DURHAM - It WAS a victory for the offense. At least that’s what University of New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell called it.
UNH wrapped up the preseason portion of training camp Thursday with its annual Blue/White scrimmage at Cowell Stadium. The Wildcats appeared much more polished on offense than they did in their previous scrimmage earlier this month.
“I was most pleased that we were able to make some plays offensively and get the ball in the end zone,” McDonnell said after Team Cats defeated Team Wild 28-17. “We hadn’t done it a whole lot in camp. Just wanted to see that a little bit. The offense got a little bit better from about eight days ago when we were here.”
Despite missing a good chunk of camp because of a knee injury suffered in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, freshman quarterback Trevor Knight connected with classmate Rory Donovan for two touchdown passes, including a 19-yard TD pass that concluded the scrimmage. Knight, who played for Nashua South last season, completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for 123 yards. He also rushed for 22 yards on four carries.
Donovan, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver from Canton, Mass., made three catches for 95 yards.
Wide receiver Kieran Presley, another freshman, also stood out. Presley made five catches for 64 yards and a TD.
“Impressed with a couple young kids in the program,” McDonnell said. “That’s Trevor Knight’s first chance to go in a live situation. He got beat up a little in the end, but those first couple drives he did a nice job. The kid Presley, 83, he’s been making plays all camp. He’s done a nice job. Those things were pretty good.”
Starting quarterback Sean Goldrich completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 166 yards, and backup Andy Vailas connected on 8 of 12 passes for 91 yards. Vailas, a Bedford resident, tossed a 30-yard TD pass to running back Jimmy Owens, who carried the ball eight times for 26 yards.
Goldrich said he thought the team was much more comfortable running the offense Thursday than it was in its previous scrimmage, when the offense produced one TD and one play of 20 yards or more in 75 snaps.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for that,” Goldrich said when asked about the offense’s performance. “Obviously the last scrimmage isn’t who we were as an offense, so today we showed up. We had the whole system in today, so we were doing some of the trick stuff and some of the basics as well. We just executed. We were a little calmer today as well and that always helps us get a flow for the offense.”
Redshirt freshman Donald Goodrich led the ground game with 45 yards on eight carries. Wide receiver R.J. Harris had the game’s only rushing TD on a 6-yard end around. He also caught three passes for 64 yards.
UNH played five quarterbacks during the scrimmage. Sophomore Christian McCormick was 5 of 8 for 40 yards, including a 7-yard TD pass to Presley; and sophomore Adam Riese was 6 of 11 for 91 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass to Merrimack’s Mike Kelly.
Redshirt freshman Max Pedinoff opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal.
“I’ve been quoted saying this before, I think they’re the best offense in the country,” sophomore defensive back Casey DeAndrade said. “It takes a little time for them to get going. When they got going today you saw what happened. They’re going to put up points. We just have to do the best job on defense to try to stop them, but now, thankfully, we can cheer for them and be on the other side of it.”
THE UNH defense came up with four turnovers in the scrimmage. The highlight for the defense came on the first half’s final play when DeAndrade prevented a 50-yard TD pass by stripping the ball from Kyon Taylor at the 1-yard line and recovering the ball in the end zone.
Defensive back Horace Chalstrom also had a fumble recovery. Safety Daniel Rowe and defensive back Nick Marino had the game’s only interceptions. Marino, a Hudson resident who played at Bishop Guertin in Nashua, made a game-high seven tackles. Hanover’s Shawn Cavallaro also recorded seven tackles.
McDonnell on the quarterback competition between Goldrich, a junior, and Vailas, a senior: “It’s tough because they’re both really good players, and they’re both really good competitors. Here’s the deal: We know Sean can start. We know Andy can start. Right now Sean’s the starter. There’s nobody in this program that is worried that if something happens or if something doesn’t go right, Andy Vailas won’t go in and do it. There’s going to be some times when we’re going to need Andy Vailas. Maybe in the same game doing some things with two quarterbacks.”
OFFENSIVE lineman Alexander Morrill (shoulder) and running back Dalton Crossan (achilles) were among those who didn’t participate in the scrimmage. McDonnell said Morrill, of Lebanon, could have played, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Crossan’s situation seems a bit more serious. “Dalton Crossan’s Achilles has been a little bit of a tough one to figure out,” McDonnell said. “It hasn’t responded to treatment and he hasn’t been able to practice in over nine days. Little concerned about him right now.”
… Ricky Holt, a defensive tackle from Portsmouth, made four tackles. Holt, a redshirt freshman, is now listed at 6-foot-4 and 301 pounds.
… McDonnell said he still hasn’t settled on a starting offensive line.
… Senior Robbie Zauck, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, saw time at defensive end.
… UNH will open the regular season at Toledo on Aug. 30. That game can be seen on ESPN3,