New Hampshire Football Report

UNH facing top talent

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell brought it up during his segment of the Colonial Athletic Association media call on Monday morning and he certainly wasn’t backing down from the statement when he met the media in his office early on Wednesday afternoon.

“One of the things I told the team after we broke camp Friday is this is the best team we’ve ever played here at UNH, going from 1974 when I started with the program,” McDonnell said on Monday.

“Best ever,” he reiterated on Wednesday.

UNH headed West on Thursday afternoon bound for California and its season-opening game against San Diego State University on Saturday night at 8:30 in Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the San Diego Chargers.

The Wildcats return home through the night Saturday, are due to arrive early Sunday morning and then will begin to prepare for their home opener and the unveiling of the new Wildcat Stadium.

The historic inaugural game in the new facility is against Holy Cross on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. and will include pregame festivities as well as a postgame fireworks show.

First up, San Diego State.

The Aztecs were ranked in the Top 25 among FBS teams in the national preseason listings put out by some publications. UNH is ranked No. 22 in the STATS FCS polls for teams that play a level down from, and have fewer scholarships than, FBS programs.

They return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense – including the players who were the Mountain West Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Year – from a team that went 11-3, won the Mountain West and enters this season on a 10-game winning streak.

Another note: UNH lost its opener to another Mountain West team, San Jose State, by a score of 43-13 last year. San Diego State best San Jose State, 30-7, later in the season.

The Aztec film and stats and McDonnell have caught the Wildcats’ attention.

“It’s pretty scary to think about with the amount of good teams that I’ve faced in my four years here, five years now, that this is the best one.” said captain and defensive back Casey DeAndrade. “But he’s not lying when he says that. The running back is probably the best kid that I’ll every face in college and he’s going to be a big challenge. And it’s everything else with the whole, entire team. I haven’t really seen a flaw yet. . . . I don’t think we’re going to be very successful finding a flaw so we’re just going to have to play hard. The good thing for us is there’s not much for us to lose. Just got out and cut it loose and have some fun.”

That’s the approach the coach is seeking.

“I’m just telling you how good they are,” McDonnell said. “I’m also telling you we’re excited to play a football game and we’re excited to go out there and play against one of the best teams in the country and find out where we are. It’s a litmus test on where we are.”

The bigger tests is what happens after Saturday night.

“Win lose or draw, whatever happens out there on Saturday, we’re done with that and we’re going on to the next one for 10 games,” McDonnell said. “But we’re going to see who can compete in a really hot situation and that to me is the great thing about playing these games. You’re going to find out who your true competitors are.”


Senior running back Donnel Pumphrey, 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds out of Las Vegas, was the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year last season. He rushed for 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns last year and also led the team in receiving with 28 catches for 416 yards. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,867 yards and 20 TDS. He is the leading active FBS rusher with 4,272 career yards and needs 318 yards to break the school rushing record held by NFL star Marshall Faulk (4,589). . . . Senior cornerback Damontae Kazee had eight interceptions last year, the second-best total in the country, and was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. . . . Junior Rashaad Penny was second in the country in kickoff return yardage (33.5 per game) and kickoff returns for touchdowns with three and was the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year. . . . . The Aztecs led FBS in turnover margin last year at plus-22 and were No. 7 in scoring defense, allowing 16.4 points per game.


Sophomore Trevor Knight of Amherst earned the No. 1 quarterback job for UNH and will make his first career start on Saturday night. On what he’s seen of San Diego State on film: “I see they blitz a lot. They play a lot of man coverage and they pretty much lock some people down and they just fly around and hit people. Mostly, that’s what we see.” . . . Three redshirt freshmen are listed as starters on the UNH depth chart: Nick Velte is at left guard and Rick Ellison and Michael Balsamoare at safety spots. . . . McDonnell said as many as four true freshmen could see playing time. They are wide receiver Jelani Greene, defensive tackle Elijah Lewis and safeties Pop Lacey and Evan Horn.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login