New Hampshire Football Report

UNH seniors came up big

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

DURHAM — Trailing Maine by a touchdown just past the halfway mark of the third quarter of a must-have game last Saturday in Orono, quarterback Adam Riese handed the ball off to running back Dalton Crossan on third down with 3 yards to go for a first down from the Maine 35-yard line.

 Then the fun started.

 Dayne Herron and Curtis Nealer, on the right side of the offensive line, made the blocks that got Crossan started.

 He was off and running and breaking tackles. Crossan cut right and crossed the field and found running room and wide receiver Neil O’Connor, Riese and others threw blocks and got in the way of would-be tacklers and helped him score.

“We got him to the second level, we got him some space,” said offensive line coach Alex Miller. “Then downfield they can get him into the end zone.”

Morgan Ellman’s kick tied the score at 14-14 and the Wildcats were on their way to a huge 24-21 win that eventually paved the way to their making the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs for a 13th straight season, the longest such mark in the country.

The Wildcats face Patriot league champion Lehigh, 9-2 overall and 6-0 in the league, on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the first playoff game in the new Wildcat Stadium.

The winner of Saturday’s plays a second-round game at No. 4 seed James Madison on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The season – and UNH careers for the seniors – were on the line in the second half against Maine.

And the Wildcats – especially the seniors – responded, big-time.

“I guess that’s been the trademark of our kids, our seniors in particular,” said Michael Ferzoco, UNH’s wide receiver and special teams coach. “They know how to finish, particularly that game. We asked those guys to always lead from the front. You could see it with the play of guys like Andrew Lauderdale and Curtis Nealer and Tad McNeely. Guys like Adam Riese who came in off the bench as a senior and handled himself very well and led us to the win. And guys like Dalton and Jordan Powell, who have been put in those situations many times in their career. So there’s that comfort level of having someone who’s done it time and time again. It helps to have someone who’s been put in that situation before.”

Senior cornerback Casey DeAndrade – who on Tuesday received one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s most prestigious honors, the Chuck Boone Leadership Award – along with classmates such as Ryan Farrell, Cam Shorey and DeVaughn Chollette – led the way on the defensive side.

Crossan rushed 25 times for 163 yards – he had three carries for a single yard in the first quarter – and finished the day with 1,005 yards on the season thus far.

Since this run of playoff success started in 2004, only one other back has gone over the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Nico Steriti ran for 1,028 in 2013.

Crossan has moved onto the No. 9 spot on the team’s career rushing list with 2,341 yards. No. 8 is Chad Kackert (2006-09) with 2,587 yards.

Riese, the captain and backup quarterback pressed into action when sophomore Trevor Knight went down with a foot injury in the first quarter, hustled down the field to make a key block on the Crossan run.

On the next offensive series, Riese drove the team 74 yards in 16 plays and finished it off with a pretty touchdown pass to O’Connor to put his team up 21-14.

Later, he moved the Wildcats into position for the Ellman 21-yard field goal with seven seconds to go that won it 24-21.

For the game, Riese completed 20 of his 37 passes for a career-high 218 yards and a score.

“Being a senior, I don’t want this to end anytime soon,” Riese said.

It’s a theme that runs through the team.

For the fourth straight year, the Wildcats take on a Patriot League team in a home game in their first test of the playoffs. UNH beat Lafayette, 45-7, in 2013 and Fordham, 44-19, in 2014.

Last year, the Wildcats lost their first-round game to Colgate, 27-20. Colgate advanced and beat James Madison in the second round.

Lehigh rolled undefeated through the Patriot League this season and the Mountain Hawks have won their last nine games.


Knight suffered a foot injury when he was sacked late in the first period against Maine. UNH coach McDonnell said during his weekly press conference Wednesday that he expects Knight will be available in a backup role to Riese on Saturday. . . . McDonnell has been named recipient of the 2016 Jack Grinold Division I New England Coach of the Year Award by the New England Football Writers Association.

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