DURHAM — Saturday night some 20, maybe 25, minutes after his University of New Hampshire football team celebrated its second straight win to open the season, this one a 26-14 Colonial Athletic Association triumph over Towson in Wildcat Stadium, Sean McDonnell sat for just a bit in his office and was asked to look back for a moment.
Back to Sept. 4, 1999.
That day, McDonnell won his first game in his debut as head coach of the Wildcats. UNH’s league was the Atlantic 10 at the time and McDonnell’s group went on the road to knock off rival Rhode Island, 37-14, for his first overall and league win all rolled into one.
“I remember it vividly,” McDonnell said. “Ryan Day was the quarterback. Dan Curran was the running back. ... We played our tails off. Ryan, first college start. We played pretty well. It was a heck of a win for us.”
There have been many since.
Flash forward to Saturday night and Wildcat Stadium and the CAA triumph over Towson. It was CAA win No. 100 for McDonnell. He’s only the third coach to collect that many regular season league wins.
Grad student safety and captain Evan Horn, who helped deliver the win Saturday with a pair of interceptions, was just over 15 months old the day that McDonnell won his first game.
The milestone wasn’t a subject that came up a lot around the team, Horn said.
“We knew,” Horn said. “But I was just telling them (the media): He doesn’t care. He probably doesn’t want me to talk about it either. It’s just 1-0 on Saturday night. I have the same mindset as him. He has 100 wins, which is awesome. He’s a legendary coach. Everybody knows that. He doesn’t need all the accolades. We’re on to the next one.”
The next one is Saturday at Lafayette at 12:30 p.m. as the Wildcats go after their first non-conference win of the season.
The Wildcats got Saturday’s victory with another strong defensive performance and a balanced offensive attack led by sophomore quarterback Bret Edwards.
Horn’s picks gave him 13 for his career and fellow safeties senior Pop Bush and redshirt freshman Noah Stansbury each had an interception as well.
“We have a good defense and they’re very opportunistic,” McDonnell said. “They fly to the ball and stuff like that. One thing that we’ve always prided ourselves with is getting to the ball and getting the ball out. We created a ton of turnovers again tonight. And also had a ton of knockdowns and ... pressures on the quarterbacks. It all adds together. Now we’ve got to shore up a couple of things in the run game, but that part of it will come.”
Edwards completed a career high 24 of his 32 passes in his third career start with a pair of scores. His completions went to nine different players and junior Sean Coyne had a career-high nine catches for 113 yards, including a 54-yard TD.
“Distributed the football really well,” McDonnell said. “Proud again of Bret. He’s got an uncanny ability to get open. By getting open I mean he scrambles, he takes time. Any time he’s throwing a ball away, people wonder why: it keeps us out of long distances. That’s really good. It’s smart on his part.”
Edwards has completed 75.5% of his passes (40 of 53) through the first two games for 494 yards and five touchdowns and has not been intercepted.
“That great touch to Sean Coyne on that third and nine pass down the seam, that’s an unbelievable pass,” McDonnell said. “He threw a couple in the hole to Kyle Lepkowski. He’s just got to keep growing on it.”
Sophomore Dylan Laube scored on a 32-yard run and on a 2-yard pass from Edwards.
Junior Carlos Washington Jr. opened the scoring with a 4-yard rushing TD in the first quarter.
It all turned into that 2-0 start overall, 2-0 in the CAA.
And, for an added bonus, CAA win No. 100 for Coach Mac.