UNH came out flat on offense in Saturday night’s game at Stony Brook and was unable to get anything started until late in the second quarter. The game was an ugly offensive showing, but there’s one play in particular that I keep replaying in my mind.
UNH was down 17-6 and was driving into Seawolves’ territory in the third quarter, when they were stopped a yard shy of the first down. On fourth-and-1, quarterback Adam Reise took the shotgun snap and handed the ball to Dalton Crossan. But he was met by a wall of Stony Brook defenders and the stop gave the home team the ball and the momentum back.
One of the oldest clichés in any sports movie—and one of the best, if you ask me—is when the team is facing a make-or-break play, and hope is hanging by a thread. It’s in those moments that someone steps up. Sometimes it’s the star, and he makes the play the team needs to win. Jimmy Chitwood steps up and makes a last-second shot to give Hickory the state championship in Hoosiers. Sometimes the star steps up and fails, like when Mike Winchell is tackled at the goal line, right before he caps the Permian Panthers comeback in Friday Night Lights.
There are endless examples, especially considering the number of movies I’ve spent my time watching. But they all have that one thing in common. Someone steps up.
Am I saying that no one showed any heart in the UNH game? No. I think Dalton Crossan’s proven to be as dependable and tough-nosed a runner as anyone could have hoped this year. He fought hard for each of the 40 rushing yards he tallied on Saturday.
There were a few other bright spots for the offense. Rory Donovan hauled in five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown—he entered the game without a reception as a Wildcat. True freshman Amechie Walker looked like he could be an explosive weapon for the ‘Cats in years to come.
But if you ask me, those guys shouldn’t have been the ones on the field getting thrown at. The biggest question mark facing this team in the preseason was who was going to help replace the production that R.J. Harris and Harold Spears provided last year. And the same names kept coming up—senior wide receiver Jared Allison; senior wide receiver Mike Kelly; junior tight end Jordan Powell; sophomore wide receiver Aaron Lewis-Cenales. The foursome combined for two rushes for 6 yards and three receptions for 31 yards.
The offensive line raises some doubt too, after Mike Coccia left for the NFL and Tad McNeely’s season-ending injury at Colgate. Those questions weren’t answered on Saturday, as the Seawolves dominated the line of scrimmage to the tune of six sacks. Stony Brook ceded only 75 yards rushing in the game.
Watching this game, I just have a hard time believing UNH head coach Sean McDonnell had to deal with clichés coming to life on that fourth-and-1. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t imagine anyone in that huddle demanding “Give me the ball, coach,” or “Run behind me, coach. I can get the yard.”
Will the team perform better when starting quarterback and senior captain Sean Goldrich returns from injury? Almost undoubtedly. But would Goldrich have made the 25-point difference that the Wildcats would’ve needed on Saturday night? Without some fire in the rest of the offense’s belly, it’s unlikely.
It’s fourth-and-1 and the game’s in the air. Who tells Coach Mac “I’m your man”?