New Hampshire Football Report

UNH going with youth

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

unhinsiderIt’s been rare through the years to have a true freshman contribute in a major way on the University of New Hampshire football team. Rarer still to have a freshman in the starting lineup.

The Wildcats will likely have two freshmen in their starting defensive backfield on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for their Homecoming game in Wildcat Stadium against No. 19 William & Mary.
UNH announced on Thursday that the game was sold out. The only tickets still available are for UNH students.

The last two games, Pop Lacey has started at free safety and Prince Smith, Jr. at one of the cornerback positions, and they’re expected to be in those spots again on Saturday.

“The only kid we have with experience back there who has played in a lot of games, and I mean played, is Casey DeAndrade,” said head coach Sean McDonnell. “Everybody else, it’s a whole new world.”

DeAndrade is a senior cornerback and four-year starter and leader of the defense.

Lacey leads the Wildcats in unassisted tackles with 21 through the first four games and is second to senior linebacker DeVaughn Chollette (27 tackles) with 25 total tackles. Smith is tied for the team lead in pass breakups with DeAndrade with five and leads the team with a pair of interceptions.

Lacey said he came to UNH for camp in August knowing there might be a chance to earn playing time his first year and hoping to do so.

“But the first week was mind-boggling,” he said. “My head was exploding with football. It’s a lot different. Coming from high school, you play three coverages, now we’re playing 15.”

He hung in and got through it and played as a backup in the opener at San Diego State and had a couple of tackles. The next week against Holy Cross, redshirt freshman starter Rick Ellison left the game early with an injury and Lacey took over his spot and led the team with 14 tackles.

“For me, it’s been a very exciting rollercoaster,” he said.

Lacey is six-foot and 194 pounds and is out of Reading, Pa. He spent a postgraduate year at the Kent School in Connecticut. He’s learning as he goes.

“The thing I love about Pop is if he makes a mistake, he makes it going 95 miles an hour,” McDonnell said. “He doesn’t hesitate. He goes. Even when he makes mistakes he makes pretty good plays.”

Lacey, DeAndrade and the defense will see what it can do against a William & Mary offense, directed by senior quarterback Steve Cluley, that averages 353 yards a game, 148.8 rushing and 204.5 passing.

UNH and William & Mary have matching 2-2 records. UNH is 1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association and William & Mary was stunned in its league opener against Elon, 27-10, at home last week.

The Tribe was ranked No. 8 before the Elon loss. Elon intercepted three Cluley passes and took advantage of mistakes on special teams by William & Mary on the way to its win.

The Wildcats bounced back from a 22-21 loss at Dartmouth two weeks ago to open CAA play with a 39-17 win at Rhode Island last Saturday.

“You beat Holy Cross and you play OK,” McDonnell said. “Then you play OK against Dartmouth and lose a game. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Then you go down and play a little bit better and win a game.”

Still, McDonnell said, his team has plenty to prove and he figures he will know a little more about it after Saturday.

“I feel a lot better on this Wednesday than I did last Wednesday at this time,” he said during his regular Wednesday press conference. “I didn’t know if we were going to win a game. You sit there: Are we good enough to beat this team? Can we get better? Is this kid going to get better? The great thing about our kids and the great thing about the guys we’ve always had in this program, they’ve always bounced back and they’re always played. You can rely on them to fight back.”

McDonnell is counting on that again.

“They’ll want to play this week for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “It’s William & Mary. It’s Homecoming, all these things. They want to get back and show people that we’re a good football team. They’ve got a feeling that nobody thinks we’re any good.”


Sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight leads the UNH offense against a traditionally stingy William & Mary defense. Knight has completed 58 of his 103 passes (56.3 percent) for 756 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. . . . Senior Dalton Crossan has rushed 66 times for 369 yards (5.6 per carry) and a pair of scores. Junior Trevon Bryant has carried the ball 27 times for 164 yards (6.1 per carry) and a pair of TDs. . . . Sophomore wide receiver Neil O’Connor has caught three of UNH’s six TD passes. . . . The Wildcats get a look at the team that just beat William & Mary next: they play at Elon on Oct. 8 and then return to Durham to play James Madison on Oct. 15. . . . William & Mary redshirt freshman running back Albert Funderburke is likely out for the season with a knee injury. That may mean more carries for senior Kendell Anderson, who had been out with an injury. Anderson carried 27 times for 174 yards and a pair of scores in a 34-18 win over UNH in Williamsburg last season.


Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider

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