Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats' fortunes at Maine may rest with the big guys
University of New Hampshire player 55 sacks the quarterback, vs. Lafayette in the second half of their playoff game hosted in Durham Saturday. (Mark Bolton/ Union Leader Photo)
SEAMUS O'NEILL, the University of New Hampshire left tackle and captain out of Manchester Central, knows the feeling from an offensive lineman's point of view. And doesn't like it much.
"It's demoralizing," O'Neill said. "Once you give up a sack you know the person is thinking, 'All right, I got one, now I'm going to get another.' As an offensive lineman, you don't want to give up one because once they get one, they get thirsty for the blood."
The Wildcat defense sacked Maine senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski five times that day, resulting in an interception and a fumble recovered by UNH. Wasilewski is the Colonial Athletic Association's first-team quarterback.
The five sacks for UNH were a season best. Until last week.The Wildcats doubled the total to 10 — the most in an NCAA playoff game since James Madison had 11 against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2004 — in a 45-7 shellacking of Lafayette last Saturday to earn another shot at Maine.
O'Neill and his linemates, including redshirt freshman Alexander Morrill of Lebanon beside him at left guard, did not give up a sack to Lafayette.
Senior defensive end Jay Colbert opened the Lafayette game with a sack and had three in the game.Matt Kaplan, the junior defensive tackle out of Franklin, and Cody Muller, a senior defensive end, have 6.5 sacks apiece to lead the Wildcats.
"We've done a decent job of pressuring the quarterback," McDonnell said. "But we're not the New York Jet Sack Exchange here (a famed group led by Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko in the early 1980s). We've got a lot of things to do to get better. But the numbers speak for themselves. The kids are getting better because they're getting experience, a lot of games, a lot of snaps."
The defense had six sacks total in its first four games and has 34 in its last eight, with at least three in each game.
UNH was the only team to keep Maine out of the end zone, and under 19 points, this season.
The stakes are high.
The winner moves on to a quarterfinal contest against either No. 4 seed Southern Louisiana or Southern Utah, who meet on Saturday night in Hammond, La.
THE men's hockey team takes on one of its Hockey East arch-rivals this weekend, looking to carry some momentum into its Christmas break that starts late on Saturday night.
The Eagles have played two games fewer than UNH and Providence and are 8-4-2 and 4-1-1.
"They're always a very fast, skilled team," said UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, a junior from Rochester. "It tends to be a run-and-gun game when we play them. Big ice sheets. Hopefully we can take a little of the defense we've been playing into it."
"We'll be thinking about this weekend for a while, going through Christmas and definitely looking at the standings over the break," DeSmith said. "It would be nice to be a couple of points higher than we are right now and definitely still be at the top of the league."