New Hampshire Football Report

UNH stuns JMU

DURHAM – An aggressive, ball-hawking University of New Hampshire defense returned two first-half interceptions for touchdowns – and came up with six turnovers overall – to lead the Wildcats to a stunning upset win over No. 3 James Madison University, 35-24 on Saturday in Wildcat Stadium.

Junior safety Rick Ellison returned an interception 44 yards for a TD early in the first period and sophomore safety Evan Horn  got an interception and took it 75 yards in the second period to highlight the defense.

It was the first time the Wildcats had scored two defensive touchdowns in a game since Oct. 22, 2016. Prince Smith, Jr. scored on a 16-yard interception return and defensive tackle Ryan Sosnak  on a 39-yard fumble return that day.  Against JMU, the UNH defense had four interceptions overall, recovered a pair of fumbles and also had five quarterback sacks.

The Wildcats improved to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association with their first win over the Dukes since 2013.

The triumph came on the day UNH celebrated the 125th Anniversary of New Hampshire football. James Madison fell to 6-3 and 4-2.

“It’s a very good win, obviously, against a really good football team,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “It’s something that you’ve seen now for a couple of weeks in our program, guys starting to play the way they’re capable of playing. We played pretty much error-free football. We played great defense in spurts. We scored twice on defense. I thought we played downhill on them the whole way.”

Junior safety Pop Lacey  led the defense with 11 tackles and also had an interception.

The UNH offense, led by senior quarter Trevor Knight contributed its share to Saturday’s triumph as well. Knight completed 14 of his 21 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He also took off and scored on a 75-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The TD passes were timely.

The first was to senior Kieran Presley and covered 29 yards. It came 2:49 into the game and three plays after junior linebacker Quinlen Dean ended JMU’s first possession of the game with a strip sack and forced fumble.

The second was a 23-yard connection with redshirt freshman Sean Coyne  that capped a scoring drive to open the second half and put UNH up 28-3.

“I thought Trevor did a really good job of taking care of the ball today,” McDonnell said. “Made a couple of good throws and had a heckuva run late in the game. Heckuva win for this football program. Hecukva win. It was something we needed and we got.”


  • Dean had eight tackles, two sacks and the forced fumble.
  • Smith also had a UNH interception.
  • Senior linebacker Jared Kuhl had a sack and forced a fumble that senior defensive end Kyle Reisert recovered.
  • Horn and Smith had had one of the five UNH quarterback sacks.
  • Junior safety Michael Balsamo  had eight tackles.
  • The defense held JMU to 64 rushing yards.
  • That and UNH’s jumping in front early led to JMU going heavy on the pass.
  • Cole Johnson completed 31 of his 48 passes for 398 yards for JMU and was intercepted three times.
  • Sophomore Jason Hughes hit all five of his conversion kicks.
  • Knight led UNH in rushing with six carries for 76 yards.
  • Presley, Coyne and redshirt freshman Carlos Washington, Jr.  each caught three passes.
  • Presley had 52 yards in catches, Coyne 30 and Washington 28.
  • Junior tight end Justin Malone-Woods had two catches for 39 yards and senior Neil O’Connor two for 19.
  • Junior Drew Sanborn averaged 40.2 yards on his six punts.
  • Possession time was almost dead even with UNH at 30:01 and JMU at 29:59.

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