November 14, 2012

No. 7 Football Faces No. 19 Towson for CAA Championship Saturday Live on WBIN-TV (12 p.m.)

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No. 7/7 New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1 CAA) vs No. 19/16 Towson (6-4, 5-2 CAA)
Nov. 17, 2012 • 12:00 p.m. • Cowell Stadium • Durham, N.H.
Television: Comcast SportsNet New England (3:30 p.m. tape delay) • WBIN-TV (live)
Joe Beninati (play-by-play) • Andy Gresh (Analyst)
Radio:
 Wildcat Sports Radio Network
Bob Lipman (play-by-play) • Chris Chandler (analyst) 

 

QUICK HITTERS

•UNH can clinch its first outright CAA championship with a victory. The Wildcats are already assured at least a share of the league championship for the first time since 2005.

UNH is 8-5 in the Sean McDonnell era in games following a regular-season bye week. The Wildcats have dropped three of their last five post-bye games. However, the Wildcats posted a 45-43 win at Richmond last season following a Sept. 17 bye. New Hampshire defeated Towson, 62-21, at Unitas Stadium on Sept. 17, 2005, following a bye week. 

•UNH is riding its first six-game winning streak since Oct. 15-Nov. 26, 2005, when the 'Cats won seven straight games, the longest winning streak of the Coach Mac era.  Under Coach McDonnell, UNH has managed a total of two six-game winning streaks and one seven-game winning streak.

Towson snapped a series-long, seven-game losing streak to the Wildcats by virtue of last season's 56-42 shootout win at Unitas Stadium.  Prior to that contest, the Wildcats had outscored the Tigers by an average of 52-17 in five meetings since the team's became conference rivals in 2004. 

Senior middle linebacker Matt Evans is the FCS active leader in career tackles (437) and solo tackles (248). He became UNH's all-time leader in tackles during the Wildcats' Nov. 3 victory against William & Mary, passing Steve Doig (434, 1978-81), who was on  hand for the passing of the torch. 

R.J. Harris needs 39 receiving yards to become UNH's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mike Boyle in 2008 and only the fifth receiver in school history to reach that plateau. The sophomore is nine receptions away from the No. 4 spot in school single-season history. 

Since the start of the 2007 season, the Wildcats are 29-3 at Cowell Stadium. The 'Cats have recorded 10 straight home victories and posted a 22-1 mark in their last 23 home games.

UNH-TOWSON ALL-TIME SERIES (WILDCATS LEAD 7-1):  Towson snapped a series-long, seven-game losing streak to the Wildcats by virtue of last season's 56-42 shootout win at Unitas Stadium.  Prior to that contest, the Wildcats had outscored the Tigers by an average of 52-17 in five meetings since the team's became conference rivals in 2004.  Towson's 56 points nearly matched their entire scoring output (61) over the previous four games against UNH. Here is a look at the all-time series, which dates back to 1980:

SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Towson has posted a record of 6-4 thus far, including a 5-2 mark in the conference.  Following a season-opening loss at Kent St., the Tigers rallied off two wins in a row against unranked opponents before traveling to Baton Rouge, La. to face perennial FBS powerhouse LSU. The clash of the Tigers saw monumental underdog Towson University give the third-ranked team in the country all it could handle before defeating TU, 38-22, on Sep. 29.

Following the loss in the Bayou, the Tigers dropped their next matchup against James Madison in a game where they took the lead for the first time with 3:21 remaining in the game. The defense was unable to hold the Dukes and JMU drove down the field to score the game-winning touchdown with only 1:24 left in the contest.

TU rebounded quickly after the heartbreaker, trading a win and a loss at home against Maine and Old Dominion respectively. Towson then went on the road to win two straight games at Villanova and Delaware, including a 34-27 overtime defeat of the injury-stricken Blue Hens on Nov. 3. Those two victories pushed Towson to a 2-1 record against FCS-ranked opponents.

The Tigers are led by head coach Rob Ambrose, who is in his fourth season at the helm. Prior to being hired in 2009, Ambrose served as head coach at Catholic University, where he led the Cardinals to a 3-7 record in his only season (2001). After that he coached the quarterbacks at UConn from 2002-04 until he was promoted to offensive coordinator, where he remained until 2008.  

Ambrose was 3-19 in his first two seasons combined as head coach of the Tigers, until last season when he led his squad to a 9-3 record, winning the CAA outright and earning Towson's first-ever NCAA FCS playoff birth. The defending CAA Coach of the Year has an overall record of 21-33 and is 13-18 in the conference.  

TOWSON PLAYERS TO WATCH:  Senior quarterback Grant Enders has been the highlight of the Tigers' attack this season.  The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder ranks second in the CAA in total offense (266.3 yards/game) and third in passing yards per game (208.7).  Enders is 188-for-289, including 17 touchdown strikes and only eight interceptions on the season.   

Towson's rushing attack this season has been led by sophomore running back Terrance West. West, a 5-foot-11, 223-pound power back ranks third in the conference in rushing (90.0 yards/game) and he leads the CAA in scoring (8.7 points/game). conference in touchdowns (13) and points-per-game (9.8).   

On defense, freshman linebacker Monte Gaddis leads the Tigers with 70 tackles, including 38 solo, on the campaign.  The freshman standout is tied for second in sacks (5.0) and second in tackles for loss (11.5) in the CAA this year.

LUCKY SEVEN?: UNH is ranked a season-best No. 7, its highest ranking since week 10 of last season. The Wildcats subsequently lost their next game, 56-42, at Towson to drop out of the Top 10.

GOING FOR THE CROWN: The Wildcats, who are assured of at least a share of their first CAA championship since 2005 (then Atlantic 10), are vying for their first-ever outright CAA crown. 

UNH's last sole conference championship came in 1994 when the Wildcats outlasted Boston University, 52-51, in double overtime at Nickerson Field to claim their 11th and final Yankee Conference title. In the second OT, quarterback Jim Stayer pitched to tailback Matt Mezquita; Mezquita dropped back and launched an option screen pass back to Stayer for a 20-yard TD. BU responded with a TD of its own, but strong safety Rob McCoy blocked the PAT to give UNH the triumph.

The last time the Wildcats won a league championship at Cowell Stadium was Nov. 15, 1975, courtesy of a 14-11 victory against UMass that capped a 5-0 Yankee Conference record (9-3 overall).

SENIOR DAY: Saturday represents the final regular-season home game for 14 seniors. Here is a list of the Wildcats in the Class of 2012-13:

1 Dontra Peters © CB Sr. 5-11 200 Annapolis, Md.

7 James Brady QB Sr. 6-0 210 Deer Park, N.Y.

27 Tyler Sargent DB Sr. 5-10 202 Fairview, Pa.

52 Matt Evans © LB Sr. 6-0 228 Hanover, Mass.

53 Chris Zarkoskie © OL Sr. 6-1 292 W.Caldwell, N.J.

54 Alan Buzbee © LB Sr. 6-3 235 Chester, N.J.

71 Isaiah Martin OL Sr. 6-2 283 Pennsauken, N.J.

72 Mickey DiLima OL Sr. 6-4 309 Kensington, Md.

74 Walter McCarthy OL Sr. 6-5 272 Warwick, R.I.

84 Joey Orlando WR Sr. 5-11 197 Bethlehem, Pa.

90 Jared Smith DT Sr. 6-3 292 Greencastle, Pa.

93 Matt Murray TE Sr. 6-2 265 Stow, Mass.

94 Randi Vines DE Sr. 6-3 238 Roanoke, Va.

9  Nick Pellino K Sr. 6-1 208 Danvers, Mass.

  LAST TIME OUT:  UNH-28, WILLIAM & MARY-25 - NOV. 3

DURHAM, N.H.Nico Steriti carried 19 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Evans registered a game-high 10 tackles to become the all-time tackle leader in school history as the 11th-ranked UNH football team downed William & Mary, 28-25, at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

The Wildcats improved to 8-2 overall and upped their CAA-leading mark to 6-1, while the Tribe fell to 2-7, 1-5. With its 10th straight home victory, New Hampshire snapped a nine-game losing skid against William & Mary and gave head coach Sean McDonnell his first career victory against the College. The eighth victory also likely punched New Hampshire's ticket to the NCAA Football Championship tournament for a nation-leading ninth consecutive season.

Sean Goldrich completed 21 of 30 passes for 215 yards, and R.J. Harris notched a team-leading 10 catches for 77 yards. Harris moved into a tie for fifth place in UNH single-season history with 71 receptions and seventh place in single-season history with 961 receiving yards.

Evans, who now has 437 career tackles, surpassed Steve Doig as the University's all-time tackles leader with just under 3:25 remaining in the third quarter and the game tied at 18-18. The senior co-captain combined with Nick Cefalo (six tackles) to wrap up Keith McBride (17 rushes-75 yards) on an eight-yard rush at UNH's 38. Five plays later, W&M kicker John Carpenter missed wide left on a 46-yard field-goal attempt, preserving the deadlock.

William & Mary third-string quarterback Michael Graham, who replaced injured starter Brent Caprio (5 of 5, 47 yards, TD) late in the first half, went 13-for-25 for 167 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mikal Abdul-Saboor carried 16 times for 87 yards and added four catches for 47 yards to pace the Tribe's offense.

With UNH trailing 7-3, Steriti scored on an 18-yard run with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter to cap a nine-play, 92-yard drive. Andy Vailas (11 rushes-53 yards) connected with Harold Spears (two catches-23 yards) on the two-point conversion to stake UNH to its first lead, 11-7.

New Hampshire increased the lead to 18-7 with 16 seconds left in the opening half when Goldrich (seven rushes-37 yards, TD) called his own number for a two-yard score.

Carpenter's 23-yard field goal sliced UNH's lead to 18-10 with 9:20 left in the third, and Tre McBride (four catches-72 yards, two TDs) hauled in a 19-yard pass for his second touchdown catch of the contest with 4:06 left in the period. He was then on the receiving end of Graham's two-point conversion pass to knot the score, 18-18.

Mike MacArthur broke the tie on a 24-yard field goal with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats a 21-18 lead.

The Tribe answered with a go-ahead, 13-play, 78-yard drive that concluded with Graham's one-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal for a 25-21 lead with 6:00 to go. 

Steriti's second scoring run, a 19-yard rush, proved to be the game-winning score with 4:14 left to conclude a six-play, 84-yard drive and put the 'Cats on top, 28-25. One play earlier, Goldrich hit Joey Orlando (eight catches-94 yards) on a 32-yard pass –the longest pass of the game- down the left sideline.

Keith Parkinson snuffed out the College's next drive when he recorded his first career interception on Graham's second-and-5 pass at the Wildcats' 22 with 1:52 remaining in the contest.

The Tribe's final drive ended on Graham's Hail Mary incompletion from midfield as time expired.

Caprio's 30-yard TD pass to Tre McBride allowed William & Mary to take a 7-0 lead at 4:12 of the first quarter.

MacArthur got UNH on the board with a 23-yard field goal with 13:45 left in the first to make the score 7-3.

WELCOME TO THE DUNGEON: Since the start of the 2007 season, the Wildcats are 29-3 at Cowell Stadium. The 'Cats have recorded 10 straight home victories and posted a 22-1 mark in their last 23 home games at Cowell Stadium. A victory against Towson would give UNH its third undefeated home campaign in the last four seasons and leave the 'Cats one win shy of matching their all-time record for consecutive home victories (12). 

GETTING BYE: UNH is 8-5 in the Sean McDonnell era in games following a regular-season bye week. The Wildcats have dropped three of their last five post-bye games, including a 13-3 setback at the hands of William & Mary that ended a school-record 12-game home winning streak in 2010. However, the Wildcats posted a 45-43 win at Richmond last season following a Sept. 17 bye. New Hampshire defeated Towson, 62-21, at Unitas Stadium on Sept. 17, 2005, following a bye week.

GOING STREAKING: UNH is riding its first six-game winning streak since Oct. 15-Nov. 26, 2005, when the 'Cats won seven straight games, the longest winning streak of the Coach Mac era.  Under Coach McDonnell, UNH has managed a total of two six-game winning streaks and one seven-game winning streak.  Here is a breakdown: 

EVANS BECOMES UNH'S ALL-TIME TACKLE KING: Matt Evans, with his eighth tackle in the victory over William & Mary on Nov. 3, became the all-time leader in tackles at UNH. The senior co-captain broke the 31-year record of former Wildcat linebacker Steve Doig, who was on hand to congratulate Evans after the Wildcats' 28-25 defeat of the Tribe.  

MILESTONE WATCH: 

Joey Orlando needs 203 receiving yards to move into seventh place all-time and is within three receptions of No. 6 all-time. Here is where the senior stacks up against the all-time UNH receiving greats:

AIMING FOR 1,000: R.J. Harris needs 39 receiving yards to become UNH's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mike Boyle in 2008 and only the fifth receiver in school history to reach that plateau. 

The sophomore has a streak of 15 straight games with at least one reception. He has tallied 14 consecutive multi-catch contests. The last time Harris was held without a catch was Oct. 22, 2011, in the Colonial Clash victory over Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium. His last single-catch game was in the Oct. 29, 2011, triumph over Rhode Island at Cowell Stadium. 

The Odenton, Md., native leads the CAA in receptions (71), receiving yards (961), receiving yards/game (96.1) and receptions/game (7.1). He is nine receptions away from the No. 4 spot in school single-season history.  Here is a breakdown of Harris' exploits among the all-time UNH greats:

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DOWN MAKES: The Wildcats are converting third downs 49.3 percent of the time (73 of 148), ranked second in the CAA. However, UNH is a mere 1-for-10 on fourth down, the lowest success rate among the 11 league teams.

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