East Hartford, Conn. — When Steve Addazio was growing up in Farmington, Conn., he always wanted to become a football coach.
At the time, the premier football program was Ohio State. Addazio said he dreamed that one day Connecticut would have a Division I football school that the state could rally around like they did in Ohio.
Addazio’s realization came full circle on Saturday, Oct. 13, when he led the Owls to a 17–14 win against Connecticut for two consecutive wins in the Big East Conference for the first time in Temple’s history.
“To come in today and to see this field and see Connecticut playing big-time football, as a Connecticut guy, I think is terrific,” Addazio said. “But as a Philadelphia guy, what’s really terrific is we’re getting out of here 2–0 in the Big East with a young team that has grit and the city can be proud of.”
The win came against Huskies’ coach Paul Pasqualoni, under whom Addazio served as an assistant for six years and who the coach still refers to as his mentor or “Coach P.”
Addazio worked with Pasqualoni as his offensive line coach at Western Connecticut State from 1985–87 before Pasqualoni recommended Addazio take the head coaching position at Cheshire High School where Pasqualoni went to school and coached from 1972–75.
Addazio coached at Cheshire from 1988 to 1994 and compiled a 61–12–2 record. During one stretch, his team won 34 games in a row and three consecutive state titles. His Cheshire teams were nationally ranked in 1992 and 1994.
Addazio left Cheshire to join his old mentor Pasqualoni, then head coach at Syracuse, and serve as his offensive line and tight ends coach. From 1995–98, Pasqualoni and Addazio led the Orangemen to a 35–14 record and four bowl appearances.
Pasqualoni stayed on at Syracuse for another six years, while Addazio took a job at Notre Dame in 1999, where he coached for three years.
Addazio has been coaching at major college football programs, including Indiana and Florida, ever since, but his path hadn’t crossed with Pasqualoni again until last weekend’s game. Pasqualoni coached in the NFL for six years before agreeing to take the UConn job in 2011.
Saturday’s game was the first time the two coaches had ever worked against each other on opposite sidelines.
The game had all the makings of an Addazio and Pasqualoni led match-up, a low-scoring brawl that could have gone either way.
The Huskies jumped out to an early lead by dominating the first quarter. UConn outgained Temple by a margin of 192 yards to 11 yards in the first 15 minutes and quickly went up two scores.
But Temple held its own in the second quarter. The Owls completed a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run by senior running back Montel Harris just before halftime.
Addazio said Pasqualoni and the Huskies outplayed Temple in the first half, and his team felt fortunate to be down only one score.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We just got their best shot and we’re still standing,’” Addazio said. “Now let’s go out and play football.”The Temple defense rebounded in the second half. The Owls held the Huskies to 101 yards of total offense in the second half and didn’t allow another UConn score.
Addazio said he had to make adjustments on both sides of the ball at halftime after seeing what his old coach had planned for the first half.
“I’m very impressed with [Pasqualoni’s] football team,” Addazio said. “I’m not just saying that because he’s my mentor, I’m just telling you. They had a great game plan.”
The defense held, and the offense put together one more scoring drive at the end of regulation to set up senior placekicker Brandon McManus’ game-winning, 29-yard field goal in overtime.
In addition to it being a well-fought contest against Pasqualoni, this game was a homecoming for Addazio. More than 60 friends and members of his family were in attendance for the game.
“To come home and see my family and my friends and the people I grew up with, that’s pretty special,” Addazio said. “But beating UConn because of Coach P, no. I’m going to walk out of here and wish them nothing but success as they roll forward.”
The game was also a homecoming for Owls’ true freshman linebacker Tyler Matakevich, a Stratford, Conn., native. Matakevich led all players with 19 tackles after recording 15 last week in his first collegiate start.
Matakevich’s game came in front of what he called “two buses full” of friends and family.
“There’s no better feeling in the world,” Matakevich said. “Not only to win in Connecticut, but to be 2–0 in the Big East right now.”
“We didn’t really talk about it too much, but we knew it was a homecoming for coach Addazio and [Matakevich],” redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer said. “That definitely adds something to the win.”
Addazio said Pasqualoni told him after the game that his team didn’t give up, before the two coaches shared a hug at midfield.
“[Pasqualoni is] the best,” Addazio said. “There’s very few people like him in our business. We need more guys like [Pasqualoni] in our business. I’ve been in it a long time, and I know that.”
Though the protégé was quick to credit his mentor for being the best, on Saturday, Addazio was better.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @joey_cranney.