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October 10. 2013 9:33PM

Allen Lessels on College Football: Wildcats hope home is where the wins are

The University of New Hampshire football team has played three road games this season and lost them all.

To have a chance of extending their streak of FCS tournament appearances to 10, the Wildcats are going to have to turn that mark around in the second half of the season.

That's a concern for later this month, though.

The immediate challenge for coach Sean McDonnell's team is to use Saturday's Homecoming contest against Rhode Island and a game against Villanova next week, both at Cowell Stadium in Durham, to jump-start what has so far been a tough season.

The Wildcats are 1-3 overall — their win was a 53-23 decision over Colgate in their only home game on Sept. 14 — and are barely hanging on to a Top 25 ranking. They were No. 25 in The Sports Network poll this week, extending their streak in the poll to 132 weeks, which is easily the best among FCS schools.

Sophomore Sean Goldrich will start at quarterback for UNH on Saturday.Andy Vailas, the junior out of Bedford and Bishop Guertin High School of Nashua, has started the first four games of the season.

But he hurt his knee and missed a couple of series in last Saturday's loss at Towson and is not fully recovered.

Goldrich, who began last year as the starter at the position and started half the games, took over when Vailas was out.

"We're going with Goldrich," McDonnell said after practice on Thursday.

Vailas may be able to play some.

"We'll see how he feels," the coach said. "He's still a little sore, but he did a nice job today. We'll see how it goes."

Redshirt freshman offensive guard Tad McNeely left the Towson with a sprained ankle and will not play, McDonnell said.Alexander Morrill, also a redshirt freshman and out of Lebanon High School, will start in McNeely's spot.

"He's been very practicing very well and did a very good job when he went in against Towson," McDonnell said. "He held his own. He's a strong kid, a wide body. He plays hard and he plays physical."

Morrill is listed at 6-foot-2 and 299 pounds.

Rhode Island, which was winless last year, comes in with a 2-3 record with wins over Albany, 19-13 in overtime, and Central Connecticut, 42-7.

The Rams are averaging 16.8 points a game offensively and giving up 24.3. UNH scores at a 32.2 pace, but allows 31.2.Dave Zocco, a senior linebacker and former Nashua South standout, is the second leading tackler for the Rams with 50. Zocco missed all of last season with an injury.

"He's been a warrior this year and gotten off to a great start," said URI coach Joe Trainer. "He continues to be one of the big reasons we're a better football team this year than we were last. He has a subtle passion for the game. He's not a rah-rah guy. He watches a ton of film and has really made himself into a good football player."

- - - - -

DARTMOUTH, 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the Ivy League, begins a string of three straight home games. Saturday, the Big Green host Yale at 1:30 p.m.

The Big Green look to rebound from a 37-31, four-overtime loss at Penn last week in the longest game in Ivy League history.

Yale is off to a 3-0 start and is 1-0 in the Ivies with wins over Colgate, 39-22, Cornell, 38-23 and Cal-Poly, 24-10. Yale averages a well-balanced 486.7 yards of offense a game, collecting 232.7 yards rushing and 254 yards passing.

The Bulldogs are allowing 357 yards of offense a game.

Concord native Rick Flanders is Yale's defensive coordinator and Joe Conlin, a former UNH assistant coach, is the associate head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

- - - - -

ST. ANSELM took a 27-26 lead with less than six minutes to play, but was unable to close out Bentley last week and lost, 32-27.

The Hawks, 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the Northeast-10, play their next two games at home, starting with Assumption tonight at 7 and followed by Merrimack next Saturday.

Assumption, 2-3 and 2-2, lost its last game at New Haven, 21-18, on Oct. 4. Colin Cray, a senior defensive lineman out of Amherst and Souhegan High School, has five tackles for the Greyhounds.

- - - - -

PLYMOUTH STATE, 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the MASCAC, is off this week.

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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