‘Cats win seventh game straight over Great Danes
By Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer
UNH pushed its winning streak to seven games after dominating Albany with a 49-24 win. Senior wide receiver RJ Harris scored three touchdowns with 129 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Andy Vailas chipped in by going 18 -24 for 188 yards and two touchdowns while senior defensive end Cody Muller led a UNH defense that caused three turnovers. “I thought it was a good effort,” head coach Sean McDonnell said. “They (Albany) do some really good things on offense but we were able to settle in and get a lot of pressure.”
The win elevated the Wildcats the 7-1 overall, while the Great Danes fell to 6-3.
“We got our butts kicked tonight,” Albany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “(UNH) came out very workman like. They’re a great football team and there is a reason that they are number two in the country.”
UNH started the game as they always do, fast. The Wildcats started the game with an eight play, 79 yard drive that was capped off by a 25-yard touchdown run by senior running back Nico Steriti.
The Wildcat defense held the Albany offense and forced a long field goal from junior kicker Patrick Toole. Toole’s attempt just came short and the Wildcats regained the ball. Two drives later the Wildcats found the end zone again, this time it was a 16-yard pass from Vailas to Harris across the middle of the field to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.
After holding the Great Danes to a three-and-out, the Wildcat offense went to work again. With a shortened field the Wildcats moved into the red zone quickly. A 22-yard rush by junior wide receiver Jared Allison highlighted the drive. Vailas found Harris again, this time from 18 yards out to put the Wildcats up 20-0. Vailas then found Spears to convert a two point conversion.
Albany came back to grab a 23 yard field goal by Toole on the next drive. Albany senior quarterback Will Fiacchi started the drive off by connecting on a 40 yard pass with red shirt freshman Brad Harris. A couple of defensive pass inferences penalties put Toole in range as he put the Great Danes on the board, 22-3.
The Wildcats experienced a scare in the next drive when Harris limped off the field and received medical attention. Harris was taken to the locker room for further evaluation. The Wildcats drive stalled and they punted away to the Great Danes.
Harris reappeared from the locker-room after the Great Danes ran just one play. Junior cornerback Dougie Moss read Fiacchi’s eyes and picked off his pass.
Right before the half, UNH marched down the field again, this time going 65 yards in just 36 seconds to score another touchdown. Harris took the handoff on an end around play and took it to the end zone to push the lead to 29-3 at halftime.
“Those aren’t trick plays, we call them element plays,” Harris said. “It starts up front with the line I’m just in the right place at the right time. They sealed the edge for me, and the wide receivers gave me a lane to the end zone
The second half started out with more of the same when the UNH linebacker Akil Anderson picked Fiacchi and returned the ball to the UNH 18 yard line. It only took Vailas and the offense two plays before senior running back Jimmy Owens took it 18 yards to ultimately put the game away at 36-3.
“We are really consistent on offense,” Harris said. “We have so many weapons. That makes us one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. We have weapons all over the field.”
Albany would not quit though. The Great Danes caused two UNH turnovers on kickoffs and Fiacchi was able to convert both those turnovers into touchdown passes. In total the Great Danes scored three times in the third quarter.
“Coach told us at halftime we were either going to get better or we were going to get worse,” Fiacchi said. “We kept working and kept pounding away and did what we could to do better.”
The Great Danes got as close as 42-24 before UNH backup quarterback Chris McCormick engineered a 12 play, 65-yard drive that took six minutes and 55 seconds off the clock. Red shirt freshman Donald Goodrich capped off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to finish the game at 49-24.
The Wildcats offense finished with 424 yards of total offense while allowing 311 to the Great Danes, who average 386 yards per game this season including 160 yards per game on the ground.
“We played our game,” Muller said. “It started upfront. We got great push then when the running backs bounced outside we gang tackled him.”
Harris took the air out of a lot of the UNH fans early in the second quarter. On a standard five yard and out, Harris came limping off the field and was in noticeable pain. After receiving medical attention on the sidelines, he was escorted to the locker room by team trainers.
“It’s nothing to be worried about,” Harris said. “The trainers do a good job here. They brought me in, told me what the problem was, gave me some medicine, and I went back out there. It was nice to see that the offense was still clicking ”
The Wildcats will head on the road next Saturday. They will play at Rhode Island, who has yet to put a one in the win column this season, standing at 0-9. The game will be played Meade Stadium in Kingston R.I at 12:40 p.m.