By GREG LAUDANI
The UNH football team got out to an early eight-point lead in the first quarter but could not sustain enough scoring drives, as the Wildcats were taken down 34-18 by CAA rival William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on Saturday afternoon.
New Hampshire (3-3, 1-2 CAA) went up 15-7 in the second quarter after running back Dalton Crossan gashed the defense on a 37-yard touchdown run. William & Mary (4-2, 3-1 CAA) roared back less than a minute later when running back Kendell Anderson broke off a 69-yard scoring run to narrow UNH’s lead to 15-14.
The Tribe took off from there, scoring 20 unanswered points to secure a 34-15 edge by the start of the fourth quarter. UNH kicker Christian Breda added a late field goal but the Wildcats could not match William & Mary with touchdown drives of their own.
“The season starts now,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said. “We have to run the table if we are going to go where we want to go.”
William & Mary moved the ball primarily on the ground the entire game. The Tribe finished with 325 total rushing yards while Anderson led the team with 174 yards on 27 carries. Tribe quarterback Steve Cluley managed the game with 14 completions on 22 passes for 145 yards and a 30-yard touchdown pass to DeVonte Dedmon in the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, UNH finally got its leader back under center in quarterback Sean Goldrich after he missed three games with a high ankle sprain he suffered against Colgate University on Sept. 12.
Goldrich completed 15 of his 29 passes for 154 yards and two interceptions against a top CAA defense in William & Mary. The senior was pressured heavily throughout the game and was sacked five times.
Against William & Mary’s defense, Goldrich and the Wildcats’ offense struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone.
A prime example came at the end of the first half when UNH drove 65 yards in 12 plays but time expired before it could get any points on the board. The Wildcats started the drive at their own 25-yard line and rolled all the way to the Tribe’s 10.
McDonnell said his team’s inability to score in the red zone, along with its struggles to stop the William & Mary running game, was why his team came up short.
“We had to come out of there with some scores in the red zone,” he said. “I thought we moved the ball and did some things but we just didn’t finish drives when we need to.”
McDonnell pointed out another productive drive the Wildcats could not capitalize on. Early in the third quarter, UNH marched 73 yards in 13 plays and ended up on the William & Mary 5-yard line. New Hampshire could not punch the ball in the end zone and could not manage to come away with a field goal, either, as Breda missed a 22-yard attempt to end the opportunity.
“We should’ve gotten seven down there and must have gotten three against a team like that,” McDonnell said. “We’ll go back and figure out what we need to do for next week and get ready for Delaware.”
Crossan reflected his coach’s frustration with the offense’s inability to finish drives. The running back finished with a team-high 109 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“You drive all the way down the field and then you don’t come away with anything,” he said. “You need to come away with some points. We need to finish in the red zone.”
The Wildcats also struggled with special teams after starting the game as well as a team could in the kicking game. Casey DeAndrade ran back a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter to give UNH a 7-0 lead.
But UNH’s special teams stumbled later on as Breda’s third-quarter punt was blocked and recovered by William & Mary at the Wildcats’ 10-yard line.
The Tribe scored two plays later on Cluley’s 5-yard plunge, which extended William & Mary’s advantage to 27-15 late in the third quarter.
“Good teams win the special teams battle,” McDonnell said. “We won them all last year. We’re only winning half of them right now.”
DeAndrade said the Wildcats’ backs are against the wall but he is confident they will use past experience battling adversity to get back on track again this season.
“Unfortunately we have been here, but fortunately we have been here before,” he said. “It’s a good thing and we just need to get back to work.”
New Hampshire hopes to bounce back next weekend on the road against CAA opponent University of Delaware on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 3:30 p.m.
Tribe keeps ‘Cats from running wild
By GREG LAUDANI