UNH has high hopes for Saturday's home playoff game
DURHAM — The University of New Hampshire football team plays its first home playoff game since 2005 when it takes on Patriot League champion Lafayette in a first-round contest in the FCS tournament on Saturday at noon in Cowell Stadium.
The Wildcats would love to match — on the field and in the stands — what they did the last time they played a Patriot League champion at home in the playoffs.
UNH was the No. 1 seed in the playoffs in 2005 and drew a first-round game against Colgate. They beat the Raiders, 55-21, in front of 7,806 fans to advance in the tournament.
The school put in an aggressive bid to get Saturday’s game, said director of athletics Marty Scarano.
“We had to be pretty aggressive with the bid process,” Scarano said. “We kind of hung it out there if you would budgetarily to get this game. We bid over the minimum. That’s what you have to do now. The fact of the matter is, it’s great. It’s a great opportunity and I hope fans will rally around that and buy a couple of tickets and come out support the program.”
The minimum bid for a first-round game was $30,000.
After beating Colgate in 2005, UNH lost to Northern Iowa, 24-21, the next week in the quarterfinals, also at Cowell.
The Wildcats have qualified for the playoffs in each of the last 10 years, which is the longest streak in the country.
They have been on the road for each game since 2005.
UNH’s football facilities do not match up well at all with others around the country and the NCAA has never been in a hurry to award home games to the school.
Each of the last two seasons, UNH has received a bye in the first round and lost in the second round. The Wildcats fell, 26-25, at Montana State two years ago and last year dropped a 23-7 decision at Wofford.
Lafayette and UNH are both playing their best football of the season.
The Leopards started the season 1-5 and have won four of their last five games and come in at 5-6 overall. They beat Lehigh, 50-28, on Saturday to win the Patriot League championship and its automatic bid to the tournament.
UNH lost three of its first four games of the season and roared back to win six of its last seven, capping the run off with a 24-3 win over Maine at Cowell Stadium on Saturday.
The Wildcats split their two games against Patriot League teams this season, beating Colgate, 53-23, at home in game two and losing to Lehigh, 34-27, on the road in their next game.
Now they will try to take out the team that took out Lehigh.
“Our fans came out and did a great job of supporting the team in 2005 and hopefully they do it again,” Scarano said. “I think we need in the high 5000s to meet the budget. I think anything above 5,500-6,000 would suffice.”