EAST HARTFORD -- Just a few minutes after 11 p.m., the big man strode down the corridor, look a quick glance at the people waiting for the elevator, said a terse "good night" and shoved the exit doors open that would lead him up a flight of stairs and out to the Rentschler Field parking lot.
Warde Manuel did not look happy.
Just five hours earlier, the athletic director -- and former University of Michigan defensive end -- was making his way up and down the rows of players on the newly painted field, tapping helmets, shaking hands, wishing everyone well. Kickoff was less than an hour away and the Huskies were supposed to have no trouble with FCS Towson, the first win in what many fans were hoping would be a seven- or eight-win season and a trip to a bowl game for the first time in three years.
Watching Manuel march down the hall and out the door, you didn't have to be an expert in the art of body language to see that Manuel was upset. If one had looked closely enough, one might have actually seen smoke coming from Manuel's ears as he pushed open the door and disappeared into the night.
Down the hall in an interview room, head coach Paul Pasqualoni looked as if someone had stolen his pet dog. His team had been outplayed, Pasqualoni had been outcoached -- badly -- and worst of all, every player, coach, manager and trainer had to hear not one, but several choruses of boos from the 30,689 who showed up to watch.
For the most part, the Huskies showed no life. They showed little, if any, emotion, and again, worst of all, they showed little or no heart.
Before the game, Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said that his Tigers would have to "play up" against the Huskies.
Boy, did they.
"To be honest, they're bigger than we are," Ambrose said. "By a lot. I've got some guys with some size, too, but after they go out, I've got the mighty midgets. The little giants. We have to play up. Physically, UConn's better than we are. But so what? You still play for 60 minutes."
Towson played for 60 minutes, all right. UConn? Well, they might have played for half that. Maybe.
Before the game, Pasqualoni had said that he wanted to see what kind of identity his team would have. He hoped it would include taking care of the football and not making the same kind of stupid mistakes that had the Huskies finishing a minus-14 in the turnover department last season. If first impressions are any indication, the Huskies are the same team in 2013 that they were in 2012. Once again, mistakes stole away any chance at victory.
"I think when you go through the film, the kids are clearly going to see that we made far too many mistakes in this game," Pasqualoni said in his Friday post-game teleconference call with the media. "I know when the kids look at the film, get their grades, they'll see that everything is correctable and we'll get it corrected. These kids are competitors. They'll see on the film some really good things they did. And they'll see some things we've got to do a better job of. I think they'll be fine."
But will they? To quote Vizzini from the "Princess Bride," it's "inconceivable" that the Huskies could have played a stinker like this. One has to wonder if the so-called chemistry that the players all spoke of in preseason camp is there at all. In fact, when asked about the offensive line last Sunday, Lyle McCombs paused a good seven seconds before issuing a stock answer.
"They're improving," he said, keeping his head down. "We'll see what happens."
Once again, the body language expert didn't need to see that McCombs wasn't exactly gushing positives.
Last season, the Huskies averaged just 17.8 points a game. Thursday night, they scored 18. Last season, the Huskies averaged 87.9 yards a game rushing. Thursday night, they totaled 81. Last season, the Huskies were guilty of three turnovers against UMass in their season opener. Thursday night, they had two crucial ones. Both led to Towson touchdowns.
Faced with all those glaring mistakes, Pasqualoni stood firm when questioned and said that he would not start making drastic changes.
"We're trying to establish the identity of the team and the expectations are to have a successful season. We're not adjusting anything," he said. "We're making every effort here to put out a team and a product on the field that the fans can be proud of."
But no one was proud Thursday night. Especially the athletic director. Towson was a major bust. What will Maryland bring? Change? Or more of the same?