By GREG LAUDANI
After a frustrating 43-13 season-opening loss to San Jose State, the Wildcats are getting set to take on Colgate University on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m.
At his weekly press conference at the UNH Field House, head coach Sean McDonnell told reporters that his team must quickly shift its focus from the loss and move on to Colgate. He reiterated that what matters now is how the Wildcats respond to their sizable defeat.
“That game is done,” he said. “The next ten games define who we are and what we do. This next one is huge.”
Senior wide receiver Jared Allison said a win against Colgate would help UNH regain the swagger it had rolling into this season.
“Coming off a loss, the first one [win] is going to be huge for us,” he said. “It’s going to give us an opportunity to get back in our zone and find a little rhythm. If we get this win this week that would be huge for us.”
Colgate (0-1) is a member of the Patriot League – not the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) like UNH. However, the teams could potentially meet up in the FCS playoffs this winter.
“This one is immense because it is a non-league game against a very good Patriot League opponent who, at our level of FCS football, people are looking at how we are going to compete against those teams if the opportunity presents itself down the road in the playoffs,” McDonnell said.
Colgate dropped its home opener 48-10 at Navy on Sept. 5. McDonnell said Colgate is a “very, very good team” and respects the way its offense commits to running the football.
The Raiders feature three consistent rushing threats, including junior John Wilkins, senior Demetrius Russell and sophomore James Holland. McDonnell said the team runs the ball on about 65 percent of its plays.
Despite the loss to Navy, Colgate’s running game found some traction, with Wilkins rushing for 69 yards, Russell running for 64 yards, and Holland for 26 yards.
“They have a triple-headed monster at running back,” he said. “And their throws are smart and calculated. They want to run the ball and make people defend the whole field with the way they do it with the run game.”
In the passing game, Colgate’s starter, Jake Melville completed only 14 of his 27 passes, for 127 yards and the Raiders’ lone touchdown pass.
One of the men trying to stop Colgate’s running game will be defensive back Casey DeAndrade. Now a junior, DeAndrade takes his veteran role on the team very seriously. He said one major key to getting ready for the Raiders will be a strong week of practice, which DeAndrade pointed out as something veteran players must preach to younger ones: the value of practice reps.
“Being one of the older kids now, it’s important for us to be intense in practice,” he said. “We have to get the younger kids going. We all have to be at the top of our game and I think we will be.”
Allison echoed DeAndrade while talking about the necessity for a strong veteran presence in the UNH locker room. The wide receiver said UNH’s upperclassmen need to help young players stay focused when adversity strikes.
“As seniors, we look at it as if things aren’t going right, we should put it on our shoulders,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys that should help us make plays this year. But if things don’t go right, we’re older and we’ve been through it, so we have to pull them through.”
At the team’s weekly press conference Wednesday, Allison addressed the Raiders’ defense, which McDonnell described as “very stout and physical.” Allison said he is confident in his team’s ability to move the ball against Colgate if UNH’s offense plays as a unit.
“It’s not going to be an easy game,” he said. “They [Colgate] are going to come out and fight. But we have enough talent on our team that as long as we all play together, then there should be no team that can stop what we have.”
Last week, against San Jose, UNH managed to gain only 186 total yards on offense, 126 on the ground and 60 yards on the arm of Goldrich. The defense, meanwhile, allowed 707 yards to its FBS opponent. The team will also look to improve on third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball.
McDonnell also gave reporters injury updates on Wednesday. Sophomore defensive back Patrick Mensah, who has been battling injury, will “probably” play against Colgate, according to McDonnell. Mensah practiced with the team on Tuesday.
Senior cornerback Dougie Moss has a sprained ankle and is uncertain for Saturday’s game, according to McDonnell. The head coach also said that sophomore linebacker Odaine Franklyn practiced Tuesday but is also uncertain for UNH’s matchup against Colgate. Junior offensive lineman Andrew Lauderdale injured his knee against San Jose State and has not participated fully in practice this week, according to McDonnell.