September 06. 2018 9:22PM

Lupoli, UNH starting fresh

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader


DURHAM — Christian Lupoli hasn’t started a game at quarterback since 2015, when his Notre Dame-West Haven high school team lost to New Canaan in Connecticut’s Class L semifinals. He’ll know that feeling again Saturday night, however, when the University of New Hampshire plays its home-opener against Colgate (6 p.m.).

Lupoli, a sophomore, is the No. 2 quarterback on the UNH depth chart, which means he’ll be called upon to replace injured starter Trevor Knight (sprained AC). Knight, the CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, is expected to miss a minimum of one game, but could be held out at least until UNH returns from its bye week to face Elon on Sept. 29.

“This is what I came here for is to play and to help this team win, so I couldn’t be more excited,” Lupoli said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a freshman here. I think I’ll be ready.”

Lupoli was ready when he replaced Knight at Central Arkansas in last year’s FCS second-round playoff game. He directed an 11-play, 63-yard scoring drive in that contest and the Wildcats held on for a 21-15 win. Lupoli completed 8 of 10 passes for for 63 yards and one touchdown in that victory, “He’s really smart,” UNH cornerback Isiah Perkins said when he was asked what it’s like to go against Lupoli in practice. “Gets the ball out of his hands really quick and I think the main thing with him is his confidence is really high. Last year, in the Central Arkansas win he had, he really showed the team something. There’s really not anything changing within the team. We have really good confidence in him that he can step up and get the job done.”

Colgate has a QB who has proven he can get the job done as well. Sophomore Grant Breneman, the Patriot League Freshman of the Year last season, completed 13 of 19 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in Colgate’s opener, a 24-17 triumph over Holy Cross on Saturday.

“He’s a really talented kid who makes that offense go,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “He runs the ball and he runs it with authority. He has a good arm. He puts it on people and they have receivers who can go up and get it.”

Colgate was picked to finish first in the Patriot League preseason poll. UNH, which is coming off a 35-7 loss to Maine in its season opener, has a 6-2 all-time record against Colgate, but the Raiders won the last meeting 27-20 in 2015. That victory came in a first-round FCS playoff game and was the last game played at Cowell Stadium.

Colgate made 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (three sacks) during its victory over Holy Cross. Senior linebackers T.J. Holl and Dillon Deluliis, and senior safety Alec Wisniewski each made 10 tackles in that game.

“We want to get to 1-1 on Saturday night and that’s huge, huge task against a good Colgate team,” McDonnell said.

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Notes: McDonnell said UNH has moved former Merrimack Valley quarterback Ivan Niyomugabo back to quarterback from wide receiver because of Knight’s injury. Niyomugabo began his UNH career as a quarterback, but was shifted to wide receiver this spring. … Colgate’s Nick Wheeler, a junior defensive end, recorded 11.5 sacks last season. … UNH’s Drew Sanborn punted nine times against Maine, and placed six of those punts inside the 20-yard line. … McDonnell said wide receiver Malik Love, who missed the Maine game with a hamstring injury, may play against Colgate. … UNH hasn’t lost a regular-season home game to a non-conference opponent since the 200 season (Gardner-Webb).

rbrown@unionleader.com