New Hampshire Football Report

UNH ready for first test

DURHAM – The way Josiah Silver sees it, the large banner against the wall on the Field House side of Wildcat Stadium needs some updating.

“I want myself to succeed, but I would rather my team succeed before my success,” said Silver, who had a breakout, Al-American season at defensive end for the University of New Hampshire as a freshman last year. “I want to go to the playoffs, put a number back on the wall.”

The wall in question is high above the field, over the walkway from which the University of New Hampshire football team will enter the Stadium on Thursday night for its 7 p.m. season-opening game against Monmouth.

The banner on the wall marks a tangible reminder of where the Wildcats want to be. It lists the years the team qualified for and competed in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision tournament. The string of numbers includes every season from 2004 to 2017, a 14-year stretch of excellence that ranks second among all FCS teams in the country.

Silver and his teammates want to add another year to the list. But they’re not dwelling on the past and what might have been.

“You’ve got those last few seasons, those bad records as motivation,” said left tackle Patrick Flynn, one of four captains along with defensive end Niko Kvietkus, safety Pop Bush and wide receiver Brian Espanet. “It’s not up to the UNH standard. You’ve got to keep that in the back of your head, but then you’ve got to look forward so you can be better.”

The Wildcats will look to bounce back from a rough 2021 season that started with three wins, but then ended with eight straight losses. Espanet, liked most of the team’s older players, could have graduated and moved on from college football after that season. He declined.

“I’m so happy I came back,” Espanet said. “To be honest, I wasn’t going to. But I just couldn’t go out like that.”

The Wildcats aim to make some noise under a revamped coaching staff led by new head coach Rick Santos and coordinators Garrett Gillick on the defensive side with Brian Scott leading the offense.

A goal throughout the offseason has been to bring the offense back up to the speed of the defense, which has been leading the team for the last several years, Santos said.

“I think the defense has kept us in games and the offense has done just enough when we’ve got those wins,” Santos said as preseason camp started. “We want to go back to the days where the offense is the reason. When we’re scoring over 30 points a game and we’re doing some things where we can take pressure off the defense as well.”

Santos said in a press conference Monday that he’s pleased with the progress the offense has made and that thing s have been balanced up between the two units.

Thursday night’s game against Monmouth, a team that has had success in the Big South conference and has now joined UNH in the Colonial Athletic Association, will be a major test of the theory.

The UNH offense 

Max Brosmer is back, three years later, to build off a true freshman season in 2019 when he led the team to a 6-5 record while starting the last 10 games.

After the 2020 season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brosmer started in a loss to UAlbany in what became a one-game season in the spring of 2021. He suffered a knee injury in preseason camp last year and missed the season.

Brosmer said he likes how far the offense has come so far.

“We’re rolling right now,” he said. “It’s a new look and a new feel and I’m very excited to showcase it on Thursday. Not going to reveal too much. Going to stick with that. Pretty excited to get out there with the guys.”

Santos has made it clear the Wildcats want to get the running game established early to utilize the talents of junior running back Dylan Laube, who led the CAA in all-purpose yards last year, and sophomore Isaac Seide.

Seniors Espanet and Sean Coyne and junior Charlies Briscoe III are listed as the starting receivers, and junior Kyle Lepkowski is the No. 1 tight end. The group seems deep with redshirt freshman Joey Corcoran, grad transfers Heron Maurisseau and Andrew Edgar and freshman DJ Linkins among the weapons as pass catchers.

Juniors Osho Omoyeni is at center and David Perry Jr. and Matt O’Neill are at the guard spots with sophomore Dylan Poirier at right tackle joining Flynn on the offensive line.

 The Defense 

Kvietkus at defensive tackle and Silver at one of the end spots are two of the keys on defense. Redshirt freshman Dylan Ruiz is listed as the other starter at end and sophomore Neil Politano is at defensive tackle. Grad student Pierce DeVaughn, a transfer from UConn, will be a factor at end as well.

“Any time I see No. 9 (Kvietkus), No. 8 (Silver), all those guys up front, that’s music to my ears,” said Bush, a strong safety. “I know they’re going to make plays.  It’ going to make our job easier on the back end. Instead of us having to blitz to get pressure, we can send our four guys in. That’s more people in coverage, less time for the quarterback. They have to think about what Josiah’s doing, what Niko’s doing.”

Led by Silver (he led the league in sacks last season with 12.5) the Wildcats were tied for second-best in the league with 31 total sacks last year. Silver was tied for tops in the league with six forced fumbles.

Linebacking might be strength of the entire team, even with sophomore Oleh Manzyk still sidelined by injury.

Junior Bryce Shaw and sophomore Ryan Toscano are listed as the starters, and sophomore Zedane Williams and redshirt freshmen Brandon Perkins and Max Tillett will all be in the mix.

Santos is excited about how the defensive backfield is developing with Bush and junior Max Oxendine back from injury at safety spots with sophomore Noah Stansbury and junior Randall Harris at the corners.

Stansbury moved from safety to corner and has been impressive.

“He’s made a ton of plays,” Santos said. “It’s tough to throw and catch on him right now.”

Stansbury led the team with three interceptions last year and Bush and Harris each had a couple.

The Opponent 

Junior quarterback Tony Muskett, who passed for 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions last season, leads Monmouth into Durham for its first CAA game. Senior Juwon Farri has 2,249 career rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns last year.

The Hawks finished 7-4 overall and 6-1 in the Big South last season. They went to the FCS playoffs in 2017, 2019 and the 2020 season that was played in the spring of 2021.

Kevin Callahan is the only coach Monmouth has had. He started the program in 1993.

“They’re dynamic and they’ve done a phenomenal job recruiting,” Santos said. “Tony Muskett is as good a quarterback as there is at the FCS level. He’s got a quick release and he’s extremely accurate and can throw it all over the field. He can run, too. He’s going to be tough to handle.”


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