New Hampshire Football Report

UNH turns focus to URI

WORCESTER, Mass.  – So now comes Homecoming.

The University of New Hampshire football team will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it faces Colonial Athletic Association rival Rhode Island in its Homecoming contest on Saturday in Wildcat Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

The Wildcats entertained the largest crowd to ever watch them play a home game – 21,943 – with a 21-12 win over William & Mary last year on Homecoming.

They will be out to do it again and put Saturday’s 51-26 setback at Holy Cross far behind them in the process.

“It wasn’t the effort we needed to beat a good football team,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said on Sunday afternoon. “It was very disappointing. I know we’re a better football team than what we showed on Saturday. We have to play better on both sides of the ball, in many different areas.  The big thing was in every phase of the game they at some point outplayed us in that phase. Kicking, kick returns. Punting, punt returns. Running the ball, passing the ball, tackling. Playing downhill. All phases. We were catching, not delivering blows.”

A week ago, McDonnell stressed the Wildcat mantra the day after his team’s 22-12 over Georgia Southern for its first win over an FBS team since 2009.

“The biggest thing for the kids is understanding the 24-hour thing,” McDonnell said. “We’ve got to wipe this one clean.”

He wanted them to flush out the thrill of a big win and focus on the task at hand.

Now the Wildcats are coming from the other side of the equation and need to move past a tough loss on the road and get ready for a conference game against a much-improved Rhode Island team.

The Wildcats scored first against Holy Cross when junior quarterback Trevor Knight teamed with junior wide receiver Neil O’Connor for a 6-yard TD on the offense’s second series.

By halftime, behind the first of five Peter Pujals touchdown passes in the game and three A.J. Wells field goals, the Crusaders were in front 16-7. The Wildcats needed a strong start to the second half.

Instead, a four-minute stretch in the third quarter left them in serious trouble.

A Holy Cross touchdown run, a fumbled kickoff that gave the home team the ball on the 6-yard line, another Pujals TD pass, a long Holy Cross kick return that led to a short field again got it to 37-13 Crusaders with 6:21 left in the quarter.

“We were putting fingers in the dam, the whole thing,” McDonnell said. “We got a stop early in the second half and then didn’t move the ball. They get our fumble and then get a big kickoff return and it snowballed. We didn’t have enough in the tank to fight it off and it kept going and it kept snowballing and we never got back where we needed to be.”

A bright spot was the play of defensive ends Jae’Wuan Horton, a junior, and Brian Carter, a redshirt freshman.

“They played a ton of reps and played hard, made plays and put pressure on the quarterback,” McDonnell said. “They played the way they practiced and the way UNH defensive ends should play.”

Knight had three touchdown passes and O’Connor caught a couple of TD passes. O’Connor has a pair of touchdown receptions in each of the last two games. He had 58 catches for 834 yards and six scores last season.

Knight is up to seven touchdown passes for the season against one interception. Last year he passed for 14 scores and was intercepted 10 times.


  • The Rams come to Durham on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. Homecoming game.
  • Rhode Island took FBS foe Central Michigan to three overtimes before dropping a 30-27 decision in its opener.
  • The Rams lost a CAA home game to Stony Brook, 35-18, in their second game.
  • Rhode Island comes in off its first win over Harvard, 17-10 on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler Harris completed 12 of his 19 passes for 235 yards and a score against Harvard. Aaron Parker caught the touchdown pass and had three catches for 103 yards overall. Running back Harold Cooper carried 18 times for 80 yards.
  • Harris completed 21 of his 40 passes for 284 yards and three TDs against Central Michigan. He also threw six interceptions in that game.
  • The Wildcats have had close games with Rhode Island the last couple of years.
  • Last year, UNH pulled away for a 39-17 win late.
  • It was 25-17 with less than 10 minutes left in the game and UNH finished it off with a Trevor Knight to Neil O’Connor TD pass and D’Andre Drummond -Mayrie 10-yard return for a touchdown.
  • The Wildcats beat URI 20-17 in Durham in 2015.
  • UNH and Rhode Island are neck and neck in a couple of CAA statistical rankings. The Wildcats are at No. 5 in total offense at 380.7 yards per game and Rhode is sixth at 380. New Hampshire is No. 9 in total defense at 399.3 yards allowed per game and Rhode Island is just behind at 399.7. UNH is sixth in scoring offense at 24 points per game and URI is 10th at 20.7 Rhode Island is eighth in scoring defense at 25 points allowed and UNH is tied for 10th at 28.7.


“Holy Cross had pressure on Trevor all day. They did things to get to him. They’re a good football team and will be a force in the Patriot League from what I see. We’ve got to learn from it.”

  — UNH coach Sean McDonnell



  • Knight completed 26 of his 45 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns against Holy Cross. The three TD passes are a career high.
  • The 310 yards is four shy of his career-best set last year against James Madison.
  • Redshirt freshman DeUnte Chatman ran six times for 107 yards, including a 64-yard TD that closed the scoring.
  • The 64-yard run was UNH’s longest play from scrimmage this year and longer than any since 2014.
  • Junior Rory Donovan caught a career-high 11 passes for a career-high 109 yards and a score.
  • Knight has completed 58 of his 97 passes (59.7 percent) for 597 yards and seven touchdowns against one interception.
  • O’Connor leads the team with 22 catches for 252 yards and four scores. His 7.3 catches per game are second-best in the league.
  • Sophomore linebacker Quinlen Dean and junior defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton led the team with nine tackles against Holy Cross.
  • Horton had 1.5 sacks and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jacob Bradshaw had a sack.
  • Sophomore safety Pop Lacey had seven tackles.
  • Carter had three tackles.
  • For the first time this year, the Wildcats did not create a turnover.
  • Holy Cross quarterbacks Peter Pujals was as dangerous as predicted. He completed 21 of his 39 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns.


Allen Lessels is the UNH Insider. Follow him on Twitter: @UNHInsider.

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