New Hampshire Football Report

Herion may start for UNH

DURHAM – The trusty firearm today holds down a spot of distinction in the University of New Hampshire football locker room.

At some point Saturday morning, the Brice-Cowell Musket – the coveted symbol of year-to-year supremacy in a fierce rivalry that dates to 1903 – will be taken off the wall and brought to the Wildcat Stadium sidelines.

And somewhere around 4 p.m., the video board clock will tick off its final seconds and players from either the University of New Hampshire or Maine will charge toward the musket and grab it in its wooden case, hold it high and whoop things up in a wild and worthy celebration.

Welcome to Senior Day and the most intense of Border Battle rivalries all wrapped up into one: New Hampshire vs. Maine on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium.

“There’s no better way to end it than to beat a University of Maine football team,” said New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell. “It’s important to the program to be able to look up every day and still see the musket’s there. It’s important to the program to beat this Maine football team and end the season on a good note and get this funk feeling out of here that we’ve had the last seven games.”

The season started fast with three straight wins, but has turned into a major disappointment for the Wildcats. They have lost those last seven games and bring a 3-7 overall record and 2-5 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association into the finale.

Maine counters at 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the league and is playing for a winning record, clinging to an outside shot of sneaking into a bid to the FCS playoffs and, of course, hoping to retrieve Brice-Cowell’s (Fred Brice  coached Maine, William Cowell the Wildcats) piece of hardware.

The Wildcats, especially the seniors, can take at least a little of the sting out of a tough campaign with a final triumph.

“It definitely weighs on our mind to know that the season is not what we wanted it to be,” said senior center Matt Mascia, one of the team’s four captains. “It’s just going out there this one last time and appreciating what you have and looking up at the crowd, seeing friends and family that are there to support you, seeing the team around you, the coaches. It’s a special moment to understand, really, truly what’s going on. This is my last moment. This is all I have. You’re there to give everything you’ve got.”

The Wildcats have looked up and been able to see the musket in their locker room through most of McDonnell’s 22-year run as head coach. They have won 16 of the last 18 games between the teams.

UNH had won seven straight in the series – and eight straight against Maine with both regular season and playoff triumphs in 2013 – when the Black Bears turned the tables and beat UNH 35-7 in the season opener in Orono in 20018.

“That hurt,” Mascia said. “It definitely dug deep.”

The Wildcats got the musket back with a 28-10 win over Maine on Nov. 23, 2019. That one ended any Black Bear hopes of getting into the playoffs, too. It’s also the last time the two teams played.

Maine had a rough start to this season. The Black Bears had a brutal schedule and lost to top five FCS teams, Delaware and James Madison, in their first two games, beat Merrimack, then lost to Northern Illinois, an FBS school, and Elon.

Since then, Maine has won four of its last five games, including wins at Albany and Rhode Island, two teams that beat UNH this month.

Last Saturday, the Black Bears crushed UMass, another FBS team, 35-10.

“Very impressed with the way they’ve finished the season,” McDonnell said.

Junior quarterback Joe Fagnano led Maine over UMass after missing seven games to injury. He completed 16 of his 27 passes for 209 yards and TD throws to Devin Young and Shawn Bowman. Freddie Brock ran for an 18-yard TD. He’s rushed for six scores and has caught passes for three.

Fagnano has four touchdown passes with two interceptions this season and 29 TD passes with six interceptions for his career.

UNH will likely turn to Tommy Herion, who was planning to be a graduate assistant this season, at quarterback. He would be the team’s third starting QB in as many games and it would be his first career start.

Freshman Brody McAndrew started two weeks ago against UAlbany. He was replaced by sophomore Bret Edwards, who started the first seven games of the year and started again last week against Rhode Island. Edwards was hurt late in the third quarter last week and Herion came on.

Herion, who will be among the seniors honored Saturday, took first-team reps this week with McAndrew and Edwards still banged up.

Herion was slated to be a graduate assistant when he reported to preseason camp and was put back into action when sophomore starter Max Brosmer suffered a knee injury and was lost for the season before the games began.

He led the Wildcats to a few first downs against Rhode Island and had a game-best 24-yard completion to junior Brian Espanet.

Herion has played in big spots before. He did not see time during the 2019 season, but played in 10 of 11 games in 2018, including at the University of Colorado.

Now he and his fellow seniors will aim to go out with a win and retain the musket.

“You learn about the musket on your official visit,” said redshirt freshman defensive back Jonathan Collins Jr., who played in the 2019 game. “You see it hanging up in the locker room. You see the look on the faces of the past teams that won it.”

The Wildcats want to again be the smiling faces celebrating with the musket.


  • New Hampshire leads the series 56-44-8.
  • Maine beat UNH twice, 18-0 and 27-0, in the first year of the series in 1903.
  • The Black Bears last won in Durham on Nov. 27, 2001, 57-24.
  • UNH has won nine of the last 10 games in the series and 16 of the last 18.
  • The Brice-Cowell Musket dates from between 1722-1745.
  • It was first awarded to the winner of the game in 1948.
  • Nick Charlton is in his third year as Maine’s head coach.


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