Football to face Maine for 100th time live on CSN-NE on Saturday (12 p.m.)
No. 12/14 New Hampshire (5-2, 3-1 CAA) at Maine (2-4, 1-2 CAA)
Oct. 20, 2012 • 12:00 p.m. • Alfond Stadium • Orono, Maine
Television: Comcast SportsNet New England
Joe Beninati (play-by-play) • Andy Gresh (Analyst)
Radio: Wildcat Sports Radio Network
Bob Lipman (play-by-play) • Chris Chandler (analyst)
• UNH and Maine square off for the 100th time, the longest running rivalry in school history. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 48-43-8, and have been victorious in eight of the last nine encounters.
•The Brice-Cowell Musket, named after former Maine coach Fred Brice and former UNH coach William Cowell, goes to the winner of the game. The musket is a flintlock rifle made by Ebenezer Nutting of Falmouth, Maine, somewhere between 1722-45. The George I period rifle has a 43-inch barrel and is rifled to a .65 caliber.
•RB Nico Steriti, the CAA's No. 2 rusher, shined in last year's meeting, which was his first career start. Steriti carried 21 times for 150 yards in the Wildcats' 30-27 victory. That was his only 100-yard performance in 2011. In 2012, he has exceeded the century rushing mark in four of the last five games.
•K/P Mike MacArthur was named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week for his Homecoming performance last Saturday against Richmond. MacArthur went 5-for-5 in PATs, kicked a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter and also booted a 51-yard punt that pinned UR at its own 1.
•LB Matt Evans registered a season-high 16 tackles -15 solo- last Saturday, raising his CAA-leading total to 70 stops on the season. With 404 career tackles, the reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner is just 30 stops behind all-time school leader Steve Doig (434, 1978-81).
•Senior WR Joey Orlando moved into 10th place on UNH's all-time reception (151) and yards receiving (1,909) list last week. He needs five receptions and five yards for No. 9 on each list, respectively.
•In the last two weeks, head coach Sean McDonnell has celebrated his 100th career victory (Oct. 6) and his 57th career birthday (Oct. 15).
•During his weekly Wednesday press conference, coach Sean McDonnell said a decision would be made on a starting quarterback for Saturday's game after practice Thursday. Sean Goldrich started the first two games before a shoulder injury sidelined him. Andy Vailas has started the previous five games but suffered a hip pointer during last week's victory against Richmond that leaves his status up in the air.
120 WEEKS IN A ROW: UNH owns the nation's longest streak of Top-25 appearances with 120 in a row. The streak dates back to Sept. 13, 2004. Delaware, at a distant 37 weeks, has the second-longest ranked tenure in the CAA.
LAST MEETING: UNH-30, MAINE-27 - Nov. 19, 2011
DURHAM, N.H. – Redshirt freshmen Nico Steriti and R.J. Harris combined for 373 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to steal the Senior Day spotlight as 12th-ranked UNH rallied past No. 11 Maine, 30-27, before a crowd of 8,536 at Cowell Stadium on Saturday. In capturing the 99th all-time meeting between the CAA rivals, the Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 CAA) reclaimed the cherished Brice-Cowell Musket for the eighth time in nine years and likely punched their ticket to the NCAA Division I Football Championship tournament for a nation-leading eighth consecutive season. Maine (8-3, 6-2) saw its opportunity to claim a share of the CAA championship go by the wayside. Steriti, who made his first career start at running back in place of injured Dontra Peters, rushed for 150 yards on 21 carries, returned a kickoff 71 yards and totaled 237 all-purpose yards –all career highs. Harris tallied six catches for 106 yards, his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, and two touchdowns. Chris Beranger (game-high 16 tackles), Alan Buzbee (13 tackles) and Matt Evans (12 tackles) paced a Wildcat defensive effort that forced four turnovers. New Hampshire turned a four-point deficit into a 10-point lead within 15 seconds of the fourth quarter courtesy of two forced turnovers and subsequent TDs. Kevin Decker found Harris from five yards out with 13:41 left to stake the 'Cats to their first lead, 23-20. The go-ahead score was set up by the second interception of the game from cornerback Chris Houston (five tackles), who picked a pass from Warren Smith and returned it 11 yards to Maine's 18. Steriti carried four straight times, gaining 13 yards to the Maine 5 before Harris was the recipient of Decker's third scoring pass of the game and league-leading 20th of the season. On the ensuing kickoff, Steven Thames (two tackles) knocked the ball loose from Maine return man Kendall James, and Manny Asam (five tackles) pounced on the loose ball on the Black Bears' 18. Steriti wasted no time streaking in for the 18-yard TD with 13:26 left, putting UNH in front, 30-20. Decker finished the game 16-for-30 for 203 yards with three TDs and three INTs. Smith (24-for-41, 200 yards, TD, 3 INT/eight rushes-38 yards, TD) connected with Damarr Aultman (12 catches-105 yards, TD) for a 10-yard touchdown that sliced UNH's lead to 30-27 with 9:23 remaining, but Chad Wilkes sealed the win for UNH by notching his first career interception on Smith's desperation 4th-and-16 heave at the Wildcats' 45 with 1:09 left. Maine capitalized on an interception to take a 7-0 lead with 10:22 left in the first quarter. Two plays after Troy Russell's pick gave the Black Bears possession at UNH's 36, Pushaun Brown (20 rushes-77 yards, TD) burst free for a 33-yard score. UNH squared the game at 7-7 when Decker hit Harris in stride down the left sideline for a 34-yard TD on a 4th-and-8 pass with 7:42 remaining in the first. The lead swung back to Maine, 14-7, with 56 seconds left in the opening stanza when Smith carried in from two yards out. Brian Harvey's 41-yard field goal upped Maine's advantage to 17-7 with 6:23 left in the first half. Mike MacArthur drew the Wildcats within 17-10 by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 18 seconds left before halftime. Early in the second half, a Steriti 56-yard rush coupled with a personal foul penalty put the ball on Maine's 11. On 2nd-and-9 from the 10, Decker threw to Jimmy Giansante (one catch-10 yards-TD) in the left flat, and the redshirt freshman receiver followed his blockers into the end zone. The PAT failed, allowing Maine to maintain a 17-16 lead with 11:19 left in the third. Harvey's 21-yard field goal with 2:29 left in the third built the Bears' lead back to 20-16.
UNH-MAINE ALL-TIME SERIES (WILDCATS LEAD 48-43-8):
The Wildcats and the Black Bears battle on the gridiron for the 100th time. In the Sean McDonnell era, UNH has posted an 8-5 record vs Maine, including eight wins in the last nine meetings.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
Totals (CAA Rank) UNH MAINE
Total Offense 499.4 (2) 371.0 (7)
Rush Offense 259.9 (1) 142.5 (8)
Pass Offense 239.6 (3) 228.5 (4)
Scoring Offense 38.7 (2) 22.2 (8)
Total Defense 413.3 (9) 353.8 (5)
Rush Defense 130.4 (3) 187.2 (9)
Pass Defense 282.9 (11) 166.7 (2)
Scoring Defense 30.0 (T-8) 22.2 (5)
Possession Avg. 29:05 (8) 29:21 (7)
Sacks Made/Yards 18/115 (2) 14/96 (5)
Penalties Against/Yards 46/366 (6) 37/359 (9)
Punts/Net Avg. 33/33.9 (9) 28/35.4 (5)
Turnover Differential +9 (2) -1 (T-6)
3rd Down Conversion% 49.1 (1) 31.4 (10)
4th Down Conversion% 1-for-10 (11) 10-for-15 (3)
Red Zone Offense% 90.6 (1) 68.2 (10)
HISTORY OF THE BRICE-COWELL MUSKET: The Brice-Cowell Musket has resided in the UNH football locker room for eight of the last nine years. The musket, which is named after two former coaches, Fred Brice (Maine) and William Cowell (UNH), goes to the winner of the annual Maine-UNH game. The tradition began in the late 1940s. The musket is a flintlock rifle made by Ebenezer Nutting of Falmouth, Maine, sometime between 1722-45. The George I period flintlock rifle has a 43-inch barrel and is rifled to a .65 caliber.
SCOUTING THE BLACK BEARS: Maine has struggled with consistency thus far, going 2-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play. After going 1-2 in non-conference contests, Maine fell to Villanova, 35-14, at home, allowing 314 rushing yards in the process. The Black Bears rebounded the next week, traveling to Delaware and defeating the Blue Hens, 26-3, and holding the Hens to 47 rushing yards. In its last contest at Towson, Maine had a shot to win the game with 38 seconds left, but failed to recover an onside kick and dropped the decision, 24-19.
The Black Bears are led by head coach Jack Cosgrove, who is in his 20th season at the helm of UNH's chief CAA rival. Cosgrove has won more games (106) than any other head coach in the history of the program and has coached in more contests (218) than any other head coach as well.
UNH is 48-43-8 all-time against the Maine, including a 30-27 win last year at Cowell Stadium last year. Maine took the previous contest in Orono in 2010, winning in stunning fashion 16-13, on a blocked field goal in overtime.
MAINE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski has provided stability to the Black Bear offense, starting in and finishing each game thus far. Wasilewski is averaging 228.5 passing yards/game (third in CAA), going 124-for-206 including seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Wasilewski also has the ability to get it done on the ground inside the red zone. The first-year starter leads the team in rushing touchdowns with three despite only carrying the ball 52 times for an average of 2.2 yards/rush.
Junior running back Rickey Stevens has carried the load on the ground for the Black Bears this season, averaging 6.2 yards/carry, but has yet to record a rushing touchdown. Stevens has also caught eight passes for 93 yards.
Sophomore RB David Hood has carried the ball 57 times for an average of 73.2 yards/game and three rushing TDs. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound physical back has also caught nine passes out of the backfield for 69 yards.
Senior wide out Maurice McDonald is third in the CAA with 6.3 receptions/game. McDonald has tallied 38 catches for 327 yards and one touchdown.
Maine's defense was anchored by junior DE Michael Cole. Cole leads the CAA in fumbles forced (two), tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (seven), but he was lost for the season two weeks ago after suffering a torn quadriceps tendon in his left leg at Delaware.
Senior linebacker Donte Dennis is tied for second in the CAA with 9.8 tackles/game. Dennis leads Maine with 59 total tackles and has recovered two fumbles on the campaign. The 6-foot, 220-pounder was named to the College Sports Network Preseason All-CAA Second Team.
Ball-hawking defensive back Kendall James has intercepted two passes this season and has recorded 26 total tackles.
LAST TIME OUT: UNH-44, RICHMOND-40 - OCT. 13
DURHAM, N.H. - A Homecoming crowd of 12,834 saw the No. 12/13 University of New Hampshire football team squander a 17-point second-half lead only to rally for 10 late points to pull out Saturday afternoon's 44-40 come-from-behind victory against Richmond in a CAA showdown at Cowell Stadium.
Andy Vailas, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 188 yards, threw for three first-half touchdowns, added a 38-yard rushing TD in the third quarter and converted a crucial fourth-down conversion on UNH's go-ahead drive in the final quarter to lead the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 CAA) to their third straight victory.
A pair of essential special teams plays helped New Hampshire mount its comeback after Richmond (4-3, 2-2 CAA) fought back from a 34-17 deficit to grab a 40-34 lead with 10:21 remaining. First, Lamar Edmonds (one tackle) blocked the PAT that followed a 48-yard touchdown run from Kendall Gaskins (16 rushes-97 yards, 3 TDs) that put the visitors in front. Then Mike MacArthur pinned the Spiders back to their 1-yard line with a 51-yard punt at the 7:55 mark.
On the subsequent drive, Randi Vines (three tackles) stuffed Gaskins for a one-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 at the Richmond 10. That forced a punt that staked UNH to good field position at its 49 with 5:58 left.
Sean Goldrich then entered the game for the first time and, on 2nd-and-10, handed off to Chris Setian for a 35-yard pickup down to the Spiders' 16. Goldrich completed a three-yard pass to Joey Orlando and called his own number for a six-yard gain, setting the stage for a 4th-and-2 play at UR's 8. Following a timeout, Vailas (12 carries-83 yards, TD) returned to action and converted a QB draw for three yards before Setian (five rushes-44 yards, TD) plowed in for a five-yard TD and a 41-40 lead with 2:57 remaining.
On its next drive, Richmond turned the ball over on downs at its 16, and MacArthur provided the game's final points with a 27-yard field goal with 1:08 left.
The Spiders drove to the UNH 34 with two seconds remaining, but Michael Strauss's Hail Mary pass fell incomplete to preserve the Wildcats' third straight victory over the Spiders.
Matt Evans tallied a season-high 16 tackles -15 solo- to headline UNH's defensive effort.
Nico Steriti produced his fourth 100-yard rushing game in five weeks by carrying 15 times for 122 yards. The sophomore notched a 21-yard TD scamper with 13:10 left in the second quarter to stake the 'Cats to a 20-10 lead.
R.J. Harris spearheaded the receiving game with five catches for 94 yards, highlighted by a 14-yard scoring reception in the first quarter and a nine-yard TD catch in the second period. Orlando (four catches-49 yards, TD), who was the recipient of a Vailas 16-yard TD throw with 2:01 left in the first, moved into 10th place in school history in all-time receptions (151) and receiving yards (1,909).
The Wildcats took control on the Vailas scoring run with 8:54 left in the third to open their biggest lead.
The Spiders retaliated with 23 consecutive points. John Laub (27-for-44, 269 yards, TD) threw a two-yard touchdown strike to Seth Fisher, which trimmed UNH's lead to 34-24 with 6:22 left in the third.
With 59 seconds remaining in the third, Remington Hinshaw booted a 41-yard field goal to make it 34-27.
After Laub (team-high 17 rushes-103 yards) departed with an injury, Strauss (5-for-12, 42 yards, TD) threw a four-yard TD pass to Stephen Barnette (seven catches, 73 yards, TD) on his first attempt of the day, as Richmond knotted the score, 34-34, with 11:19 left in the fourth.
But the Spiders, who outgained the Wildcats (544 to 454) and had a decided advantage in time of possession (34:47-25:13) remained winless at Cowell Stadium since 2000.
UNH recorded its ninth straight home victory and improved to 21-1 in its last 22 contests at "The Dungeon."
QB WILL BE….WHO? At his weekly press conference Wednesday, head coach Sean McDonnell indicated that redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich may return to the starting quarterback post for Saturday's game against Maine. Goldrich, who suffered a shoulder injury early in the Week 2 loss at Minnesota, won the starting job in a tightly contested preseason battle with Andy Vailas and James Brady. Vailas has started the previous five games, but the sophomore suffered a hip pointer during the Homecoming win against Richmond last Saturday that leaves his status up in the air this week.
Coach Mac indicated that Goldrich is the healthier of the two at midweek, but he would not determine his starter until after Thursday's practice.
Goldrich, in his one full game, completed 21 of 31 passes for 193 yards and two TDs to go along with 10 rushes for 71 yards in the Wildcats' 38-17 win at Holy Cross on Aug. 30. For that effort, he was named the CAA Rookie of the Week.
Vailas, meanwhile, has picked up the baton and run with it, leading the 'Cats to victories in four of his five starts. He was named CAA Offensive Player of the Week following his 23-of-36, 315-yard, two-TD effort in a win against No. 8 Delaware on Sept. 29 and is currently ranked second in the CAA in passing efficiency (145.3) and points responsible for/game (17.1).
BER-INJURED: Starting free safety Chris Beranger will miss his fourth straight game Saturday at Maine due to concussion-like symptoms. The junior started all 12 games last season when he ranked second on the team and third in the CAA with 142 tackles, the fourth-highest single-season total in UNH history. In the Wildcats' 2011 victory against the Black Bears, Beranger established a career-high 10 solo tackles and led the way with 16 total tackles.
STERITI AND WILLING: Nico Steriti used last season's UNH/Maine football clash as his personal breakout stage. Making his first career start in place of injured starter Dontra Peters, Steriti rushed for 150 yards on 21 carries and returned a kickoff 71 yards in the Wildcats' 30-27 Senior Day victory at Cowell Stadium.
Fast forward to present day, and Steriti is the second ranked RB in the CAA with an average of 96.0 rushing yards/game. The sophomore has exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark in four of the last five weeks, with five TDs and a career-high 201 yards (on 21 carries) at Old Dominion on Sept. 22.
SOS EXPRESS LEADS CAA IN RUSHING: Buoyed by the SOS Express trio of Nico Steriti, Jimmy Owens and Chris Setian, the Wildcats lead the CAA and are ranked sixth nationally with 259.9 rushing yards/game. The Express has compiled 1,341 yards on 185 carries (7.2 yards/carry) with 14 touchdowns. Steriti leads the way with 87 attempts for 672 yards and six touchdowns, Owens has carried 47 times for 349 yards and four TDs and Setian has racked up 320 yards and four rushing scores on 51 carries.
FINISHING THE JOB: UNH has been the league's most proficient team inside the Red Zone in 2012. In 32 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, the Wildcats have scored on 29 occasions (90.6%), with 22 TDs and Mike MacArthur's perfect 7-for-7 in field-goal attempts. Maine has the CAA's top Red Zone defense; the Black Bears have denied opponents on 13 of 20 tries (65%) inside the 20, forcing five turnovers.
DOWN TO THE WIRE: One thing is for certain when UNH and Maine get together. No one leaves early. The last three meetings have been decided by three points, it was a four-point difference four years and two of the last three meetings (2006, 2010) at Alfond Stadium have gone to overtime. Here are highlights of recent Battles for the Brice-Cowell Musket:
2011 UNH parlays two forced turnovers into 14-point turnaround in fourth quarter to rally past Maine, 30-27, on Senior Day at Cowell Stadium. Nico Steriti and R.J. Harris combine for 373 all-purpose yards and three TDs.
2010 After blocking a 33-yard UNH field goal attempt at the end of regulation, Maine pulled out a 16-13 overtime win when Brian Harvey kicked a 37-yard FG in the extra session at Alfond Stadium.
2009 Senior RB Chad Kackert ran for a five-yard TD with 2:26 remaining to help UNH rally from behind for a 27-24 victory. The 'Cats outscored the Bears 10-0 in the fourth quarter, with Tom Manning preceding Kackert's go-ahead score by hitting a 52-yard field goal.
2008 Mike Boyle hauled in a 22-yard pass from R.J. Toman with 3:27 remaining on a snow-covered Alfond Stadium field to lift UNH past Maine, 28-24.
OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE: UNH is first in the CAA and fourth nationally in turnovers gained (19) while boasting a +9 turnover margin (No. 2 CAA, No. 7 FCS). DE Cody Muller and DT Matt Kaplan are tied for the league lead with two fumbles recovered, and DT Jimmy Vailas is tied for No. 1 in the conference with two fumble recoveries. CB Dontra Peters has snared three interceptions for a share of the CAA lead.
UNDER THE RADAR: Senior co-captain Matt Evans has quietly put together another exceptional season at middle linebacker. A season after winning the first Buck Buchanan Award in school history, Evans is once again atop the CAA in several major categories: tackles/game (10.0); total tackles (70); solo tackles/game (7.3/No. 1 in FCS) and solo tackles (51/No. 4 in FCS). He needs to average 7.75 tackles over the final four games of the regular season in order to pass Steve Doig and become UNH's all-time tackles leader.
•Matt Evans, who moved into No. 2 on UNH's all-time tackles list Sept. 15, needs 31 tackles to surpass all-time leader Steve Doig. Here is a look at his road to the all-time career-tackles mark.
1. Steve Doig (1978-81) 434
2. Matt Evans (2009-present) 404
•Joey Orlando needs five receiving yards to move into ninth place all-time and 114 yards to move into eighth place. In addition, he is five receptions shy of No. 9 all-time and within 10 catches of the No. 7 spot. Here is where the senior stacks up against the all-time UNH receiving greats:
Career Receiving Yards
1. David Ball (2003-06) 4,655
7. Keith LeVan (2004-07) 2,234
8. Scott Sicko (2006-09) 2,023
9. Calvin Jones (1993-96) 1,913
10. Joey Orlando (2009-present) 1,909
6. Stephan Lewis (1999-2002) 164
7. Scott Sicko (2006-09) 160
8. Calvin Jones (1993-96) 158
9. Chris Braune (1986-89) 155
10. Joey Orlando (2009-present) 151
•Dontra Peters needs 22 all-purpose yards to reach 3,000 for his career.
•R.J. Harris is four receptions shy of 100 in his career.
MACARTHUR WINS CAA & ECAC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF WEEK: UNH junior kicker/punter Mike MacArthur was named the CAA & ECAC Football Special Teams Players of the Week on Oct. 15 following his performance in Homecoming's 44-40 victory against Richmond. The 5-foot-10, 199-pound kicker drilled a 27-yard field goal with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter to go along with his perfect 5-for-5 PAT kicking. MacArthur punted five times, with an average of 35.8 yards per punt and a long of 51 yards that pinned Richmond at its own 1-yard line late in the fourth. That swaying of field position helped set up the Wildcats' go-ahead 51-yard TD drive with 2:57 left. It is the first career CAA weekly award for MacArthur, who was named the All-CAA Second Team kicker last season and the All-CAA Third Team kicker as a true freshman in 2010.