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Tough to Take, Again, for UNH
DURHAM – Football recruiting season opened yesterday at the University of New Hampshire.
Saturday night in, of all places, Cedar Falls, Iowa, it was time to turn the calendar to the off-season.
For the second season in a row and third time in four years, UNH’s football season screeched to a halt at the hands of the University of Northern Iowa.
Three season-ending games to the same team by a total of eight points.
This time the final was 36-34 when UNH could come up with no points on a couple of possessions after slicing the deficit to two early in the fourth quarter.
UNH coach Sean McDonnell didn’t feel any better late yesterday afternoon about the turn of events.
“It doesn’t get any better,” he said. “You wake up and you know you’re not going to be coaching when you could be. That’s tough.”
Reviewing the multiple and wide-ranging miscues by the Wildcats didn’t help matters.
“One thing that stood out was how many mistakes we made,” McDonnell said. “That was disappointing. Turning the ball over, mistakes on special teams. We weren’t clean. Still, were in it, that’s the amazing thing. It’s 36-34 and we’ve got the ball.”
In the end, a team that thrived on creating turnovers died by them. Four R.J. Toman passes were intercepted and UNH lost a couple of fumbles, too.
After an outstanding regular season in his first year as a starter, Toman struggled in the playoffs.
Consider the numbers: He threw 28 touchdown passes and was intercepted eight times in 11 regular-season games; in two playoff games, he threw one touchdown pass and had seven interceptions. He completed 65.1 percent of his passes for the season, despite completing barely 50 percent of them in his last three games.
“It doesn’t all come down just to the quarterback,” McDonnell said. “R.J. feels as bad as anybody in this program right now. Like I told him, he’s a good football player and he’s just got to keep working to get better. Look how far he’s come this year.”
McDonnell meets with the team today and will tell the returning players what’s expected of them in the offseason.
Jobs are available in the offensive line especially, and McDonnell and his coaches will be looking for young players to get bigger and stronger there, as others did in the defensive line for this season.
For the first time in McDonnell’s 10 years as coach, UNH was able to redshirt all of its true freshmen, meaning all have an extra year to develop and have four years of eligibility remaining. Several could make major impacts right off the bat next season.
Overall, McDonnell wants his team – which has been to the playoffs five straight seasons – to make the same strides it made during the last offseason.
“I’m really pleased with how we played and how this team progressed over the year,” the coach said. “The kids worked very, very hard from last year at this time. To go 10-3 is pretty good considering the players we’ve graduated in the last couple of years.”
Now the Wildcats will try to restock again. McDonnell met with his staff yesterday afternoon and plotted recruiting strategy. Some guys hit the road last night to start finding players and others go out today.
One guy who won’t be looking for future Wildcats is Alex Grinch, who has coached cornerbacks at UNH the last four years.
He’s going to be working in the secondary at Wyoming and is due to be introduced as part of new coach Dennis Christensen’s staff this afternoon. Grinch was a grad assistant at Missouri under Christensen.
“He’s a great coach and a detail guy and a great teacher,” McDonnell said. “We’ve been lucky to have him this long.”
Tough to take, again
By Allen Lessels, The New Hampshire Union-Leader
Photo Credit: AP c/o The New Hampshire Union-Leader