New Hampshire Football Report

UNH braces for Elon

DURHAM – The No. 19 University of New Hampshire football team put one line of questioning to rest on Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg, Va. At the same time, another moves even more to the forefront.

Behind another strong defensive effort and the work of a Trevor Knight-led offense that had something to prove after being shut out in its previous game, the Wildcats posted a solid 35-16 triumph at William & Mary.

No longer will coach Sean McDonnell and his team have to deal with the inquiry: Why do you have so much trouble with the Tribe on the road?

McDonnell had been winless in his previous seven trips to Zable Stadium as head coach.

Now the discussion will swing – as it has for the last dozen years and change in Durham – to the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs. Playoffs?

It’s not exactly McDonnell’s favorite subject for discussion come November.

“We have nothing to worry about except the next game,” McDonnell said late on Saturday afternoon. “If we don’t win next Saturday, nothing means nothing, so let’s just worry about the next one.”

Next Saturday is a huge one: A Wildcat Stadium matinee showdown with No. 7 Elon University, which is 6-0 in the CAA and riding an eight-game win streak.

The Wildcats need to win their final two games, Saturday at home against Elon and the following Saturday at Albany, to assure themselves a spot in the 24-team FCS tournament.

Anything less than an 8-3 overall record will leave the team on the bubble for the playoffs and while UNH has gotten in with a 7-4 record in the past, that would be especially dicey this season.

The Wildcats improved to 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association with Saturday’s win.

As they had hoped, they built off the defensive showing they had in a 21-0 loss at defending FCS champion and No. 1 ranked James Madison the week before.

The offensive line stepped up, too, and gave Knight, the junior quarterback, and his weapons on offense time and space to do their thing.

Knight and junior receiver Neil O’Connor, in particular, took full advantage.

“When Trevor has had time and been protected and been able to use his feet, he’s been pretty good this year,” McDonnell said. “Today he had a little bit of time. I really credit the offensive line, Ryan (Carty, the offensive coordinator) and the coaches. They did a great job and put us in a position to be successful.”

Knight completed 25 of his 35 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers. The 406 yards was his second-best total this year to the 420 against Rhode Island and the four touchdowns matched his career high set against Towson.

He’s passed for 22 touchdowns against six interceptions so far this year. The 22 touchdowns in a season are the most since Kevin Decker had the same number in 2011. The next target after that is the 28 TD passes thrown by R.J. Toman in 2008.

O’Connor is hitting some lofty numbers as well. He had seven catches for 193 yards – the second-best yardage total of his career. He jumped several notches on the Top 10 season yardage list and is at 70 catches for 1,129 yards so far.

He is up to No. 5 on the list of best seasons for receiving yards. David Gamble’s 1,138 in 1993 is at No. 4 and David Ball in 2004 is No. 3 with 1,504. Ball (2005) and R.J. Harris (2014) share the top spot at 1,551 yards in a season.

 

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