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Roger Brown's NH College Football: Wildcats hope for a good bounce

By ROGER BROWN
September 21. 2017 12:53AM

UNH quarterback Trevor Knight runs for yardage during the team's opener against Maine. The Wildcats host Rhode Island on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES? That’s something University of New Hampshire football fans have rarely had to endure in recent years.

UNH has lost consecutive games in the same year once since the start of the 2014 season, and will be looking to avoid two losses in as many weeks when they face the University of Rhode Island in Durham on Saturday (3:30 p.m.).

UNH (2-1 overall, 1-0 CAA) is coming of a 51-26 beating at Holy Cross last Saturday. URI (1-2, 0-1 CAA) beat Harvard, 17-10, Saturday, and one of its losses was a triple-overtime setback against Central Michigan. The Rams also lost to Stony Brook, 35-18.

“I don’t think we played particularly well last week, and I don’t know what it was,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “This will be a major test for us to see how we bounce back and play football the way we’re capable of playing football New Hampshire-style.”

URI quarterback Tyler Harris was a four-star recruit in high school, and transferred from the University of Central Florida. He’s completed 48 of 91 passes for 704 yards and five touchdowns, but has been intercepted eight times. Six of those interceptions came in the loss to Central Michigan.

“Some tips, some bad throws, some great plays — it was a combination of all those things,” McDonnell said. “Then, last week they played pretty clean football and they won a game. They won a game against a good football team (Harvard).”

If UNH does win, it will do so without linebacker Jared Kuehl of Plymouth (knee) and defensive end Josh Kania (shoulder). Neither played last week and when they will return is uncertain.

Offensively, McDonnell said he was particularly disappointed with the pass protection the team provided quarterback Trevor Knight during the Holy Cross game. Knight, an Amherst resident, recorded his second 300-yard passing game by throwing for 310 yards against the Crusaders. He’s completed 58 of 97 passes for 597 yards and seven TDs this season, and has been intercepted once.

“Offensively, we didn’t protect very well,” McDonnell said. “They didn’t protect at all. Didn’t do the things they’re capable of doing and it showed. We were in a lot of third and longs, third and extra longs. We were never on target (down and distance). Never stayed on target.”

Saturday will be Homecoming at UNH, and the Wildcats haven’t lost a Homecoming game since 2008 (William & Mary). UNH has won six games in a row and 12 of the last 13 meetings with URI.

“Other guys on other teams I’ve been able to put my finger on the pulse and go (following a loss),” McDonnell said. “We’ll find out if I can do that this week. … See if we respond to some adversity. See if we respond to a pretty good whoopin’ down there at Holy Cross.”

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DARTMOUTH can stretch its non-conference winning streak to eight games when it faces Holy Cross on Saturday night (7) in Hanover. Dartmouth opened its season by beating Stetson 38-7 last Saturday and held the Hatters to 94 yards of offense in that game.

Holy Cross (2-1) leads the Patriot League in scoring at 30.3 points per game. The Crusaders are coming off last Saturday’s 51-26 victory over UNH and their only loss came against UConn, an FBS program.

Exeter’s Neil Vorster starts at defensive tackle for Holy Cross. He has six tackles in three games.

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ST. ANSELM (0-3, 0-2 NE-10) will be looking to get its struggling offense in gear and collect its first victory when it plays at Stonehill on Saturday (6 p.m.). The Hawks are last among NE-10 teams in points per game (10.5), yards per game (224.0) and passing yards per game (153.0).

Stonehill has lost two in a row since opening the season with a 44-28 victory over Bloomsburg. Defensive back Donovan Phanor (Portsmouth) and linebacker Michael Lewis (Winnacunnet) are among the starters on the Stonehill defense.

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PLYMOUTH STATE will face UMass-Dartmouth during Homecoming weekend in Plymouth on Saturday (1 p.m.). After a 2-0 start, the Panthers dropped a 37-29 decision to Western Connecticut last Saturday.

Although quarterback Zack Edwards is second in the MASCAC in touchdown passes (nine) and fifth in passing yards per game (207.3), the Panthers are last in the league in yards per game (319.7). Defensive back Zack Ziemba (Manchester West) is second on the team in tackles with 17.

UMass-Dartmouth (1-1, 1-0 MASCAC) is coming off a 51-26 victory over Westfield State. UMass-Dartmouth quarterback Stephen Gacioch was named the MASCAC Rookie of the Week after he passed for 264 yards and four touchdowns in that victory.

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THE FRANKLIN PIERCE offense figures to get a stiff test when the Ravens play Army in Rindge in a sprint football game on Saturday (noon). Army held Post to 32 yards of offense in a 70-0 victory last weekend. Quay Gilmore led the Army (1-0) offense with 117 yards rushing and four touchdown on 13 carries.

Franklin Pierce opened its season with a 24-21 triumph over Mansfield last Saturday. Franklin Pierce linebacker Demitri Moreno was named the Collegiate Sprint Football League Defensive Player of the Week after he made 14 tackles (nine solo) in that victory.

rbrown@unionleader.com


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