't blame it on him," Edsall said after telling Frazer not to come to the media room. "Take your shots at me. I'm older and big enough to handle it."
Consider the shot fired, coach. It's better to get this stuff out of the way sooner than later.
At any rate, Endres came into the game and, man, he had a nice touch. Played super. His biggest problem always has been holding onto the ball too long. On this day, as Edsall noted, the ball was coming out quickly and decisively. Endres, who did bump into fullback Anthony Sherman and fumbled away a ball that led to a touchdown, said he barely was touched by an opponent in the second half.
"Cody can throw the ball," Edsall said. "Cody's biggest thing is staying focused all the time. He plays the game pretty good. There were things we saw all through spring practice and he eliminated himself during the preseason."
Endres needs to work hard all the time. And he cannot do things, stupid things that lead to a suspension imposed by the athletic department. The kind of stupid things that put former basketball players Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins in similar problems. Yet at the same time it's fair; that laid-back, serene nature serves him well. He shows no panic.
"Young people make mistakes," Edsall said. "We all make mistakes. When somebody pays the price, serves their sentence, when that sentence is over I don't hold a grudge."
This has got to be tough on Frazer because both quarterbacks have played and won. Starting in midseason 2008, the job has gone from Tyler Lorenzen to Frazer to Endres to Lorenzen to Frazer to Endres to Frazer to Endres. That's a whopping seven changes in 25 games. Clearly nothing is certain except this: Endres clearly outplayed Frazer on this day and Edsall is right. Endres deserves to be the starter.
"I have a lot of faith in myself and in my game," Endres said. "The guys see your confidence and they do the same thing."
And Edsall's diatribe? Tell us. All-time?
"Top three," Endres said with that soothing smile.