New Hampshire Football Report

UNH needs more from offense

After a spring like no other, Sean McDonnell’s University of New Hampshire football team looks ahead to the fall. We focus on the offense in this finale of a two-part series …

DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire football team’s defense has picked up the pace the last couple of years and put up some of the best numbers in the Colonial Athletic Association.

That’s all well and good and much appreciated, said Matt Mascia, who has started most of the team’s games at either guard or center on the offensive line each of the last three seasons. But it needs to change. 

It’s not that Mascia wants the defense to ease up at all, of course. He merely wants the offense to get things in gear a little more and hold up its end of the deal.

“What we’ve been scoring for points the last few years has made us rely on the defense,” Mascia said from his home in East Meadow, N.Y., on Long Island, where he has been studying and working out since UNH classes were moved online in March and spring football on campus was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we don’t want to have to lean on them. We want to win the game. We want to be the unit that always comes through.” 

The Wildcats are unsure at the moment when they will be able to report back to campus. Generally the bulk of the team is in Durham for most of July for optional workouts and fall camp officially opens in early August. 

The season-opening game is scheduled for Sept. 5 at Kansas, the team’s FBS opponent this year.

UNH is due to play to play its first of five regular season home games the next weekend, Sept. 12, against CAA rival Richmond. The Wildcats play Merrimack College, which is moving up to Division I from Division II, in their Homecoming game on Oct. 3.

His group made some strides last year and Mascia and UNH coaches think based on several factors – those improvements, the energy and commitment players in the group showed through offseason workouts and the added experience and talent level of those players – the offense may be on the verge of breaking out. 

“One of the things we joke about is we need to find 10 points and 100 yards a game and if we can do that we can be in the top third of the league in scoring and offensive yards a game,” said Alex Miller, one of the team’s co-offensive coordinators and the guy in charge of the offensive line.

Last year at this time, UNH had two quarterbacks atop the depth chart who had not played a snap in college football in redshirt freshman Bret Edwards and true freshman Max Brosmer, who had enrolled in school in January and joined the team for winter workouts and spring practice.

Edwards started the season opener against Holy Cross and Brosmer took over for him in the second half and was the starter the rest of the season.

Brosmer directed the team to a 6-5 record, including a four-game win streak and home-field victories over No. 22 Stony Brook, No. 11 Villanova and Maine in the season finale. He threw three touchdown passes against Villanova and a pair each against Stony Brook and Maine. 

Brosmer completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,967 yards and 12 touchdowns, but had 12 interceptions and, as always, cutting down on picks and securing the ball is a huge priority of head coach Sean McDonnell, who is back after missing last season while on a medical leave. Brosmer also ran for three scores.

Among many things McDonnell was excited to see in spring practice was how much Edwards and the two other quarterbacks, juniors Tommy Herion and Stephen Hedberg, had improved and were going to push for playing time. 

The Wildcats lose running back Evan Gray, a first-team all-CAA pick, to graduation, but return production at the position in junior Carlos Washington Jr. and sophomore Dylan Laube. Both are dangerous running and catching the ball.

Washington rushed for 601 yards and three touchdowns last season, and Laube ran for 285 yards and a score. Each caught 28 passes, Laube for 412 yards and four touchdowns and Washington for 160 yards. Sophomores Jacob Post and J.J. Jerome, moved over from linebacker, will also seek carries.  

Junior Brian Espanet leads the receiving crew. He caught 25 passes for 340 yards and five scores last fall. Senior Nick Lorden had five catches for 69 yards and a TD. Sophomore Charles Briscoe III had 19 grabs for 236 yards and true freshman Griffin Helm 15 for 172 yards.

Tight ends include senior Jack Cavallaro, junior Ryan Finney, sophomore Thomas Splagounias and redshirt freshman Konstantin Helge.

The offensive line – backboned by Mascia and two others with starting experience in juniors-to-be Patrick Flynn and Riley Burns – aims to be a unit that the offense can build around. Flynn has started every game the last two seasons and moved out from center to tackle last season and made the All-CAA third team, the only returner on the offense so honored.

“With those three starters coming back, we feel pretty good about it,” Miller said. “We can win some football games with those three — they’ve played a lot of reps — and we’ve got some real talented young guys we hope will fill out the other two spots. Masc has a ton of experience and played some of his best football last year. He’s smart and has a real good understanding of the game and playing at center really gave him some confidence. Having Flynnie at tackle last year, out there on the edge, settled us down.”

Miller was looking forward to seeing what the younger players could do and who might grab starting spots during the spring, but now will have to wait until the Wildcats get back together to see how things shake out. 

Sophomores Osho Omoyeni, Matt O’Neill and David Perry, and junior Curtis Linton Jr. played some last year. Junior Cam Rush and redshirt freshman Dylan Poirier are also in the mix.

The Wildcats averaged 20.2 points a game last season – up a couple of points from the year before – and their total offense was up nearly 50 yards a game, with the rushing offense accounting for much of the gain with a 142.4 yards per game total.

“We’ve got to score more,” McDonnell said. “Somehow, some way, we’ve got to get back to being more explosive on offense.”

Another strong point for the offense is the kicking game. Senior Jason Hughes has come on the last two seasons with his field goal kicking and is also expected to be the punter. He was an all-CAA third-team pick last season.

Hughes made 14 of his 17 field goals attempts last year to set a school success record of 82.4 percent. The previous mark of 80 percent (12 of 15 by Eric Facey) had stood since 1986.

Sophomore Jordan Conn, redshirt freshman Sean Lehane and redshirt freshman Aidan Cadogan are among the other kickers.



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