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December 08. 2013 9:25PM

Moving on

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Football team on to SE Louisiana

THEY'RE jumping from the Black Bears they knew well to the Lions they know not at all.

Sunday was a day of learning for University of New Hampshire head football coach Sean McDonnell and his staff.

McDonnell and Co. spent much of the day studying up on Southeastern Louisiana University, the team that stands between the Wildcats and the FCS semifinals.

UNH plays at Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La., on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The winner advances to the semifinals to face the winner of a game between Coastal Carolina and two-time defending champion North Dakota State.

Southeastern Louisiana, led by second-year head coach Ron Roberts, is playing in the FCS tournament for the first time.

Being a newcomer didn't bother the Lions on Saturday night. Junior quarterback Bryan Bennett took them 85 yards in less than a minute at the end of the game to a 30-29 win over tournament-tested Sam Houston State.

The Lions took over on their own 15-yard line with 1:21 left to play and Bennett completed all six of his passes, the final one to Jeff Smiley for a 1-yard score with 36 seconds to play.

Sam Houston is no slouch, by the way. The Bearkats lost in the championship game to North Dakota State each of the last two seasons.

Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston are Southland Conference rivals and the Lions also beat Sam Houston, then ranked No. 4 in the country, 34-21 on Nov. 16.

UNH started the season 1-3 and beat Maine, 41-27, in Orono on Saturday for its fifth straight win and eighth in its last nine games.

The Lions are on an even better run. They were 1-2 in the first three games and have won their last 10 games to improve to 11-2.

Southeastern has the Southland Coach of the Year in Roberts, the Player of the Year in Bennett and Defensive Player of the Year in senior linebacker Cqulin Hubert.

Bennett has rushed for 1,017 yards and 15 touchdowns and has completed 190 of his 308 passes for 2,896 yards and 20 TDs. He has thrown 10 interceptions.

The Lions have averaged 40.1 points and a very balanced 494 yards of offense (248.2 rushing, 246.2 passing) a game so far this season.

Defensively, they have allowed 22.9 points a game and Sam Houston was 0-for-11 in third down conversions on Saturday. UNH is allowing 21.2 points a game.

______

THE men's hockey finished the first half of its season even right across the board.

The Wildcats were swept by Boston College over the weekend — losing 6-2 on Friday night at Conte Forum and 2-1 on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center — and are 9-9-1 overall and 5-5-0 in Hockey East heading into a three-week break for Christmas.

"I told the team that it's disappointing that we didn't win the game, but if we compete like that and keep playing 60 minutes, we'll be OK," said UNH coach Dick Umile on Sunday. "We were .500 for the first half and we've got to pull it all together in the second half. I like the team and I liked the combinations last night. The lines played well.

BC is a pretty good team and I thought for 60 minutes we had the best of them, except their goaltender shut us down."

UNH outshot Boston College, 29-19, on Saturday. Freshman goalie Thatcher Demko made 28 saves for the win.Casey DeSmith, UNH's junior goalie from Rochester, bounced back from a rough Friday night with 17 saves.

The Wildcats play next in the Florida College Classic on Dec. 28 when they face Cornell. They play Maine or Princeton the next night.

UNH plays seven games before its next Hockey East league game on Jan.

24 against Maine at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats go to Maine for a rematch the next night.

"We've got to move forward and we look forward to the second half," Umile said. "We're very capable of being a solid team and being a team that's tough to beat."

______
THE men's basketball team fell to 2-6 with a 71-61 loss at Yale on Saturday.

The Wildcats are off until Sunday afternoon when they get their first taste of America East play with a home game against Stony Brook.

"I told the kids when we got home last night that we've got a chance at home to play the best team in the league and we can be 1-0," said coach Bill Herrion on Sunday.

UNH played without 6-10 center Chris Pelcher on Saturday and in a loss at Central Connecticut on Wednesday.

Pelcher hurt his lower leg in a practice drill early last week.

"When these things don't heal quickly, you get a little concerned," Herrion said. "They think it might be a strained ligament, but if it's torn, we've got a real issue."

With Pelcher out, more of UNH's young players have been seeing time, including freshman frontcourt player Williams Gabriel. That's been a good thing, Herrion said.

"We had long stretches against Central Connecticut and again yesterday with four freshmen on the court," he said. "They're getting unbelievable experience."

Pelcher is expected to see a doctor early this week, Herrion said.

alessels@unionleader.com


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