New Hampshire Football Report

UNH focused on Maine

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

They shy away from the ‘P’ word.

At the same time, University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell and Maine first-year coach Joe Harasymiak know well the significance of Saturday’s football game.

They are playing for the historic Brice-Cowell Musket that goes to the winner of the game and for bragging rights, but they also know well the playoff implications associated with their Border Battle this year.

UNH travels to Orono to take on the University of Maine on Saturday in a 1 p.m. contest.

Both teams have 6-4 overall records and 5-2 marks in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The team that loses the game will be done for the season. Its seniors will not play another collegiate football game, perhaps never another competitive football game.

The team that wins the game – especially the seniors on the team – will have an anxious 18 hours or so of waiting.

They will watch ESPNU with great interest on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. to see if their body of work for the season earned them a spot in the NCAA Division I FCS tournament.

UNH’s best-in-the-nation streak of 12 straight years in the playoffs is on the line.

Talk of playoffs means very little at the moment, the coaches say.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s a lot of reasons why you play this game and there’s only one that matters for us and that’s to beat Maine and get the musket and keep it here,” McDonnell said. “You can talk about all those other things, but they shouldn’t mean anything to anybody because it’s our No. 1 rival, it’s our archrival, and it’s playing for the musket. That’s the thought process we’ve got when we go up there. If something happens after that, that’s great. If it doesn’t and we win and beat Maine, that would be a great thing.”

Harasymiak takes a similar approach.

“We haven’t talked too much about that,” he said. “I don’t think we’re a team that can talk about playoffs because we haven’t been there in a while. We just want to beat UNH. That’s the goal. That’s all. Everything else will happen or not happen. I think if we do win, opportunities will present themselves.”

UNH has won six straight games against Maine.

Three years ago, the Wildcats were also 6-4 overall and 5-2 going into the Maine game. The Black Bears were 9-1 and 7-0. UNH won the game, 24-3, and both teams made the playoffs.

After a first round win over Lafayette, UNH went to Orono and beat the Black Bears, 41-27, in the second round of the tournament and advanced as far as the semifinals before being ousted.

Harasymiak was a Maine assistant at the time. He was the defensive coordinator before taking the top job after Jack Cosgrove retired following last season.

The Black Bears had a brutal schedule to start their season – they lost to FBS schools UConn and Toledo and then CAA champion James Madison to start 0-3 – and have won six of their last seven games.

They’ve been in plenty of close contests: The Black Bears lost to UConn 24-21 and their wins have all been by seven points or fewer.

Maine is coming off a 27-21 win at Stony Brook and UNH lost to Albany, 36-25, at home last Saturday.

Saturday, the bitter rivals are playing for the musket, those bragging rights and a chance to – perhaps – keep their season going for at least another week.

Cam Shorey, UNH’s senior defensive end out of Calais, Maine, is playing for even a little more.

“I have a lot of friends and family there,” Shorey said. “It means a lot to me when I go to Maine and play. They have a great program. When I was looking at schools it was between the university of Maine and New Hampshire mostly. I have a lot of respect for the program. We’ll do our best when we go down to Orono.”

Senior cornerback Casey DeAndrade and Shorey and their fellow seniors especially are excited about what could be their last game as Wildcats.

“It’s going to be a playoff-type game just like the rest of them have been,” DeAndrade said. “They’re going to be hungry. We’re going to be hungry. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be a war hopefully. . . . It’s crazy how time flies by when you’re playing. I feel like I just got here. The experience I’ve had here has been unbelievable and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Except perhaps, another win and a chance to keep playing.

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