Trailing 42-12 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Adam Riese replaced an injured Trevor Knight and led the Wildcats to 27 unanswered points, falling to James Madison University 42-39 at Wildcat Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15.
JMU quarterback Bryan Schor threw four touchdowns and rushed for one touchdown to lead the Dukes to a 4-0 record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Schor’s fourth touchdown pass was hauled in by senior Terrence Alls as he leapt up in the middle of the end zone and corralled it over UNH safety D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, extending the Dukes’ lead to 35-12. On the ensuing kickoff, UNH senior Garette Craig fumbled the ball, resulting in a touchdown for the Dukes, marking JMU’s largest lead of the day.
“It’s encouraging, but discouraging. It’s a tough, tough loss against a really good football team who had us on the ropes and almost knocked out, but we found a way to stay in it,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said following the loss.
A 13-yard touchdown pass from Riese to sophomore Rory Donovan in the back corner of the end zone, followed by a successful two-point conversion, brought the Wildcats within three with 1:15 remaining in the game. Riese also threw a 19-yard touchdown to running back Dalton Crossan and ran in a 2-yard touchdown after faking the handoff.
Knight had 314 passing yards, with 31 completions on 49 attempts, all career-highs, before leaving with an injury. Riese, getting his first extended playing time of the season, manufactured four touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. Wide receivers Malik Love and Neil O’Connor found open space in the JMU secondary throughout the day, combining for 22 receptions and 319 receiving yards.
In his first start of the season, senior tight end Jordan Powell caught nine passes for 92 yards and a 29-yard touchdown reception from Knight for UNH’s first score of the day. With JMU focusing on stopping Crossan and the running game by holding the Wildcats to 60 rushing yards, UNH receivers were busy all day. The Wildcats threw the ball 70 times Saturday, after averaging 31 pass attempts through six games this season, the most attempts of the season.
“What we’ve done over the years is that we’re [going to] take what you give us and we’re [going to] take an opportunity to put our people in open spaces and give them the ball. And throwing the ball gave us the best opportunity today,” McDonnell said after the game.
The UNH defense had troubles containing Schor and the JMU offense all afternoon. Schor passed for 242 yards and led the Dukes in rushing with 70 yards and his 5-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter, extending their lead to 21-6. Going into the game, the Wildcats were determined to stop the elite JMU rushing combo of Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson. They were held under 100-yards rushing combined, but the Dukes countered with Schor’s most effective passing game of the season.
Senior wide receiver Brandon Ravenel caught both of Schor’s first-half passing touchdowns, the first of which came after beating UNH cornerback Casey DeAndrade on a slant route over the middle for 30 yards. After the Dukes took a commanding 30-point lead in the fourth, Schor’s offense was held quiet as Riese continued to lead the Wildcats down the field.
Knight’s injury appeared to be minor, as coach McDonnell was not worried about his quarterback’s health moving forward. After the hit that knocked him out, Knight was seen walking gingerly up and down the UNH sideline, but seemed he could take the field if Riese wasn’t as effective as he was.
“[Head athletic trainer] Jon Dana just came over and said, ‘It’s a burner, you’re not [going to] have [Knight] for a little bit,’” McDonnell said about Knight’s injury. “I thought the way Riese was playing, [it was the right decision] to just go with him the rest of the way.”
Next Saturday the Wildcats (4-3, 3-1 in CAA) travel to Towson, Maryland. to take on the Towson University Tigers at 3:30 p.m.