New Hampshire Football Report

UNH looking to stretch streak

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

unhinsiderThanks to Hurricane Matthew, the University of New Hampshire football team plays a rare Friday night game at Elon this week, looking for a third straight win and to keep its perfect record in the Colonial Athletic Association intact.

The Wildcats, 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the CAA, kick off at Elon on Friday night at 7. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon and was moved up with the storm approaching.

The Wildcats have played Friday night games in the FCS playoffs a few times in the last several years and have played games on Thursday night, but they have not played a regular-season game on a Friday night in more than 40 years.

UNH coach Sean McDonnell remembers the last one well. He loved it.

He was a sophomore defensive back in 1975 when the Wildcats went to Boston University and knocked off the Terriers, 21-20, on Friday night.

“Fun? It was a ball,” McDonnell said. “It was unbelievable. It was a great game. It was our first away game. At night. In Boston. At that time we were regionally based. It was all New England kids, Connecticut kids, Mass kids. You knew they were OK and you thought we were OK. We went down there and beat them. It was a great game to play in.”

There was more.

“We got to wear Nike sneaks on the game field, which was something we hadn’t done before,” McDonnell said. “It was turf. Astroturf. We had these great Nike shoes for the turf.”

The Wildcats improved to 2-0 with the win over BU and rolled to a 9-3 overall record, compiled a 5-0 mark to win the Yankee Conference championship, and advanced to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs before falling to Western Kentucky.

McDonnell and his staff preach “sudden change” in games: the ability to react to a turnover, an opponent’s big play or any other type of adversity.

Now he’s looking for his team to react to the “sudden change” of a scheduled game date and time.

“We lose a day of practice, but thankfully this week we’re pretty healthy, so we’re excited to just go and get after it on Friday and get an extra day of rest for the next game,” said sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight.

Elon is 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the CAA.

The Phoenix went on the road and stunned No. 8 William & Mary, 27-10, on Sept. 24. Last week, they lost a home game to No. 14 Villanova, 42-7.

UNH beat William & Mary, which had dropped to a No. 19 ranking, 21-12, last Saturday for Homecoming. An all-time UNH record home crowd of 21,943 attended the game.

The Wildcat defense held William & Mary to 235 yards of offense.

Knight scored UNH’s first TD on a 28-yard run in last week’s game and also finished the team’s scoring with a 12-yard pass to senior Anthony Pante in the fourth quarter. In between, seniorDalton Crossan, who led the Wildcats with 98 yards rushing, scored on a 1-yard run.

The change in the day of the game necessitates both teams making do with one less day of preparation. It also has its side benefits.

For one, the Wildcats are scheduled to take a charter back home after the game.

“We’ll be back here Saturday for the first time without a game and watching college football games and stuff like that,” said junior defensive tackle Rick Holt. “That’s good. Usually we catch just the end of the games. Now we can watch college football all day, which is fun.”

Taking a charter to and from the game also offers a break to Neil Lavoie and his staff in the equipment room.

They were originally scheduled to drive a truck full of 2,200 pounds worth of helmets, shoulder pads, athletic training gear and other equipment the 15 to 16 hours to Elon.

Instead, the equipment guys and their wares will be on the charter.


Senior tight end Jordan Powell returns to the UNH lineup against Elon. Powell has been suspended since the start of the season. … McDonnell said sophomore receiver Rory Donovan is will play Friday after missing UNH’s last two games with a hamstring injury.. . . . UNH has won its last six CAA games. . . . The Wildcats beat Elon, 37-14, last year and 48-14 two years ago at Rhodes Stadium at Elon. Elon joined the CAA in 2014.

Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider.

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