New Hampshire Football Report

UNH puts it all on the line

DURHAM – They have a second chance, a new lease on playoff life, and now the challenge for the University of New Hampshire football team – and particularly the offensive line – is to make the most of it.

The Wildcats open play for the 14th straight season in the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs – no team in the nation comes close to that sustained success – Saturdayagainst Central Connecticut State in Wildcat Stadium (2 p.m.).

The Wildcats thought the chances were good that their season – and playoff run – had come to a crushing halt late last Saturday afternoon with a 15-0 loss at Albany. Instead, things broke their way and they celebrated Sunday morning when they watched on ESPNU in their locker room as it was announced they had been chosen for the 24-team field for the 2017 tournament.

The guys up front on offense are especially happy to have another opportunity.

“This was a gift to us,” said senior right tackle Will McInerny. “I think we shoulder a lot of the blame for the loss against Albany and our defense is playing phenomenal games.”

The UNH defense led the team to a 16-6 win over then-No. 7 Elon University on Nov. 11, but then came the loss at Albany.

“I don’t want to detract from the Albany defensive line,” McInerny said. “They’ve got a very good defensive line, but I think we didn’t show up to our capabilities in the least. We’re buckling down this week and we have a huge emphasis on showing up and we need to show up and do our jobs.”

UNH junior quarterback Trevor Knight has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks form opposing defenses.

“What it comes down to is are we going to open up the run game and are we going to protect for Trev when he needs to make those big throws?” McInerny said. “We’re all laser focused right now and we’re all buckled down and ready to take any challenge that gets thrown at us. We’re going to be ready for them.”

Knight has put up big numbers when he’s had time.

He’s completed 239 of his 381 passes (62.7 percent) for 2,851 yards and 23 touchdowns against six interceptions.

He’s thrown for four touchdowns in two of the last five games – against Towson and William & Mary. But the Wildcats have also been shut out in two of the five games – against James Madison and Albany.

The confidence remains, said McInerny, who is joined as a starter on the offensive line by senior center Jake Kennedy, junior left tackle Dayne Herron and redshirt freshmen guards Jack Carroll and Matt Mascia.

“I think our confidence is a lot like that any other position,” McInerny said. “It can be affected. But at the end of the day we know. We know deep down that we can play with any team out there. . . . We’re having a huge emphasis on the importance and the gravity of the situation and we’re going to step up to the plate and swing away.”

There’s added motivation, too, McInerny said.

Detractors in some quarters this week have questioned whether the Wildcats had the credentials to be picked for the tournament.

“There aren’t many people out there that believe that we have what it takes,” McInerny said. “I think we have every confidence if we play to our abilities and the way we’ve shown that we can, that we’re just as good as any team out there. We deserve to be in these playoffs and we’re going to make a run at it. We’re aware of (what people are saying). That will fuel the fire as well. We’re just going to out there and we’re going to shut everybody up.”


Central Connecticut rides an eight-game winning streak into Durham. The Blue Devils lost their first three games and won their next eight to finish 8-3 overall and rolled to the Northeast Conference title with a 6-0 mark. They are in the FCS tournament for the first time. . . . The Blue Devils will be without starting quarterback Jacob Dolegala for the game. Coach Pete Rossomando announced on Monday that Dolegala and backup offensive lineman Dave Cinto have been suspended for one game. . . . Sophomore Tanner Kingsley, who has competed nine of his 13 passes, is expected to be the starter at quarterback. . . . UNH junior wide receiver Neil O’Connor has been named one of 25 finalists for the Walter Payton Award that’s presented each year to the top offensive player in the FCS. O’Connor has 87 catches for 1,291 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. . . . The winner of the UNH-Central Connecticut game advances to the second round to play at Central Arkansas on Saturday, Dec. 2. Central Arkansas is 10-1 and is the No. 4 seed in the tournament and has a first-round bye


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

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