Gorman: Football is an escape for UConn
TribLIVE Sports Videos
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Kashif Moore held teammate Jasper Howard while he was bleeding to death early last Sunday morning. But reality did not set in until Saturday's bus ride to Mountaineer Field.
"It was kind of hard," Moore said, "looking back there and ... an empty seat."
Howard, a 20-year-old junior from Miami, was stabbed at an on-campus dance less than 12 hours after recording 11 tackles and forcing and recovering a fumble in the Huskies' homecoming victory over Louisville.
Connecticut honored his memory against West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, in a three-hour, 10-minute diversion from the emotionally draining week.
The schools held a moment of silence for Howard and exchanged embraces in a heartfelt show of sportsmanship at a time of tragedy. It carried over to the usually hostile Mountaineers fans, as the 58,106 in attendance were gracious throughout a 28-24 West Virginia victory.
You couldn't help but have your heart in your throat.
A football team didn't just lose a player to a senseless crime.
A family lost a brother, a mother her son, an unborn child his father.
This game was all the Huskies could look forward to.
"It helped us escape the reality of what was going on," Moore said. "It helped us to get away from everything and play football, something fun for us to do."
While Moore held Howard, receiver Michael Smith applied pressure to the wound. Howard was airlifted to a hospital in Hartford, where Connecticut coach Randy Edsall was asked to identify the body.
A powerful lesson was learned.
"Life is a precious thing," said tailback Andre Dixon, who carried Howard's helmet onto the field, where it was displayed next to his game jersey. "Every day, you've got to live like it might be your last day. You never know when the Head Man is going to call your name and have you come to Him."
A parent's worst nightmare was realized. Joangila Howard entrusted her son to the University of Connecticut, the first in his family to go to college. He was supposed to come home with a degree. Not in a casket.
Connecticut players, who were hoping to capture Howard's spirit against West Virginia, wore reminders of him, from stickers bearing his No. 6 on the back of their helmets and eye black to messages written on their biceps.
Even West Virginia fans were thinking about Howard when they posted a banner at the end of the visitors' tunnel that read: Today we are all HUSKIES.
"You think that he's up there helping us," Dixon said. "You feel like he's right there with us on every play, every drive and everything that we do. We definitely felt 'Jazz' was out there with us, trying to help us out, trying to will us through and trying to get a win."
The Huskies rode the emotional roller coaster of a game that saw seven lead changes — including Marcus Easley's 88-yard touchdown reception to give UConn the lead with 3:50 remaining — only to watch WVU's Noel Devine race 56 yards along the right sideline for the deciding points with 2:10 left.
Connecticut badly wanted to win this game for Howard, and the Huskies couldn't hold back their tears when it was over. They know what lies ahead, as they will fly a charter to Miami Monday to bury their teammate.
Win or lose, there was no escaping that reality.
Jasper Howard is gone, leaving behind broken hearts and an empty seat.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ protracted slump continues with 5-2 loss at Carolina
- Police end standoff with New Kensington man
- Pittsburgh angles to keep Heinz headquarters in merger
- Trib Cup: North Allegheny, Blackhawk, Seton-La Salle, Vincentian lead winter standings
- New Kensington-Arnold School Board superintendent hangs on as board vote falls short
- Geibel softball excited for return after 4-year hiatus
- Connellsville-area group shares photos, stories, legacy
- Harrison rape suspect awaiting trial accused of sexual contact with 6-year-old
- Kiski Area Intermediate School band chosen to play at state conference
- Cops nab Donora assault suspect
- Narduzzi set to begin more critical evaluations during Pitt football spring drills