Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats have to stop the bleeding
THE University of New Hampshire football team fell to 1-3 with Saturday’s 44-28 loss at Towson in its Colonial Athletic Association opener.
The Wildcats, No. 19 last week, may or may not fall out of the Top 25 in The Sports Network poll when the rankings are released this afternoon. UNH has been in the Top 25 for 131 consecutive weeks, by far the longest streak in the country, since early in the 2004 season.
The rankings are the least of the concerns facing head coach Sean McDonnell, his staff and team this morning.
The Wildcats need to get back on track. Quickly.
They play their next two games at home in Cowell Stadium, starting with Rhode Island on Saturday for Homecoming and followed by Villanova on Oct. 19.
The Rams fell to 2-4 overall with a 31-14 loss to Brown on Saturday night. Their wins came against Albany, 19-13 in overtime, and Central Connecticut, 42-7.
“This is a good team,” McDonnell said on Sunday afternoon. “There are no easy ones in this league. Believe me, this game is huge for us, to get back to 1-1 in the league, to get back in the win column. We’ve got to play four consistent quarters.”
The Wildcats played one great period on Saturday and grabbed a 20-3 lead in the first 15 minutes.
Towson, ranked No. 2 in one poll and No. 3 in the other, took over after that and behind the running of junior Terrance West — 28 carries for 238 yards and three touchdowns — upped its record to 6-0.
UNH took advantage of two West fumbles to jump on top.
Towson capitalized on a pair of fumbles and an interception on three straight UNH possessions to turn the game around.
“It’s so apparent that we have to improve in two areas,” McDonnell said. “One is turnovers. We can’t turn the ball over. Defensively, we can hang in with people but we don’t dominate. We have to cut down on the big plays we give up.”
The Rams are last in the CAA in scoring average at 16.8 points per game. UNH is third at 32.2 points. URI allows 24.3 points a game, which is eighth best in the CAA, and UNH is a slot back at 31.2.
Junior linebacker Andrew Bose leads URI with 56 tackles and senior linebacker Dave Zocco, a former Nashua South standout, is next with 50.
This is only the second time in UNH’s string of nine straight FCS appearances — also the nation’s best — that the team has lost its third game before November.
The other came in 2010 when road losses at Rhode Island and Maine helped dropped the Wildcats to 2-3.
They responded with wins in five of their last six regular season games that year and made it into the playoffs with a 7-4 record.
Dating to last season, the Wildcats have lost five of their last six games.
“We have to find a way to get our mojo back,” McDonnell said.
Center Mike Coccia left Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury and Seamus O’Neill, the senior let tackle out of Manchester Central, has a knee problem, but McDonnell expects both to play against Rhode Island.
Sophomore defensive back Hayden Knudson, though, broke his foot on Saturday and will be out six to eight weeks, McDonnell said.
Coach Dick Umile’s top line of junior Grayson Downing centering for senior Kevin Goumas on the left and freshman Tyler Kelleher on the right contributed a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 6-3 exhibition game win over Acadia.
Downing, who had 15 goals last year and is the leading goal scorer among returners, scored them both. Goumas had a pair of assists and Kelleher added one.
Sophomore Kyle Smith also had two goals and senior defenseman Eric Knodel had a goal and an assist.
UNH, ranked No. 13 in the USCHO preseason poll, opens the regular season with a game against Clarkson on Friday in the Ice Breaker tournament at Minnesota.
The Wildcats will play either Minnesota, ranked No. 5, or Mercyhurst on Saturday.
Clarkson is the only team to have played a regular season game. The Golden Knights won a series at Niagara, 2-1 on Saturday night and 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.
No. 11-ranked Michigan comes to Durham for games on Oct. 18 and 19.
The women’s hockey team split a pair of 3-2 home games over the weekend. The Wildcats lost to RIT on Friday and came from behind to beat Syracuse on Saturday.
UNH is 2-2 overall and plays Maine in its Hockey East opener at the Whittemore Center on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The men’s soccer team, 6-3 overall and 1-0 in America East, opens a three-game homestand against Brown on Tuesday at 3:30. The Wildcats play Stony Brook on Saturday at 7 and Hartford on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7.
On Twitter: @AllenLessels