Saturday at 3:30 p.m.; Wildcat Stadium in Durham, N.H.
UNH is 2-2; William & Mary is 2-2
In each of the last three games, the Wildcats defense has converted a turnover into a game-changing defensive touchdown. More big plays will be needed by the UNH secondary to slow down senior quarterback Steve Cluley and the Tribe receivers on Saturday. UNH opponents have averaged over 300 passing yards per game so far this season, ranking the Wildcats last in the Colonial Athletic Association.
There are plenty of playmakers in the secondary however, with all-CAA senior cornerback Casey DeAndrade leading a group of young defensive backs. The group has a total of four interceptions and three forced fumbles through four contests but need to limit the big yardage plays that have plagued them. Cluley threw for 16 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in 2015, but has gotten off to a rocky start in 2016 already tossing seven interceptions to go with four touchdowns.
UNH rushing attack
Senior running back Dalton Crossan led the Wildcats again in rushing against Rhode Island, gaining 87 yards with a 4.6 yards per carry average. Crossan is one touchdown away from 20 touchdowns in his Wildcat career and 161 all-purpose yards away from 4,000. Both milestones are achievable on Saturday but Crossan’s backup junior Trevon Bryant can’t be overlooked. Bryant’s hardnosed running style provided a spark last week at URI, as he galvanized a second half touchdown drive.
UNH passing offense
Sophomore receiver Neil O’Connor was sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight’s favorite target last weekend, as they connected six times for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Crossan has shown to be a threat in the short passing game as well as redshirt freshman wide receiver Malik Love. Love leads the Wildcats with 21 receptions and has found himself in a starting role. A UNH tight end did not catch a pass last week with senior Jordan Powell still suspended.
William & Mary rushing attack
William & Mary’s passing game feeds off their running game that rotates in various running backs to run behind their veteran offensive line. The Tribe has three tailbacks, along with Cluley, which have carried the ball over 20 times this season. Redshirt freshman Albert Funderburke is now expected to be out for the season after suffering a knee injury in their loss at home last week against Elon. Senior Kendell Anderson is expected to start in Funderburke’s place, but expect plenty of junior Jonathan Dunn as well.
William & Mary passing offense
Cluley has struggled out of the gate in his senior season but has shown in the pass to be a threat through the air in the CAA. In last year’s meeting, the Wildcats held Cluley to only 145 yards passing and one touchdown but allowed him to run loose for two more scores. Junior DeVonte Dedmon is the wide receiver to watch on the outside, meaning he is expected to see a lot of DeAndrade lining up across from him.
Impact Player: Pop Lacey
It’s not common for head coach Sean McDonnell to start a true freshman anywhere on the field, but Pop Lacey has forced his hand.
“He really, really is engaged in all that’s going on. It didn’t matter if he came in here as the number three or four free safety, he wanted to start,” McDonnell said about Lacey.
The young safety has thrived through four games, ranking only behind senior linebacker DeVaughn Chollette on the team in total tackles. Lacey has 25 tackles along with one forced fumble and plenty of big hits. His breakout performance came in the home opener against Holy Cross when redshirt freshman Rick Ellison left the game three plays into it. Lacey was thrust into action, finishing with 14 tackles on the night.
Lacey has carved himself a starting role in the Wildcat defensive backfield moving forward and will be back there wreaking havoc when the Tribe visits.