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UNH Eager To Erase Memory Of Rhode Island Loss
It’s possible no one on the University of New Hampshire football team is more eager to take the field this weekend than senior strong safety Hugo Souza.
“We’ve been talking about waiting for Saturday to just get here,” Souza said. “Get that frustration out.”
Souza and the Wildcats are itching to erase any and all memories of last week’s painful 28-25 loss at Rhode Island, which served as the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams. Although UNH takes another break from conference play with Saturday’s opponent, Lehigh (Pa.), the Wildcats are nonetheless anxious to earn a ‘W’, even one of the non-league variety.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Cowell Stadium.
“It doesn’t matter who or what or where, it’s how,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “It’s how we play and that’s real big in my mind. The Patriot League is a really good league. It’s eastern football, gotta compete with those guys. (To) be playing a non-league game right now, it doesn’t matter. We want to get back up on that horse and ride, get after it a little bit.”
Junior offensive lineman Will Mohr said there was more of a sense of urgency in practice this week.
“We were definitely happy to get back out there (to practice), and get that Rhode Island loss behind us,” Mohr said. “We definitely had to get back to the basics, like footwork and the really small stuff that gets past you, you stop thinking about. (It) was physical, intense, (and) definitely what we need.”
Two late turnovers against Rhode Island last week proved devastating for the Wildcats. The Rams’ James Timmins returned a fumble 39 yards with 2:23 left to give URI the lead and the win. UNH led 18-13 entering the fourth quarter and 25-21 before the fumble. Victor Adesanya sacked UNH quarterback R.J. Toman on the fateful play, allowing Timmins to run in the winning score. On the Wildcats’ final drive, Toman’s pass on third-and-11 from the URI 42-yard line was intercepted.
“We can’t look back right now,” McDonnell said. “We have to start looking forward. There’s a lot of football left to get where we want to go, and we have to win the next game. (This week) guys went out there and practiced and did some good things. If we keep doing that, we’ll be OK.”
Lehigh enters Saturday’s game 2-1 on the season following a 35-22 win at home over Princeton. Senior cornerback Jarard Cribbs made seven tackles with two interceptions against the Tigers. Senior linebacker Al Pierce leads the team in tackles with 33, including a pair of sacks. Senior left tackle Will Rackley was an Associated Press All-America selection last year.
Junior quarterback Chris Lum has taken most of the snaps this season for the Mountain Hawks, but appeared to suffer an injury and was replaced in the second quarter against Princeton by Michael Colvin.
“Offensively, they have a lot of really skilled players,” McDonnell said of the Mountain Hawks. “Good-sized kids who play hard and are really good in open spaces. (They) didn’t skip a beat when Colvin went in. (Their) quarterbacks are strong kids who run with the football and do a good job of utilizing the quarterback in the run game.”
McDonnell acknowledged that penalties were a problem for the Wildcats against URI last week, as UNH committed 11 for 104 yards.
“We have a lot of other problems than our penalties right now that we have to take care of,” McDonnell said. “Although cutting down on those would really help us still sustain drives and keep things alive.”
Saturday will also be UNH’s first home game since opening the season with a 33-3 win against Central Connecticut on Sept. 4. The Wildcats hope playing on their home field — and winning there — will help erase the memory of the Rhode Island loss.
“In five years I think (the URI game was) the worst loss we’ve had,” Souza said. “But we’re preparing right now the same way for every game and we need a win, so hopefully we’ll get that this weekend.”
UNH will be hurting, injury-wise, on the defensive side of the ball. Middle linebacker Devon Jackson is out with shoulder woes and defensive lineman John Murray is still suffering from an injured ankle. Offensive lineman Seamus O’Neill is doubtful for Saturday after suffering a concussion at URI.
Sophomore Alan Buzbee filled in for Jackson last week and made 10 tackles.
“Buzbee got better as the game went on, but he played way too many snaps,” McDonnell said. “We have to figure out a way to get him some rest. (He’s) good enough, but it’s not Devon Jackson.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
By John Doyle, Foster’s Daily Democrat