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College Football: Win over Ga. Southern was a turning point for UNH

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 06. 2017 10:22PM

UNH vs. Georgia Southern
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.*

*-game has been moved to due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.

When the University of New Hampshire won at Georgia Southern in the 2004 Division I-AA playoffs, it set off a string of success that hasn’t ended.

The 27-23 triumph was UNH’s first I-AA victory. It was also the first of 13 consecutive seasons that UNH has qualified for what is now the FCS playoffs.

“The thing I appreciated most about our team is they went and played like they were playing at (Manchester) West High,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “It wasn’t like (they were) wowed by everything that was going on. They just went and played the game of football. Probably one of my best wins as a coach to be honest with you, and one of the best wins this program’s had was that game there.”

UNH will play Georgia Southern again on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game has been moved to Birmingham, Ala.'s Legion Field at 4 p.m. due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.

The Eagles (0-1) opened their season with a 41-7 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Their only TD came on a 22-yard fumble return.

Georgia Southern is now an FBS program that competes in the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles have only eight seniors on their roster, but they have two experienced running backs in senior L.A. Ramsby and junior Wesley Fields. Ramsby has gained 1,920 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in his career, and Fields has run for 2,016 yards and 10 TDs.

“This is a better football team we’re playing than the one we played that night, and the one we played that night was a really good football team,” McDonnell said. “They’re bigger, they’re stronger and they’re more athletic than that team we played down there.”

UNH (1-0) won five consecutive games against FBS opponents from 2004 to 2009, but has lost its last seven games against FBS competition. The program’s FBS victories came against Rutgers (2004), Northwestern (2006), Marshall (2007), Army (2008) and Ball State (2009).

UNH trailed Georgia Southern 21-19 entering the fourth quarter of that 2004 contest, but took the lead for good on R.J. Harvey’s 52-yard TD run with 13:15 to play. UNH quarterback Ricky Santos completed 22 of 30 passes for 204 yards and a TD that night.

“I actually watched the game,” said UNH quarterback Trevor Knight, who was 8 at the time. “Watching Ricky Santos on TV, and then the guys after him … it definitely brought some excitement to New Hampshire football.”

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St. Anselm, which opened with a 37-7 loss at Wagner, will attempt to even its record when it begins NE-10 play at Bentley on Friday night at 7. The Hawks, who dressed 18 freshmen for the Wagner game, received a team-high 11 tackles from cornerback Isaiah Douglas in the loss.

“It was our first game, and it was against a really good opponent that has significantly more scholarships than we do,” St. Anselm coach Joe Adam said. “Our offense just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

Bentley opened its season with a 51-9 loss to West Chester. Mack Lowrie, who began his career at Boston College, is Bentley’s starting QB.

“They have some really good skill players,” Adam said. “It’s going to be a big challenge on the road for our guys.”

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Plymouth State can raise its record to 2-0 with a win at Mount Ida on Saturday (1 p.m.).

Quarterback Zach Edwards passed for 226 yards and three TDs to help the Panthers defeat Castleton State 31-7 last weekend. Concord’s Jacob Szulc caught four passes for 88 yards and two TDs in the victory.

Mount Ida opened its season by beating Mass-Dartmouth, 12-10.

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Dartmouth will play its first game Sept. 16 at Stetson. The Big Green returns nine offensive starters and six defensive starters from a team that went 4-6 (1-6 Ivy League) last season. … Rashad Watson is in his first season as the head coach at Franklin Pierce, which will open the sprint football season with a home game against Mansfield on Sept. 16. Watson spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Missouri Southern State University.