New Hampshire Football Report

UNH has excelled in kicking game

By Allen Lessels

Sean Lehane boomed a punt 53 yards to end the University of New Hampshire football team’s first possession of the season and when Stonehill’s returner muffed it, Caleb Mead was there to pounce on the ball.

Late in the first quarter of that game, Randall Harris came off the edge and blocked a Stonehill field goal attempt.

The 2023 season was barely 15 minutes old and the message and the tone had been sent and set: Special teams matter. A lot. Again.

Assistant coach Garrett McLaughlin – a special teams, well, specialist – has been in charge of the unit for the last three seasons and head coach Rick Santos raves about the job he has done helping turn it into a Wildcat strength, embraced by the players, one they strive to get on and then compete on once they get there.

Harris, who leads the country with three blocked kicks, broke into a big smile when asked about blocked kicks during UNH’s media conference Wednesday.

“I rank them up with there with interceptions,” he said. “They bring such momentum to the team, bring the morale up.”

The Wildcats lead FCS with five blocked kicks this season.

Harris blocked a punt in Saturday’s loss at Delaware and Josiah Silver’s blocked punt in the first quarter earned UNH the first points of the game when the ball went out of the end zone for a safety.

Lehane, who is averaging 39.5 yards a punt with five of his 16 downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and Nick Mazzie, who has made three of his four field goals and 17 of his 18 point-after conversions, are the kickers and Kevin Gallic is the long snapper.

Nice returns, of course, do their bit to help a team’s morale and success as well.

Dylan Laube delivered a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD against Delaware and had a 58-yard punt return for a score against Stonehill. Laube has been the Coastal Athletic Association’s Specialist of the Week twice already this season: after both the Stonehill and Delaware games.

Laube is one of only two FCS players in the country with both a kickoff and punt return for a TD.

The Wildcats will be looking to crank up their special teams again Saturday when they take on Towson in their Family Weekend game at Wildcat Stadium at 3 p.m.

Towson, too, boasts a major threat in the return game in D’Ago Hunter, a 5-foot-6 and 160-pound running back. Hunter was the CAA’s Specialist of the Year last season when he returned two kickoffs and a punt for scores.

Laube’s only punt return for a touchdown last year, by the way, was a 92-yarder at Towson. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return at Richmond. UNH through the years has had a total of five 100-yard kickoffs returned for TDs and Laube is the only player with more than one.

Pete Shinnick is the first-year coach at Towson and has seen Laube, a league leader in rushing and receiving yards as well, only on film.

“I tell you he’s a load and he’s a handful and he seems to enjoy getting hit more and more and the more he gets hit, the more he keeps running around,” Shinnick said. “He just does a fantastic job keeping his balance, a fantastic job if there’s 10 inches of daylight, he’ll squeeze through there, or he’ll bounce off you and keep going.”


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