DURHAM — Perhaps nothing has hurt the University of New Hampshire football team during its 0-2 start more than the team’s turnover margin. The Wildcats have turned the ball over four times — three interceptions and a fumble — and have yet to create a turnover.
UNH turned the ball over three times in its season-opening 13-10 loss to Holy Cross, one of which was a fumble in its own end zone that resulted in a Holy Cross touchdown. The Wildcats (0-2, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) also had two passes intercepted in Holy Cross territory. Florida International benefited from a first-half interception in Saturday night’s 30-17 victory over UNH.
UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said playing cleaner football has been a point of emphasis heading into Saturday night’s home game against the University of Rhode Island (6 p.m.)
“We protected it better last week,” Santos said. “The one turnover (came) on third and long. We probably tried to force a ball in there. As coaches we probably could have put Max (quarterback Max Brosmer) in a better situation. He also needs to know if the defense drops, just check the ball down, and that’s a great teachable moment for him.
“And then defensively, the last five or six years, we’ve been as good as anybody in the country at creating turnovers, and we haven’t done that the last two weeks. … We need to find a way to get the ball out this week, especially against an explosive offense and give our offense more opportunities and some short fields so we can get some more touchdowns going forward.”
Rhode Island (0-2, 0-1 CAA) is third among CAA teams in turnover margin at plus-three. The Rams have five takeaways (four interceptions and one fumble) and have turned the ball over twice, both on interceptions.
“I think there’s some points over the first two weeks that are championship-level football,” URI coach Jim Fleming said. “Then there’s spots on both sides of the ball and on special teams that are absolutely non-championship-level football, so what we’ve got to do is continue to work on eliminating things that hurt ourselves. The longer you’re around this game you always continue to find out at times someone beats you with something great, but most times you look at it and it’s the mistakes you make that determine the outcome of the football game.”
UNH was on the wrong end of the turnover battle in six of its 11 games last season, and lost all six games.
“We need to continue to have that mentality that the first guy is going to secure the tackle, that second guy is going to rip, strip at it and try to get the ball out,” Santos said. “Another thing we need to do a better job of defensively is getting to the quarterback. I think if we can get the opposing quarterback under a little bit more duress and have him not be as comfortable in the pocket with our secondary as veteran and talented as they are the balls are going to find them.”
URI’s losses came against Ohio (41-20) and Delaware (44-36). The URI-Delaware game was decided in the third overtime.
URI wide receiver Aaron Parker ranks No. 1 among FCS players in receiving yards per game (185.5) and receptions per game (10.5). He had 12 catches for 227 yards in the loss to Delaware.
URI ended a streak of seven consecutive losses against UNH last season, when the Rams prevailed 24-21 in Kingston, R.I.
“They’ve got a very solid football team and they’re going to be an angry animal just like we are,” Fleming said. “It’s going to be a battle up there like it always is.”
Santos said freshman Max Brosmer will get his second consecutive start at quarterback Saturday. In six quarters Brosmer has completed 27 of 54 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been sacked once and intercepted twice. … Contoocook resident Henry Yianakopolos is a sophomore defensive back at URI. Yianakopolos played high school football for Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton. … Santos said he doesn’t expect UNH head coach Sean McDonnell to be in attendance Saturday night. McDonnell took a leave of absence for a health-related reasons before the season began. … Saturday’s game can be seen on New England Cable News.