New Hampshire Football Report

UNH seeking elusive first win

Photo courtesy UNH media relations

DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire football offense came up with a few big plays and the defense made some nice stands in the team’s game last week at Elon, noted head coach Sean McDonnell.

The problem is, the Wildcats have not made enough of the big plays – on offense or defense – through their first four games and thus find themselves with a record of 0-4 heading into Saturday’s matchup against Holy Cross in Wildcat Stadium (noon).

“I saw a little bit of progress,” McDonnell said of last week’s 30-9 loss at No. 10 Elon. “Not enough. It’s never enough. It’s never enough because you’ve got to get better and that’s the main idea. You want to be 1-0 on Saturday night. The thing that’s aching all of us right now is we can’t get to that spot yet. And I know we’re good enough to get to that spot. And I know our kids know we’re good enough. We’ve just got to find a way to get to that spot.”

The Wildcats lost their opener at Maine, lost at home to Colgate and dropped games at the University of Colorado and then Elon in their second Colonial Athletic Association contest.

After starting the season with the three games out of four on the road, UNH plays its next three and five of its next six games at home in Wildcat Stadium.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” McDonnell said. “You just roll up the sleeves and go to work on it. It will be good to be home on Friday. It will be good to be home on Saturday morning, waking up here and coming in. It will be good to tee off at 12 o’clock, have an early game and get it done.”

To add to the intrigue against Holy Cross, a New England rival that McDonnell says is better than its 1-4 record with a 31-28 overtime victory over Yale, there’s uncertainty about who will start at quarterback for the Wildcats on Saturday.

Senior quarterback Trevor Knight, who was named the CAA’s preseason offensive player of the year, started against Maine but was knocked out of the game before halftime with a shoulder injury. He hasn’t played since.

Sophomore Christian Lupoli started the next three games, but he was hurt on the final play of the Elon game and is also out with a shoulder injury.

Knight has been practicing, but may or may not be ready to go on Saturday. If Knight can’t play, redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Herion – who made a roundabout journey to get to Durham – will get a shot at the job, McDonnell said.

Herion, 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, is out of Chicago and was recruited heavily by UNH out of high school. He opted to go to the University of Iowa and walk on to the team.

“He called us back and said he wanted to come back here and try to make an opportunity for himself here,” McDonnell said. “Tommy came back last January and has been in the quarterback battle and moved his way up the charts.  . . . He’s done a heckuva job here. He’s a very heady football player. He’s athletic. He has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do and he gives life to the program, gives life to the team, when he plays.”

The Wildcat offense will again be looking to establish a running game to take some pressure off whoever is the quarterback and be more consistent in moving the ball.

Cam Smith, a grad transfer who came to UNH after playing at Lafayette College, made his first start for the Wildcats last week at left guard on the offensive line. Normally an offensive tackle, Smith said it was his first start at guard since third grade.

Smith said the offensive line is coming along.

“I think in the last two weeks it’s started to feel like there’s a lot more unity there, people playing better,” he said. “I think we’ll have a breakthrough in the run game soon.  . . . With O-line play it seems like you can keep getting better and better and better, but until you pass through a certain threshold you won’t necessarily see the results. Until it’s everyone person on every block for as long as they need to be on it, finishing through the whistle, it’s tough to really see a big difference in the stat sheet at least. It definitely feels like we’re coming along in that regard.”

The Wildcat defense will get senior end Kyle Reisert back against Holy Cross. Reisert missed much of last season with injuries and played a snap on a UNH conversion attempt against Elon last week.

“Kyle will get some snaps this week,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think he’ll have a ton of them, but he’s healthy enough to go play.  . . . We’re excited about getting him back in there. Some senior leadership. A steady kid who played really good football for two and a half years here before he got hurt.”

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

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