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Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Big-time foes to invade Durham

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 13. 2013 9:51PM
Rhode Island quarterback Bob Bentsen is surrounded by UNH's defense, including Jay Colbert, left, and Rashid Armand, during Homecoming weekend, on Saturday in Durham. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

DURHAM -- FASTEN your chin straps: That’s one big weekend down, another one coming right up at the ol’ State U.

The University of New Hampshire football team attracted one of its largest Cowell Stadium crowds ever for its get-the-season-back-on-track win over Rhode Island on Saturday, while the men’s hockey team was kicking off its season in Minnesota.

Both teams will be in town this weekend for high-profile encounters.

The football team takes on Colonial Athletic Association rival Villanova in the latest in a stretch of crucial games on Saturday, sandwiched between UNH hockey games against perennial power Michigan at the Whittemore Center on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.).

“It should be great,” said hockey coach Dick Umile on Sunday afternoon as he headed off to do a little recruiting before he went home.

“Hopefully we get great turnouts for both teams. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Athletics Department officials announced 18,412 tickets were out for the Homecoming football game against Rhode Island. About 7,000 of the tickets were distributed to UNH students and a fair share of the crowd never left the tailgating area for the inside of Cowell.

Still, the crowd pushed the estimated 20,000 number the school lists as its record attendance for a Nov. 12, 1977 game against Massachusetts.

The Wildcats treated the crowd to a 59-19 throttling of URI to up their overall record to 2-3 and even their CAA record at 1-1.

Next comes a huge test against Villanova.

Just how much of a test it is became even more clear on Saturday night when Villanova jumped out early at Towson, the No. 2-ranked team in the FCS, and rolled to a 45-35 win. UNH had opened an early lead at Towson the week before, but was unable to hold on and lost, 44-28.

Villanova, led by sophomore quarterback John Robertson’s remarkable game, finished the job.

Robertson is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds and was named the CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year and won the Jerry Rice Award as the best freshman in the FCS last year.

Against Towson, he completed 17 of his 18 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also carried 32 times for 150 yards and three scores.

For the season, Robertson is the fifth-most productive rusher in the league at 98.8 yards per game and has scored eight touchdowns. He has completed 94 of his 132 passes (71.2 percent) with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Villanova was impressive defensively against Towson, too, and forced five turnovers with three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The Philadelphia-based Wildcats held Terrance West to 61 yards rushing and a couple of scores on 15 carries, a week after he torched UNH for 238 yards and three scores on 28 carries.

Andy Talley’s team lost its first two games of the season, 24-14 to Boston College and 27-24 to undefeated Fordham, and now has won four straight over Stony Brook (35-6), Penn (35-6), William & Mary (20-16) and now Towson.


THE NO. 13-RANKED men’s hockey team beat Clarkson, 4-2, on Friday in its season opener and then lost to host Minnesota, 3-2, in the championship game of the Ice Breaker Tournament on Saturday night.

“We saw some good things,” Umile said. “I don’t think we’ll see anyone better than Minnesota during the season. They’re real quick and skilled and have good goaltending. We had a real good chance to tie the game with eight seconds left. Dalton Speelman was right there on the back door and the kid made a great save.”

Senior Jeff Wyer played well in goal on Friday night and Casey DeSmith, the junior from Rochester, did the same on Saturday.

The Wildcats were missing top line senior forward Kevin Goumas for much of the weekend.

He took a hit in the rib cage area late in the first period on Friday night and came out for the second period but was unable to go.

Umile said Goumas has a deep muscle pull and it’s not yet clear whether he will be able to play against Michigan.

The No. 11-ranked Wolverines knocked off Boston College, 3-1, in their opener at home on Thursday night and beat RIT, 7-4, in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday night.

“They’re real good,” Umile said. “They’ll be similar to what we saw this weekend. Whether we win or not will depend on how we handle everything, but we proved we can skate and compete with anybody.”


CAMERON LYLE, the Timberlane Regional of Plaistow graduate who ended his UNH track and field career early last spring to become a bone marrow donor, has been named the recipient of a major NCAA award.

Lyle will receive the organization’s 2014 Award of Valor, which recognizes a courageous act or noteworthy bravery by an individual associated with intercollegiate athletics.

Lyle chose to pass up the America East championships last spring when he discovered he was a rare match for a 28-year-old man who had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

There was no time to spare, or to delay the procedure, and after more tests entered the hospital to have marrow extracted.

Communication between donor and bone marrow recipient is very limited and guided by strict rules, but according to a story on the NCAA web site, Lyle received word a few months after his donation that the recipient was doing well.

In the meantime, Lyle has become an advocate for the Be the Match program that supports the National Marrow Donor program. He first got involved with Be the Match when he went to get his cheek swabbed during an event sponsored by the UNH football team. On Twitter: @AllenLessels

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