In a rare Friday night game, the UNH football team escaped Elon University with a 13-10 victory after Morgan Ellman’s 35-yard field goal with 2:09 left in the game.
After Ellman gave the ‘Cats a 13-10 lead, freshman cornerback Prince Smith Jr. swatted down an Elon fourth down pass attempt with under a minute left to seal the UNH win. Smith Jr. was part of a secondary that had five pass breakups that held quarterback Daniel Thompson to 176 yards and no touchdowns.
“Prince is just one of those kids that’s got a knack for making some plays, [he] did a nice job. Got his hand up, stripped the ball out. Hell of a play,” head coach Sean McDonnell said after the game.
Ellman missed his first field goal attempt at the end of the first half and was blocked on his second, but hit two clutch field goals in the fourth quarter after the Wildcats entered the final quarter trailing 10-7. The UNH defense held the Phoenix offense without a touchdown on the day, led by true freshman safety Pop Lacey’s 13 tackles.
Elon found the end zone when sophomore defensive end Daniel Everett scooped up a Dalton Crossan fumble and returned it 21 yards to give the Phoenix their first lead of the contest that carried over into the fourth quarter. Crossan had a productive day otherwise, rushing for 152 yards on 28 carries to lead the Wildcats. The senior also had 55 yards rushing on the drive that set up Ellman’s game-winning field goal.
The ‘Cats’ lone touchdown came on the opening possession of the game as Knight commandeered a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Knight capped it off with a seven-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jelani Greene, the first touchdown catch of Greene’s career. The freshman was one of eight Wildcats to catch a pass, including senior tight end Jordan Powell. Powell, UNH’s leading receiver last year, made his season debut Friday after sitting out the first five games, as well as the first half against Elon.
Powell had two catches for 17 yards in his return, while sophomore Neil O’Connor and redshirt freshman Malik Love again paced the Wildcat receiving core with six catches each as well as 56 and 52 yards receiving, respectively. Love leads the team with 31 receptions through six games; meanwhile O’Connor leads with 276 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
The offense was not where McDonnell wanted it to be however, only finding the end zone on the opening possession. Knight threw two interceptions and came up a yard short on a fake field goal attempt from the Elon three-yard line. Past the halfway point in the season, Knight has eight interceptions, equaling his eight touchdown passes. Where he adds extra value is with his legs, rushing for 45 yards against the Phoenix.
“We didn’t execute when we needed to execute, getting in [the end zone]. Really disappointed at the end of the half that we didn’t get that touchdown in down there,” McDonnell said after the game.
The drive to end the half was kick started by four consecutive completions for Knight, moving UNH into Elon territory. However, the Wildcats stalled at the 22-yard line and had to settle for a field goal attempt that Ellman pushed wide right.
Entering the fourth quarter it seemed the ‘Cats could be in trouble, but the defense stood tall and Ellman hit two clutch field goals to push UNH to a resilient victory. The Wildcats return home on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. as they host nationally ranked James Madison University. Both teams enter the contest 3-0 in Colonial Athletic Association games, after JMU defeated the College of William & Mary at home last week, 31-24.