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College Football: Tough road for UNH

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 12. 2018 11:00PM
University of New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, on the sidelines during last week's game against Colgate, faces a bigger challenge this week: Colorado of the Pac-12. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

DURHAM — Through its first two games, the University of New Hampshire offense is averaging 33.0 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats will likely need to do much better in that area to have any shot at an upset Saturday when they play at the University of Colorado (5 p.m.).

UNH (0-2) ran for 73 yards on 37 carries in Saturday’s night’s 10-3 loss to Colgate, and had minus 7 yards rushing in its opener, a 35-7 loss at Maine. UNH coach Sean McDonnell said the Wildcats may use two new players on the starting offensive line against the Buffaloes, who are the first Pac-12 opponent UNH program has faced.

“We’re at the point of new people,” he said. “We’re gonna give (left tackle) Jeff Carter a shot. We’re gonna give (left guard) Riley Burns a shot. Some of it because of injury. Some of it because of playing better. As I told the offensive line, ‘We gotta find five guys who can play, and play physical at this level of football, and give them an opportunity to be successful by putting them in a position where they can be successful.’

“Right now our guys are struggling a bit at the point of attack, so it’s our job as coaches to figure out who the next best five are in there, and then our job as coaches to find out what schemes can help us. We know Maine’s really good. I thought we’d have a better shot against Colgate, but they’re a pretty good team. We didn’t finish some things the way we need to finish in that game. Now we’re going to play a team that I think is better than both of those teams physically on defense.

“I also think that people have found ways to attack us defensively that enable them to put more people in the box than we can block when you’re playing a spread offense. They’re attacking gaps downhill with their linebackers. They’re attacking gaps with twists and things of that nature.”

UNH will again be without starting quarterback Trevor Knight (shoulder), who missed Saturday’s loss to Colgate. Backup Christian Lupoli completed 14 of 24 passes for 133 yards in that game.

UNH has a bye next week, and McDonnell said Knight probably wouldn’t play if UNH did have a game next weekend. “Getting better,” McDonnell said. “Getting movement. Getting less sore.”

Colorado enters Saturday’s game with a 2-0 record. The Buffaloes opened their season with a 45-13 victory over Colorado State, and knocked off Nebraska 33-28 last weekend.

“This is the best football team we’ve played — and I’m not just talking about playing this year,” McDonnell said. “This is the best, physical football team that we’ve played at the University of New Hampshire. … As a program, this is gonna be one the top challenges, if not the top challenge, we’ve faced on a football field in a long, long time.”

Colorado quarterback Steven Montez, a junior, completed 33 of 50 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska. He’s thrown 55 completions in 75 attempts for 689 yards and seven TDs and one interception in his team’s two games.

Colorado linebacker Nate Landman was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded 14 tackles, an interception and forced a fumble against Nebraska. He has 28 tackles this season.

“We’re going to treat (UNH) just like anybody else,” Landman said. “This game is the most important game on our schedule right now, because it’s this week. We’re going to focus on being Colorado and playing Colorado football.”

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The Wildcats have surrendered nine sacks in two games. … UNH won five consecutive games against FBS opponents from 2004 to 2009, then lost seven straight against FBS competition before it beat Georgia Southern last season. … Saturday’s game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network. … Chip Kelly’s UCLA team will play at Colorado next weekend.