By Josh Sullivan, Sports Editor
The Wildcats aren’t slowing down. Head coach Sean McDonnell isn’t letting them slow up. Why would they?
“Our schedule’s been working so far,” senior center Mike Coccia said. “I don’t really want to change anything.”
So with that, UNH will maintain their day-to-day routine, just as they have since football started up back in August. McDonnell and his coaching staff won’t ease up on the physicality during practice.
“I’m a creature of habit, that’s why,” the head coach said.
The two teams have several similarities, mainly the amount of weapons they have. UNH has used tight end Harold Spears to do the majority of the catching whenever wide receiver R.J. Harris has been covered or shut down by opposing defenses and spreads the ball around to wideouts Jared Allison and Jimmy Giansante with ease. The options at running back have been endless all year, and quarterback Sean Goldrich has had the option to give the ball to either Jimmy Owens or Nico Steriti in the backfield. Now that Dalton Crossan is healthy, he’ll be just another ball carrier to look out for.
But the Rams do the same. They have three wideouts with over 1,000 yards this season and two running backs in Chase Edmonds and Kendall Pearcey that are young and explosive.
Going forward, the biggest issue the Wildcats have is a lack of consistency at the kicker position. Kicker Christian Breda has struggled this season, only hitting 50 percent of his field goals. Going into the playoffs, where those three points can be the difference between advancing in the playoffs and going home for the rest of the winter, it’s an issue McDonnell’s staff is taking very seriously. Senior punter Brad Prasky and redshirt freshman Max Pedinoff will compete with Breda in practice for the starting spot this weekend, and McDonnell said that it’s possible that two candidates could split long and short field goals or kickoffs and field goal duties.
“I’ll let you know who will kick Friday after we put all the stats together,” he said.
UNH will have home-field throughout at Cowell Stadium until the national championship game in Frisco, Texas, if they make it that far. The cold and rainy weather expected for Saturday will fit right in to the rest of the Dungeon’s vibe.
“I’m not really sure what it is,” Coccia said with a laugh about the advantage Cowell gives the Wildcats. “But whatever it is, I like it.”
UNH also had the benefit of having last week off. McDonnell said that the bye week doesn’t worry him a bit, and that it actually allowed Giansante and cornerback Stephen Thames to heal up after getting banged up against Maine.
“The guy who probably had the most anxiety about us taking two weeks off was my son,” McDonnell said. “He said, ‘Have you done it before?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Have you won?’ I said, ‘We’ve won one and we’ve lost one.’”
Hold on to the ball
Turnovers will be the key to this game. So long as the Wildcats hold on to the ball — something they struggled to do against Maine as they coughed it up six times —they will keep the Fordham offense off of the field and force the defense to try and keep up. If the UNH defense can force turnovers, they’ll leave their offense on the field and let Owens, Steriti and Crossan to try and run the ball down Fordham’s throats until time expires.
The Rams took down Sacred Heart last Saturday by a score of 44-22 to advance to the second round of the FCS playoffs. Fordham has experience; seven of its offensive starters and all but one of the starters on defense are seniors, something McDonnell made sure to point out to those who asked how they looked. However, one of their biggest offensive weapons is freshman running back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds has 22 touchdowns on the year and 1,630 rushing thus far, which averages out to about 125 per game. New England Patriots fans will see a familiar name on the Rams depth chart: Tebucky Jones, Jr. Jones is the son of the NFL safety by the same name who played at Syracuse and for the Patriots where he won a Super Bowl in 2001. Jones is a 6-foot-tall wide receiver that transferred from UConn who has reeled in 13 touchdowns so far and is one of three wideouts that has over 1,000 yards receiving. The other two receivers, Brian Wetzel and Sam Ajala, are both seniors who average above 80 receiving yards a game. Quarterback Mike Nebrich is an accurate passer who transferred to Fordham from UConn. UNH will need to get after him and be physical to make an impact, but don’t expect that to slow down the Rams’ offense too much. “He’s a tough kid. He’ll get hit when he’s throwing the ball and get right back up. He’s taken a lickin’ and he keeps on ticking.” Jones, Edmonds, and right tackle Matt Stolte were all named as players that UNH offered scholarships to that chose to go elsewhere instead. This isn’t a team like Southeast Louisiana, whom UNH beat in the NCAA quarterfinals last season: this is a team with some familiarity.