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Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Defense drives Wildcats' bus -- all the way to Orono
New Hampshire senior defensive end Jay Colbert blew past the Lafayette left tackle and chased down quarterback Drew Reed for a sack on the first play of Saturday's FCS first-round tournament game in Cowell Stadium.
A surging and sack-happy defense took charge early and the Wildcats had complete control of the game at halftime on the way to a 45-7 win over the Patriot League champions in front of 3,286 fans.
"The big thing is, going up there it's going to be the ultimate challenge for us to beat a team twice in one season, to beat our arch-rival twice in one season," said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. "But the great thing is, like I told the guys, we're going. We're going and we've got another day to play. We're going to be on the bus next week driving up to Orono and we have an opportunity to play."
He had been super-efficient with the ball, and UNH coaches thought as they game-planned that they might be able to cause him some problems if they could get pressure on him and force him out of the pocket.
Did they ever.
The Wildcats sacked Reed 10 times in the game, six in the first half, as they opened up a 31-0 lead.
He had three sacks for the season coming into the game. He had three Saturday, including the opening play of the game, which set a tone.
Lafayette coach Frank Tavani, for good reason, saw it from the other side.
"That was probably the main problem," Tavani said. "Our left tackle is an all-conference player and he just couldn't handle him (Colbert). It's one of those things. There's not a lot you can do. You can't put three guys over there to block him. And when that happens, you have to credit the opponent."
Nine players total, including junior linebacker Shane McNeely with a sack and a half and junior defensive tackle Matt Kaplan of Franklin, had at least half a sack for the Wildcats.
Most of the sacks were timely, too.
Now it's on to Orono.
Each team is playing for its tournament life with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
Just once before, in fact, have UNH and Maine played two games in a season, and it's been a while.
Maine won the first game in the series, 18-0, in Orono on Sept. 16, 1903. Maine took the rematch a month later, 27-0, in a game played in Dover.
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