DURHAM — James Madison quarterback Michael Birdsong, who leads the Dukes into Cowell Stadium for a game with New Hampshire this afternoon at 12:30, had a rough outing a couple of weeks ago.
Look at the opponent, said UNH coach Sean McDonnell.
Birdsong struggled in a 17-7 loss at William & Mary.
McDonnell, his quarterbacks and the Wildcats as a team know the feeling. They went into Williamsburg last Saturday, a week after James Madison did, and were shut out for the first time in 18 years, 17-0, by a stingy Tribe defense.
"I think you erase that one," McDonnell said of Birdsong's William & Mary game.
UNH quarterbacks Sean Goldrich and Andy Vailas, the junior from Bedford, both had a tough time with William & Mary. Both were banged up during the game
McDonnell said Goldrich will start today's must-win game for the Wildcats.
UNH is 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the CAA and needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. No. 22-ranked James Madison is 6-3 and 3-2.
As for Birdsong, McDonnell is worried more about the way the sophomore and the Dukes responded to the William & Mary loss.
They answered with a 31-21 win at home against Villanova last week.
"As badly as he played against William & Mary, that's how well he played on Saturday night," said James Madison coach Mickey Matthews. "He's young. He's a competitor."
Birdsong completed 20 of his 29 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown against Villanova.
The Wildcats must also deal with running back Dae'Quan Scott, a 5-foot-9 and 215-pound senior, who averages 98.8 rushing yards a game.
The defense features middle linebacker Stephon Robertson, a 5-foot-11 and 230-pound senior, who was the Colonial Athletic Association's defensive player of the year last season. He's playing like the best again and leads the nation with 12.3 tackles a game.
JMU's defense ranks No. 1 in the league at 99.6 yards allowed rushing and third in both points allowed (20.8) and total yards (321.8).
UNH is 3-0 at home and 1-4 on the road. James Madison has not yet won a road game. The Dukes are 6-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.
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Dartmouth looks to rebound from another tough loss in a home game against Cornell on Saturday at 4. The Big Green fell to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Ivy League with a 24-21 loss to Harvard on Saturday.
The Harvard loss was Dartmouth's third by three points and the other setback was in four overtimes. Cornell is 1-6 and 0-4 and has lost six straight since winning its opener against Bucknell. The Big Red lost at Princeton, 53-21, last week. . . . St. Anselm plays at Pace on Saturday at noon in a game between winless teams. Both teams are 0-9 overall and 0-8 in the Northeast-10. The Hawks lost to LIU-Post, 41-40, on a last-minute touchdown and conversion kick last week. . . .
Plymouth State, 2-6 overall and 1-5 in the MASCAC, is at Mass Maritime on Saturday at noon. Mass Maritime is 4-4 and 2-4. The Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 34-31 win over Worcester State last week.