Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats trying for the sweet note on the gridiron
DURHAM -- THEY PUT together yet another impressive season.
They ran off six straight wins and earned a share of the Colonial Athletic Association championship and qualified for the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision tournament for a nation’s-best ninth straight season.
But the 2012 season did not end well for the University of New Hampshire football team.
“It was a tough ending to a nice story,” said Andy Vailas of Bedford, now a junior and again vying for the starting job at quarterback with sophomore Sean Goldrich.
“It absolutely was a sour finish,” said senior running back and co-captain Chris Setian at UNH’s Media Day season on Sunday afternoon in Cowell Stadium.
Last November, the Wildcats were rolling and had beaten William & Mary for the first time in more than a decade for that sixth consecutive win and were looking to avenge a beating they had taken the year before at Towson.
UNH trailed 30-28 at halftime. The Tigers took over in the second half and turned the game into a 64-35 rout.
The Wildcats, 8-3 in the regular season at the time and 6-2 in the CAA, received a bid and a first-round bye to the FCS playoffs the next day.
They went to Spartanburg, S.C., two weeks later and lost in the second round to Wofford, 23-7.
The offense collected just 238 yards of total offense — it averaged 451.7 for the season — and the only points came on a 14-yard return of a fumble by defensive end Cody Muller.
“On offense, Wofford stands out more to us just because we didn’t score a single point and that’s not what the offense has been about my whole career here and our tradition here,” Setian said.
Wofford marked the first time UNH had lost consecutive games to FCS teams in a single season since 2007.
The dual defeats helped fuel the team during winter and spring workouts and through the summer.
“It motivates us for this year,” Vailas said. “We’re still thinking about it. It’s in the back of our minds and pushing us. It’s tough to end the season like that, but we’ll correct those mistakes.”
To be fair, only one team that makes the FCS tournament — which this year expands to 24 entrants — is happy with the way its season ends.
But UNH’s finish did not sit well with players or coaches and they look forward to getting back on the field to try and make up for it.
“I know since I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve had, statistically on the scoreboard anyway, a worse game,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Carty of the Wofford loss. “We’ve had some bad games, but we at least put up a couple of touchdowns. There were a lot of factors in that one, but for the most part I think we got outcoached and we got outplayed.”
Will McInerny, a 6-foot-7 and 290-pounder out of Bedford, is one of four incoming freshmen linemen from the state on the roster. The others are Jake Kennedy, 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds out of Souhegan Regional High School and Amherst, Rick Holt, 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds from Portsmouth, and Mike Lynch, 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds out of Nashua.
McInerny and Kennedy are listed as offensive linemen, Holt as a defensive lineman and Lynch as a defensive end.
McInerny did not play as a senior in high school because of knee issues and is coming off surgeries and will likely redshirt this season, sitting out games and retaining a year of eligibility, as do most true freshmen.
“He hasn’t played football in a year,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. “It’s going to be a real long process. He’ll practice and do things, but we have to be smart and easy with him.”
The UNH Field House and the fields around it are getting to be busy places again with teams reporting for pre-season workouts.
The women’s soccer team opens the season against Colgate on Aug. 23 and Sacred Heart on Aug. 25 in the TD Bank Classic at the University of Vermont. The Wildcats face Providence at home on Aug. 30.
The cross country teams face Providence in Durham on Aug. 31. The women race at 11 a.m. and the men at 11:45 a.m. in their only home meets of the season.
The volleyball team opens the season at the Lehigh Classic on Aug. 30. The Wildcats play Lehigh on Friday and Rhode Island and St. Peter’s on Saturday.
The men’s soccer team plays Bradley University on Aug. 30 and Evansville on Sept. 1 in the Bradley University tournament.
The field hockey plays Maryland on Aug. 31 and Temple on Sept. 1 in the Conference Cup at Temple.
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