New Hampshire Football Report

UNH/Stony Brook preview

DURHAM – Starting quarterback Trevor Knight returned and sparked a fast start, the defense played an impressive game from start to finish and the University of New Hampshire football team got back home and all was right with the world.

UNH took care of Holy Cross, 28-0, in Wildcat Stadium last Saturday to pick up its first win of the season after a tough start.

The Wildcats will be out to use more home-cooking on Homecoming – they’ve won their last nine Homecoming games — and build on the Holy Cross effort when No. 19 Stony Brook visits on Saturday (3:30 p.m.).

UNH sits at 1-4 overall and is 0-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Stony Brook is 4-2 and 2-1. The Seawolves had a four-game win streak snapped with a 52-28 loss at Towson on Saturday.

A revamped offensive line deserved much credit for Knight’s success and the team’s fast start.

“I saw some improvement in there, staying on blocks and doing some things,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. “I saw some guys finish some blocks up, and then also we protected the quarterback a little bit better. That was encouraging. Very encouraging.”

Redshirt freshman Patrick Flynn was the center, sophomore Matt Mascia the right guard and junior Noah Robison the right tackle with graduate student Cam Smith at left guard and junior Jeff Carter at left tackle.

Flynn, Mascia and Robison have started each game this season and Smith and Carter were starting for the second consecutive game.

The Wildcats rushed for a season-high 173 yards – exactly 100 yards more than in any other game thus far – and the line did not allow a quarterback sack. Opponents had been collecting almost five sacks a game.

Knight’s scrambling helped immensely and several of his pass completions were set up when he escaped trouble and bought time for his receivers to scramble and get open.

He completed 22 of his 38 passes for 237 yards and matched his career high with four touchdown passes.

Four receivers – seniors Kieran Presley and Neil O’Connor, junior Justin Malone-Woods and redshirt freshman Sean Coyne – caught Knight’s scoring tosses and 11 players overall caught passes.

The defense pitched UNH’s first shutout in a regular season game since 2010. The Wildcats also had a shutout in the playoffs last fall against Central Connecticut State.

UNH allowed Holy Cross to get just one first down in 12 chances on third down and the Wildcats did not give up a play over 17 yards.

“It was our best tackling game,” McDonnell said. “Our percentage of missed tackles was noticeably different.”

Stony Brook is a run-heavy team and has two of the most productive rushers in the league in seniors Jordan Gowins, 5-foot-11 and 230, pounds and Donald Liotine, 5-foot-9 and 215. Gowins averages 99.3 yards a game and 6.7 yards a carry with five touchdowns and Liotine is at 83.7 a game and 5.8 a carry with two scores.

The Seawolves average 202.5 yards a game on the ground, which is second-best in the league.

“We have a lot of confidence,” said junior cornerback Prince Smith, Jr. “We know this team is going to come out and try to pound the football, run it, and we know if we stop the run, we’re going to stop them.  As soon as we stop the run they’re going to try to go over the top with big X-plays and our secondary is very capable of stopping them. . . . All we have to do (to stop the run) is make sure everybody stays on top of their gap and assignment and we’re going to be good.”

The Wildcats will again look to get off to a fast start.

UNH had not scored a first-quarter touchdown in its first four games and had scored only 12 points total in the first half of those games.

After the defense forced a punt after three plays to start the Holy Cross game, Knight marched the offense down the field to its first score. He and the offense did the same after another Holy Cross punt and it was 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

Knight had missed three and a half games after being knocked out of the opener at Maine with a shoulder injury in the second period. He got the OK to give it a go against Holy Cross, but it was unclear how effective he would be.

He answered that question quickly.

The Stony Brook defense will be aggressive and attempt to get after Knight, McDonnell said.

“I think our O-line is going to have to play a really good game,” Presley said. “Their D-line is very athletic. I think our wide receivers getting off the press is going to be a big challenge, but we’re going to be fine with that. I think it should be good.”

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