New Hampshire Football Report

UNH looking to reverse course

Randall Harris photo courtesy UNH media relations

DURHAM – There’s more than a bit of a logjam atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings with five games left in the regular season.

The University of New Hampshire football team will aim to retain its spot among the contenders for a league championship and a spot in the FCS playoffs when it travels to North Carolina to face Elon University on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Wildcats and Phoenix have matching records: 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the league. Seven of the league’s 12 teams have one loss or less. Villanova is the only team unbeaten in league play at 3-0 while James Madison, Rhode Island, William & Mary and Towson join UNH and Elon with a single loss.

The Wildcats have nothing but CAA contests remaining.

UNH and Elon came their identical records by different routes.

The Phoenix dropped to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the league with a 34-31 loss to William & Mary and responded with wins at Richmond, 20-7, and at Maine, 33-23, before having last week off.

The Wildcats started the season 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the league and have lost their last two games, including 23-21 to then-No. 3 James Madison on Oct. 2 and last week to Dartmouth, 38-21.

“I think it’s brought us together more,” said sophomore quarterback Bret Edwards of the three-game skid and last week’s loss. “We know where we’re at right now. We know where we need to go. The more confidence we have in each other, the better we’ll be in the long run.”

After generally being led by its defense during the early part of the season, the offense had more bright spots against Dartmouth – with three quick strike touchdowns of 48 yards or more – while the defense struggled.

UNH head coach Sean McDonnell is still waiting for offense, defense and special teams to combine their efforts at the same time.

“When I look at our team, there have been spurts where we have been pretty good and there are other times when we haven’t put it together,” McDonnell said. “I was hoping it was last weekend when we’d put it all together and play a full game in all three aspects and play pretty good complementary football. We haven’t done that yet, looking forward to see if we can connect it this week.”

Tony Trisciani, a Manchester native who did a couple of stints as an assistant at UNH under Bill Bowes and then McDonnell, is in his third year as head coach at Elon.

The Phoenix are led on the field by Davis Cheek, a 6-foot-3, 217-pound senior quarterback.

“He’s doing a really good job,” McDonnell said. “He has a great feel for what they want to do offensively. They do a really good job of getting it to multiple people. Everybody touches the ball and they keep you off balance that way.”

Cheek is tough to bring down.

“He avoids a lot of sacks,” said UNH freshman defensive end Josiah Silver, who had a quarterback sack against Dartmouth and leads the team with five.

The Wildcats tackled poorly against Dartmouth and have worked on improving that this week and will also be looking to get pressure on Cheek and create turnovers. The defense did not have a turnover against Dartmouth.

Cheek has completed 156 of his 245 passes for 1,719 yards and his 286.5 passing yards per game leads the CAA. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes and been intercepted twice.

The Phoenix has not turned the ball over in either of its last two games.

Running backs Dylan Laube, a sophomore, and Carlos Washington, Jr., a junior, combined with junior receiver Sean Coyne to spark most of the offensive fireworks against Dartmouth.

Laube raced to a 75-yard rushing touchdown for UNH’s first points in the second quarter and then had a 53-yard TD run in the third.

Edwards passed back to Washington, who then passed to a wide-open Coyne down the right sideline for a 48-yard scoring play to cut Dartmouth’s lead to 31-21 late in the third quarter.

“We know what we can do and we know what we have to do this week,” Edwards said. “We’re really focusing on that. We’re just trying to get back on track.”

XTRA POINTS

  • Cheek was the CAA’s Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the win over Maine two weeks ago.  He completed 29 of his 37 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns in the 33-23 win.  He also ran for a score.
  • Cheek has passed for at least 300 yards in three of Elon’s games this year. He has passed for 7,358 yards with 45 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in his career.
  • McKinley Witherspoon has scored four of Elon’s six rushing touchdowns.
  • Bryson Daughtry has caught three touchdown passes and six players have caught at least one.
  • Jackson Parham leads the receivers with 86.2 yards per game.
  • Linebacker Devonte Chandler leads the team with 42 tackles.

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