New Hampshire Football Report

UNH rebounds at URI

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

unhinsiderUniversity of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell said he wanted his football team to get after it in Meade Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats were sitting with a 1-2 record after a tough loss to Dartmouth the previous week and looking for their first road win of the year in their first Colonial Athletic Association test of the season and the coach vowed to crank things up some Saturday at the University of Rhode Island.

“I told the kids we were going to be pretty aggressive today,” McDonnell said. “That’s why we took the ball to start the game. That’s why we put in the “muddle” and went for two (after their second touchdown). We’ve just been playing on our heels and that’s my fault.”

The Wildcats let loose a bit and knocked off the Rams, 39-17, on Saturday.

They will ride the momentum from the triumph into next Saturday’s Homecoming Game at Wildcat Stadium (3:30 p.m. start).

UNH won the coin toss on Saturday and McDonnell chose to receive the kickoff rather than defer and have the choice at the beginning of the second half, as he usually does.

The Wildcats didn’t score on their first possession. But they did on their second when sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight connected with sophomore wide receiver Neil O’Connor down the left sideline for a 22-yard score. UNH had a third down and had 13 yards to go for a first down at the time.

Third downs came into play in the win. Through its first two games, the Wildcats struggled at times converting their third downs into first downs. Going into the game they had faced third down 39 times and converted a first down eight times. Saturday they were 10 for 20 on third down.

In addition, they were three for four in converting fourth downs into first downs. Each of the drives that included a fourth-down conversion ended in a touchdown.

The Wildcats were two-for-five on fourth down in their first three games combined.

“It feels pretty good that they have confidence in me and the offense,” said Knight of getting the chance to go for it on fourth down. “A big part of that fourth-down conversion stuff is just being smart. Not going for home runs. If it’s fourth and four, we need to get 4 or 5 yards. Just playing within ourselves. I think that helped a lot.”

Of course, nobody’s got anything against the occasional home run.

The initial fourth down play was fourth and 1 from the Rhode Island 23-yard line in the first period.

Senior Dalton Crossan took a handoff from Knight and picked up 4 yards.Three plays later, on a third and 13, Knight hit O’Connor for that first TD. The touchdown marked the first time UNH had scored first in a game this year.

The next time the Wildcats went for it on fourth down was on their first possession of the second half.

On fourth and 3 from the Rhode Island 42, Knight picked up the 3 yards, broke across the field and got a lot more. Perhaps it wasn’t quite a home run – but the 26-yard run was a solid triple.

Three plays later junior Trevon Bryant scored on a 3-yard run.

In the fourth quarter, UNH faced a fourth and 2 from the Rhode Island 19, and Crossan picked up 2 yards to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, on third and 5 from the 12, Knight and O’Connor teamed up for another score, this one a 12-yarder, to put the game out of reach at 32-17 with 5:29 left.

McDonnell liked the aggressive nature of his team, liked the way the defense bottled up Rhode Island’s run game, liked that the defense scored a touchdown for the third straight game, liked that his team rebounded from the Dartmouth loss and liked the way it rebounded from the Dartmouth loss.

UNH led Dartmouth going into the fourth quarter and was unable to finish off the game.

Going into the fourth quarter Saturday, UNH led Rhode Island by an almost identical score.

“At the end of the third quarter we just talked about where we were,” McDonnell said. “It was very close to where we were last week at this time. The kids picked it up. We scored on defense again and just did some things. We’re a young team. We’ve got a lot of guys out there that are in there for the first time. I think a lot of them learned from last week.”

They’ll see what they can pick up from this win, too, hit the practice field again this week and then see what they can do with William & Mary on Saturday.

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