New Hampshire Football Report

UNH makes opening statement

DURHAM – What was there not to like about Thursday night and a season-opening, musket-saving, 24-23 win over Maine for the fans of Wildcat Country?

There was the festive atmosphere to start and end it all.

There was the tailgating and a growing crowd first outside and then inside Wildcat Stadium – fired up by a fiery Dungeon, rocked by a raucous and chalk-tossing University of New Hampshire student section.

It was a crowd that swelled to 15,854, a big number and program record for an opening game. A crowd that watched the Wildcats hold the Brice-Cowell Musket high once again and whoop it up when the victory was finally sealed, the showy and successful night capped by a fireworks display that lighted the skies.

Junior quarterback Trevor Knight, redshirt freshman receiver Nick Lorden, sophomore running back Evan Gray, wide receiver/pass thrower Neil O’Connor, sophomore wide receiver Malik Love, junior wide receiver Rory Donovan, senior kicker Max Pedinoff and others provided the offensive fireworks on the field.

Senior defensive tackle Rick Holt with junior Ryan Sosnak beside him, junior linebacker Jared Kuehl and sophomore linebacker Quinlen Dean along with sophomore safety Rick Ellison and sophomore cornerback Prince Smith, Jr., among others, did the same for the defense.

“You get an opening game atmosphere like that, against an opponent like that, your arch-rival and you find a way to win the game,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said Friday morning. “I watched the tape and both teams played really, really hard. It’s fun to watch when you see teams compete like that. I was very happy with the kicking game with Max Pedinoff and Morgan Ellman.”

There’s plenty of work to do before the Wildcats take on Georgia Southern, an FBS opponent, on Sept. 9 in a 6 p.m. game, McDonnell said a few times in the short conversation.

“It’s something to build on, but we have a lot of work to do to be a good football team,” McDonnell said. “I think we have enough to do that, but we have to keep chopping away at it. I thought Rick Holt and Ryan Sosnak did a real nice job in the interior and Rick Ellison played decently. The guys did a lot of what they do in practice, but I think we’ve got to get better at tackling and we’ve got to secure the football better. We have to figure out ways to get better. There’s a long season ahead of us.”

Another hard-fought win over Maine keeps the musket in the UNH locker room for another year and leaves the No. 13 Wildcats 1-0 overall and the early leader in the Colonial Athletic Association standings at 1-0 as well.

It may not have been the prettiest of games, but the Wildcats answered each of several Maine charges and did what they set out to do against a tough and familiar opponent and got the season off on the proper note.

They put together a couple of scoring drives of at least 10 plays – the last was 14 plays and covered 75 yards to a winning score – and then came up with interceptions by Ellison and Dean and a sack by Holt in the fourth quarter to stymie the Black Bears.

“That second half was pretty unreal,” Holt said shortly after the game. “It was pretty much like a free for all at the end there. We had a chance to put it away after a pick. Then we came up a little short on fourth and they had another chance. . . . We got backed up into a couple of spots a little. But we tightened up when we had to at the end a little bit. And we came up with just enough to get out of it with a win.”

That and a fine fall — er, summer – night, to celebrate football and open a season, was the bottom line.

“It was incredible,” Knight said. “A lot of people. The student section was huge. Just an awesome atmosphere.”


  • UNH’s next home game is Sept. 23 against Rhode Island for Homecoming at 3:30 p.m.
  • The Wildcats follow up the Rhode Island game with a home game against Bryant on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m.
  • UNH’s other two regular season home games are Oct. 21 against Towson at 2 p.m. and a Salute to Service game on Nov. 11 against Elon at 2 p.m.


  • UNH is at Georgia Southern, an FBS school, on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.
  • The Eagles open the season Saturday night at No. 12 Auburn.
  • Georgia Southern was 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the Sun Belt under first-year head coach Tyson Summers last season.
  • The Eagles were 9-4 overall and 6-2 in the Sun Belt in 2015 and 9-3 and 8-0 in 2014 under former coach Willie Fritz, who is now the head coach at Tulane.
  • UNH started what is currently a 13-year run in the FCS tournament with a game at Georgia Southern in 2004.
  • The Eagles were an FCS power at the time and have since moved up a level to the FBS.
  • UNH stunned Georgia Southern in Statesboro, 27-23, in that first-round playoff game in 2004.
  • Ricky Santos passed for 204 yards and a touchdown, John McCoy ran for two scores and R.J. Harvey ran for 78 yards, including a 52-yard TD, in that game.
  • Georgia Southern averaged 224 yards a game rushing and 155.7 yards passing last season.


“We have a lot of work to do. That’s a good Maine football team. Tough as always, fighting and clawing to the end. Proud of the kids. Proud of the way they responded. We’ve got the Musket for another year. Now we’ve got to go find a way to win the next one. We didn’t tackle real well. Kept talk about staying the course. Keep rushing, keep rushing. When we did that we were OK. We found we found some ways.”

— UNH coach Sean McDonnell

“I don’t know much about Georgia Southern yet. All I know is they love to run the football, they always have. They’ve gone back to running some triple option stuff and have a huge game with Auburn this weekend.”

— McDonnell

We have practice tomorrow. We have to watch the film. We’ll make some corrections. Then we’ve got Georgia Southern, who runs the triple option. We did some good things. We did some things we can work on. We’ve just got to go back after it tomorrow and get better.

— Defensive tackle Rick Holt after Thursday’s game

“It’s kind of always like that with Maine. They bring it every game. It took a lot of us for us to win that game. It was a great game, everything you want in a rivalry game. The offense: We’ve just got to execute better. They threw some stuff at us. We were ready for it, but they executed well on defense, too and they flew around. They definitely brought it today. It’s just being cleaner. We’ll get it together.”

— Quarterback Trevor Knight

  • Redshirt freshman wide receiver Nick Lorden’s first career catch accounted for UNH’s first score of the season.
  • The 12-yard catch was Lorden’s only reception of the game.
  • The Wildcats had 383 yards of offense: 165 rushing and 218 passing
  • UNH held Maine to 352 yards: 113 rushing and 239 passing.
  • Each team turned the ball over twice.
  • Smith, Jr., Dean and Kuehl each had seven tackles.
  • Holt had the one UNH quarterback sack.
  • Sophomore defensive back Isiah Perkins had two of UNH’s seven tackles for a loss.
  • Sosnak blocked Kenny Doak’s 31-yard field goal attempt with 51 seconds left in the first half.
  • Gray carried the ball 18 time for 74 yards.
  • Last year he had 14 carries for 66 yards in the season.
  • Neil O’Connor is 1-for-1 passing for 60 yards and a score in his career.
  • He took a long lateral pass from Knight and relayed a pass to Malik Love for a 60-yard touchdown late in the first period.
  • Pedinoff made his only field goal try, a 26-yarder, and kicked two conversions.
  • He also averaged 38.8 yards on four punts.
  • Senior Morgan Ellman made his one conversion kick and did the kickoffs.
  • Knight completed 19 of his 30 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns and had an interception.
  • Knight had 21 carries for 79 yards with UNH’s long run of the day of 21 yards.
  • Donovan had six catches for 45 yards and a score.
  • Love had five catches for 95 yards and a score.
  • O’Connor had four catches for 42 yards.
  • Sophomore Nick Velte went down with a lower body injury in the first period.
  • Redshirt freshman Seth Mascia replaced Velte in the lineup.
  • That gave UNH two redshirt freshman on the offensive line: Mascia and Jack Carroll.
  • The Wildcats started three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and one redshirt freshman on offense.
  • They started two seniors, three juniors and six sophomores on defense.



  • UNH will lead the CAA standings until Sept. 9 and hold at least a share of the lead until at least Sept. 23.
  • The only league game between now and Sept. 23 is Stony Brook at Rhode Island on Sept. 9.
  • The next CAA games after that are Sept. 23, including Rhode Island at New Hampshire.

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