New Hampshire Football Report

UNH bracing for Towson

DURHAM – Simply stated, a primary goal for the University of New Hampshire football team on Saturday is to put two solid halves together in its home opener (6 p.m.) against Colonial Athletic Association rival Towson.

The Wildcats played strong first half – and a little more – in their first game at Stony Brook on Sept. 2 and then made a last stand to hold on for a 27-21 victory, the 99th career CAA win for coach Sean McDonnell.

Towson, led by a quarterback familiar to UNH who works behind a massive offensive line, won its opener last Saturday at Morgan State, 31-0.

The Wildcats showed early on against Stony Brook what they are capable of, said senior center and captain Matt Mascia. They jumped out to a 20-0 lead at the half and scored early in the third quarter to bump the lead to 27-0. The Seawolves did all the scoring after that.

“You look and we realize what we did as a team in the first half was really, really impressive and I think seeing that made us realize how good we can be,” Mascia said. “You come back in the second half and it’s, ‘All right, here’s a reality check. We’re not there yet. We have that capability and we know what we can do, but we’re not there yet. We’ve got to get back to work.’”

The Wildcats went back to work and now they take on test No. 2 of the season.

Grad student Chris Ferguson is the Towson quarterback. He was the starter for three seasons at Maine, got injured and then lost his job and took a roundabout route back to the CAA. He transferred to Liberty, an FBS school, after the 2019 season and then made his way to Towson.

In his first start for the Tigers, Ferguson completed 19 of his 31 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns against Morgan State.

“When you watch him go through his reads, as you see him progress through what he’s doing there, he’s a kid filled with confidence,” McDonnell said.

Ferguson played with confidence the last time he faced the Wildcats. He completed 21 of his 31 passes for 199 yards and a pair of scores in a 35-7 win in the 2018 season opener at Maine. He led the Black Bears to a 10-4 record and their first appearance in the FCS tournament semifinals that season.

Now, he’s playing behind an offensive line that from left tackle to right tackle goes 325 pounds, 300, 300, 355 and 360.

“Those big guys are big guys,” McDonnell said. “You can’t stand up against them because if you stand up against them they’re going to roll you off like road graders and they’re going to knock you back and they’re going to run downhill.”

McDonnell and his staff have stressed staying low and filling gaps to their defensive players this week.

“Stay low, stay low, get off the ball,” said junior defensive tackle Niko Kvietkus, who anchors the group up front with senior Elijah Lewis. “The faster you get off the ball, the better off you are in any situation. If we’re moving, move fast. If we’re stunting up front, do it quick. If you’re playing base, stay low.”

Towson had 134 yards rushing and 278 passing for 412 yards of offense against Morgan State. Jerry Howard Jr., who played four years at Georgia Tech, rushed for 45 yards on seven carries.

Offensively, the Wildcats will look to improve on the numbers they put up in the second career start for sophomore Bret Edwards. Edwards completed 17 of his 25 passes for 233 yards and the first three touchdowns of his career.

“As an offensive line I think we played well,” Mascia said. “We communicated well. Obviously, the biggest kudos I’ve got to give out are to Bret. He stepped in. The moment was never too big for him. He took over that offense. He was extremely confident in every single person out there, just like we were with him.”

McDonnell said he liked what he saw.

“Bret did a nice job controlling the football game and playing withing his framework,” McDonnell said. “He did some very nice things on some scrambles, kept plays alive and made some throws and made some plays. He also kept some plays alive by rolling out and deciding it wasn’t there for him and throwing the ball away. It kept us away from getting in some long situations.”

Junior receiver Brian Espanet had five catches for 100 yards and a pair of scores, one a 64-yard TD that stretched the lead to 27-0.

The Wildcats will be looking for more of that and their first win at home since Nov. 23, 2019. They beat Maine, 28-10, that day to take back the Brice-Cowell Musket and finish the season 6-5.

Until the Stony Brook win to start the season, UNH had played only game since then, a loss to Albany at home in their abbreviated one-game season last March.

Grad student safety Evan Horn was a captain during the spring season. McDonnell named three captains to join Horn for this fall: Mascia, Lewis and receiver Nick Lorden.


  • The Wildcats play their next two games on the road. They’re at Lafayette on Sept. 18 and at Pittsburgh for their FBS game on Sept. 25.
  • UNH’s other road games are Oct. 23 at Elon, Nov. 6 at Albany and Nov. 13 at Rhode Island.
  • Towson opted out of playing last spring.  The Tigers finished 7-5 in 2019 and they and the Wildcats were two of the teams that just missed being selected for the FCS playoffs.  UNH won, 40-17, the last time the teams met, Oct. 21, 2017 in Durham.
  • Lorden caught a pair of touchdown passes from Trevor Knight in the last UNH-Towson game. Knight passed for four touchdowns and led the Wildcats to 508 total yards of offense in that game.
  • Rob Ambrose is in his 12th season as Towson’s head coach. He took the Tigers to the FCS national championship game in 2013.


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