New Hampshire Football Report

Maine event fast approaching

DURHAM – They practiced for the first time in full pads Monday and got a day off for recovery on Tuesday. They’ll be back on the practice field Wednesday morning and have their final scrimmage set for Aug. 21, at noon.

With a 2018 season packed with high expectations fast approaching, the University of New Hampshire football team is quickly ratcheting things up in preparation for its opener at fierce rival Maine on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” said senior quarterback Trevor Knight. “A rivalry game is always going to be tough. It’s always going to be a battle. We’re trying to prepare every day, compete hard and get ready for that. It’s like three weeks. That’s crazy. It’s coming up fast.”

The Wildcats play their home opener Sept. 8 against Colgate at 6 p.m. for Youth Football Night. They then travel to Boulder to take on the University of Colorado in their Football Bowl Subdivision game on Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

UNH was picked second behind James Madison University in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll and is in the Top 10 in most national FCS polls.

The Wildcats have the longest run of appearances in the NCAA Division I tournament of any team in the country at 14 years and are looking to extend that mark. So far, so good, said head coach Sean McDonnell.

“I think we’ve gotten better every day that we’ve been out here,” he said. “I think some of our guys are in really good shape physically. There’s been some competition at a couple of positions. I think the receivers are doing a really good job.”

Knight was named the CAA preseason offensive player of the year and senior wide receiver Neil O’Connor has been named a preseason All American by Hero Sports and STATS.

Knight passed for 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions last season. O’Connor had 97 catches for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Trevor’s done a nice job,” McDonnell said. “He’s been here a while and knows his stuff. The thing Trevor’s got to keep continuing to do for us to be successful is to take what the defense gives us and stretch the field and get the ball to the guys in open spaces and let them create what they do with it.”

The offense has been building its depth at receiver.

“We’ve had Malik Love and some other guys hurt and some of the kids have come through at the ‘A’ position,” McDonnell said. “Sean Coyne’s played well. Brandon Gallagher moved there and he’s doing a good job. It’s fun to watch them assimilate into these positions against the good competition.”

Love had 70 catches last year for 733 yards and three scores.

The UNH defense and offense each return nine starters and each has taken a turn establishing itself in the early-going of camp.

“It’s been hot and cold,” McDonnell said. “Defense has had it early and offense has settled in a little bit better as we’ve gone on. As they get more comfortable with the tempo and some of the things we’re doing, it’s good. What we see is people flying to the football, which is good. And what we see is that we’re throwing and catching the ball pretty well and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

The defense and offense keep each other going.

“We’ve been competing very, very well,” Knight said. “Defense, offense. We have our periods where they’re all on us and then we have the periods where we get them. It’s good to go back and forth. . . . That defense is legit. They want to set the tone and be a top defense in our league and the country. Same with us for offensively.  Us battling them every day is just making us so much better.”

McDonnell said a few of the freshmen newcomers to the team who have opened eyes early in camp.

“I think Charles Briscoe’s done a nice job,” McDonnell said. “Kyle Lepkowski’s doing a good job. Osho Omoyeni at center. It’s hard because their heads are swimming right now.”

Briscoe is a wide receiver and Lepkowski is a tight end.

All are gearing up for the here-before-you-know-it openers at Maine and then home against Colgate.

“It’s 24 days and we’ve got to get better in a hurry,” McDonnell said Monday. “It’s going to be a challenge playing the University of Maine right away in the first game.”

The Wildcats held off Maine 24-23 in their opener in Wildcat Stadium last year and went 7-4 in the regular season. They beat Central Connecticut at home and Central Arkansas on the road to advance to the FCS quarterfinals. They finished the season 9-5 overall.


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

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