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August 30. 2013 8:35PM

Vailas earns nod as UNH's starting QB


UNH quarterback Andy Vailas looks for a receiver in an October 2012 game. (JAY REITER/UNION LEADER FILE)

Andy Vailas gets the call.

The junior out of Bedford and Bishop Guertin High School of Nashua was named starting quarterback for the University of New Hampshire football team on Friday. Vailas and sophomore Sean Goldrich have competed intensely for the spot since the end of last season.

The quarterbacks got the word in an afternoon meeting with head coach Sean McDonnell and offensive coordinator Ryan Carty.

"It's probably the hardest position decision I've ever had to make as a head coach," McDonnell said on Friday evening. "That's how close this race has been. As I told the guys at the beginning of the summer, I hoped someone would take the job and run with it and make the decision for us."

They didn't.

Both played well through spring practice and again during fall camp and McDonnell said all along that he felt that either quarterback could win in the Colonial Athletic Association, as each did last year.

The ability of Vailas to make big plays both with his legs and his arm gave him a bit of an edge in the end, the coach said.

"Andy's very explosive and he has a great arm," McDonnell said. "He makes big plays and the thing about him is that he just seems like a big play waiting to happen. Not that Sean can't do that as well. He's made some big plays, too."

Goldrich grabbed the starting job for last season's opener, in part because of his understanding of the team's offense, and led UNH to a 38-17 win at Holy Cross.

Vailas played a series against Holy Cross and led UNH to a touchdown.

As was the plan last year, Goldrich will get in for at least a series in the opener at Central Michigan on Sept. 7 and for other games as well, McDonnell said.

"I'm sure somewhere along the line, Sean Goldrich will be needed by this team," McDonnell said. "Knowing these guys, I expect them both to embrace their roles like they did last year and I expect both of them to practice like No. 1 quarterbacks, which in my mind they are."

Last year, Goldrich was hurt on the team's second play at Minnesota and Vailas took over.

Both quarterbacks played and started games the rest of the way as the Wildcats went 8-4 and qualified for the Football Championship Subdivison tournament for the ninth straight season.

Vailas completed 126 of his 217 passes (58.1 percent) last season for 1,558 yards for 18 touchdowns and had just three interceptions. He also ran for 411 yards and scored six touchdowns. Goldrich completed 107 of his 180 passes (59.4) for 1,202 yards for eight touchdowns and had five picks. He ran for 174 yards and a pair of scores.

Both quarterbacks played well in UNH's final scrimmage on Thursday and Vailas displayed his big-play abilities. He ran for a 32-yard score and teamed with junior R.J. Harris on a 72-yard scoring pass.

alessels@unionleader.com


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