DURHAM — True freshman quarterback Max Brosmer earned the first Colonial Athletic Association weekly honors of his career for leading the University of New Hampshire football team to its initial win of the season, a 27-24 decision over Rhode Island secured on a 29-yard field goal with Jason Hughes with no time remaining last Saturday.
Brosmer passed for two touchdowns, ran for another and deftly directed the final drive down the field that led to that clinching score and certainly earned his Rookie of the Week tribute.
The big guys in front of him, protecting him while he ran the offense, paving the way for senior running back Evan Gray’s first 100-plus yard game and for UNH runners to go for 229 yards overall were in line for kudos as well.
The offensive line, coached up by Alex Miller and featuring a talented group with playing experience, has had an impressive start to the season.
“Third week in a row that our offensive line has done a tremendous job leading from the front,” interim head coach Ricky Santos said after Saturday’s game. “Those guys were unbelievable. They were blowing holes open all day.”
The Wildcats will look to keep rolling Saturday when they take on Duquesne University out of Pittsburgh at Wildcat Stadium at 1 p.m. (NBC Sports Boston).
Saturday’s is the second of three straight UNH home games. The Wildcats get back into CAA action and face Elon for Homecoming at Wildcat Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 5 at 3:30 p.m.
UNH takes a 1-2 record (1-0 in the CAA) into Saturday’s game against Duquesne, which plays in the Northeast Conference and owns a 2-1 overall record. The Wildcats and Dukes have never played in football.
A senior, two juniors and two sophomores have started the last two games on Miller’s offensive line.
Junior Matt Mascia (6-foot-2, 295 pounds) moved over from guard to play center for the first time since high school in the Florida International game. Junior Jack Carroll (6-foot-2, 288) is at left guard and sophomore Patrick Flynn (6-foot-3, 281) at left tackle. Sophomore Riley Burns (6-foot-3, 293) is at right guard with senior Jeff Carter (6-foot-4, 297) at right tackle.
“I think they’re all doing a really good job,” Santos said. “We talked last week about Mascia coming in playing center, didn’t skip a beat. Riley Burns is a physical presence. A guy like Patrick Flynn doesn’t get enough credit on the perimeter, but he’s so athletic. He’s savvy. We do a great job pulling and getting him out in space. Jeff Carter is just a staple. He always does his job and we know he’s going to be a driving force in our run game and he’s a physical player. Jack Carroll has played significant reps for us over the years. It’s all those guys.”
Brosmer and running backs Gray, sophomore Carlos Washington Jr. and redshirt freshman Dylan Laube are taking full advantage of the work of the guys up front.
The line has allowed a league-low two quarterback sacks.
The Wildcats are averaging 179.7 rushing yards and 383.3 total yards of offense a game.
Last year, the offense averaged 108.3 rushing yards and 283.1 total yards a game for the season.
Those totals got a major boost late in the season when the Wildcats started to hit their stride and won three of their last four games.
In the first three games last season — against a tough string of opponents in Maine, Colgate and Colorado — the offense rushed for 36 yards a game and averaged 197 yards of total offense.
The potent offensive attack has Santos and the Wildcats optimistic.
“There are the three backs we have a ton of confidence in,” the coach said. “If we can get a little bit more explosive in the pass game and continue to do those things, we’re going to be more balanced and have an opportunity to be a very explosive offense going down the stretch.”
In Duquesne, UNH is up against a team that also wants to run the ball.
The Dukes have averaged 196.3 yards and rushing and 364.3 yards of total offense in wins over Dayton, 35-31, last week and 44-3 over Walsh in their opener. In between, they lost at Youngstown State, 34-14.
Senior AJ. Hines, 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, was an FCS All American last year and rushed for 1,520 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. He went for 103 yards and a couple of scores against Walsh and played against Youngstown State.
But he didn’t play against Dayton last week because of injury.
Mark Allen, a 5-foot-7 and 185-pound transfer from Penn State who played behind NFL standout Sarquon Barkley, stepped into the top spot and rushed 30 times for 168 yards and a couple of scores against Dayton.
No matter which running back they use, the Dukes have one thing in mind.
“They run the football extremely well,” Santos said. “Big offensive line. They have a stable of running backs, so they’re going to try to control the game, ground and pound, so we have to do a really good job of tackling and do a good job of eliminating big plays. They’re going to try to run the ball, and then they’re going to try some deeps shots, some play-action passes. They have some tall guys on the perimeter.”
Be on the lookout has been the message, said senior cornerback Prince Smith, Jr.
“Coach is harping on us about our eyes because they’re run heavy, run-oriented and that also leads to play action,” Smith said. “That’s where our secondary has to be keep our eyes where they have to be and stop the long ball.”