Perhaps UConn senior linebacker Junior Joseph will find his way onto a professional football roster but if that is not the case, today was the last game he will play in his native Pennsylvania.
If it indeed is his swan song, he went out with the bang with a team-high 11 tackles, a sack and he nearly had an interception as UConn upset defending American Athletic Conference champion Temple 28-24.
The defense is chock full of defensive play makers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland and their family members were among the 29,849 in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field as UConn won its first conference game in more than a year and first road game since 2015.
"It meant a lot to me because I am from PA," Joseph said. "It is good to come back to my home (state), see my family and friends, it is good to get a win in front of those people."
This is Joseph's fourth consecutive game with more than 10 tackles after coming into his senior season with just one double-digit tackle game. He continues to move up the list of all-time leading tacklers in UConn history. Today he moved by three players including former teammate Andrew Adams and is now tied with James Hargrave for 21st place with 271 career tackles.
"He is the smartest player I've ever play with so to do that, it feels good to pass him, it is an honor," Joseph said.
Joseph said before the season that one of his goals was to be a more vocal leader so how has he gone about doing that?
"Just keep motivating guys and leading, making plays, telling guys to follow me and seeing that they can do it too," Joseph said. "Just calling out plays before the snap, helping them out little stuff Andrew did for us when I was a freshman or a sophomore."
With UConn starting three true freshmen in the secondary since illness sidelined starting cornerback Jamar Summers, not one of the defensive backs who saw time in today's game ever started a game at UConn before this season. With Brayden Brown and Jordan Swann making their first career starts and fellow true freshman Darrian Beavers seeing his most playing time at linebacker, obviously there were some bumpy patches as Temple ran 18 more plays than the Huskies and outgained UConn 473-244 but UConn is more than happy to head home after a hard-earned victory especially when the defense gave up a program record 70 points last week against Memphis.
"After a game like that you have no choice but to respond, you can't let the wheels fall off for the rest of the season," Joseph said. "We are going to enjoy this game tonight and tomorrow, it is onto Tulsa. Short memory and that is what we have to do."
After the game, UConn coach Randy Edsall began to tear up when discussing the victory and he made reference to a speech to the team that obviously resonated with the team.
"He's been here before so when he is telling us something, we have to believe it because he has done it before," Joseph said. "When he gets emotional, he knows what he is talking about. Guys responded and saw when Coach was talking last night how emotional he was, how much it mean to him so we had to do it for Coach Edsall."
Edsall didn't divulge his complete message to the team but here's what Joseph took out of Edsall's words.
"Stop playing tentative, have fun, you've been playing football since you were a little kid so why not go out and have fun," Joseph said. "We were out there having fun on defense finally making plays. His biggest thing to go out and have fun, don't think and play fast."