Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md.
UNH is 4-3, 3-1 in CAA; Towson is 1-5, 0-3 in CAA
Key Matchup:the Wildcat pass defense vs. the Tigers’ passing attack
Led by sophomore quarterback Ellis Knudson, the Towson University Tigers have the second best passing offense in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Towson’s offense is built around its big offensive line and running game, but due to game circumstances they have averaged 237 passing yards per game. Knudson relies heavily on his two senior receivers Andre Dessenberg and Christian Summers, who have each hauled in a team-high 34 passes this season. Summers also leads the Tigers with 633-yards receiving and three touchdowns.
After allowing James Madison University to throw for four touchdowns last weekend at Wildcat Stadium, senior captain Casey DeAndrade and the UNH secondary will look to bounce back against the Tigers. Towson, like JMU, is a run-first team, but the Wildcats allow the second most passing yards per game to opponents in the CAA. DeAndrade and the young UNH secondary will look to make some big stops on third down this week, as they struggled to do so against the Dukes.
UNH rushing attack
The Wildcats’ worst day running the football coincided with their best passing day of the season. Senior running back Dalton Crossan ran for a season-low 35 yards on 13 carries last week. Meanwhile, Trevon Bryant has not played the last two weeks due to turf toe but head coach Sean McDonnell expects him to play at Towson. Bryant ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on Oct. 1 versus William & Mary, the last game he played in.
UNH passing offense
Sophomore Trevor Knight threw for 314 yards against JMU before he left with a ‘burner’ in his throwing shoulder, according to McDonnell. Knight would have returned if it weren’t for the stellar play of senior Adam Riese in the fourth quarter. The offense will look to pass less this week, 70 attempts versus JMU is a school record, but they should feel more confident passing after big days from wide receivers Malik Love and Neil O’Connor, as well as tight end Jordan Powell.
Towson rushing attack
Since senior Darius Victor went down with a season-ending toe injury against Richmond on Oct. 1, freshman running back DeShaun Wethington has taken hold of the starting job. After getting 13 carries versus Stony Brook, the same amount as redshirt freshman Shane Simpson, Wethington ran rampant for 145 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries Saturday at Dartmouth College. UNH boasts the fourth-best run defense in the CAA in 2016, holding opponents to 138 rushing yards per game.
Towson passing offense
Knudson has started at quarterback for the Tigers in the last four contests, throwing for a career-high 305 yards last week at Dartmouth. After struggling last week, the UNH defense will attempt to break up the connection between Knudson and Summers. The Wildcats have not recorded an interception since senior linebacker Ryan Farrell intercepted a William & Mary pass attempt on Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 1.
Casey DeAndradeThe UNH defense looks to DeAndrade for leadership. Last week, DeAndrade was beat multiple times in what snowballed into a poor performance from the secondary. A return to form for the cornerback could be instrumental for a Wildcat victory.
“He’s probably our best all-around football player in everything he does,” coach McDonnell said about his captain. “He’s a great leader… Fearless back there, wants to do everything.”
DeAndrade will most likely line up across from Summers often on Saturday, as he typically covers the opposition’s number one target. With the likes of freshman Pop Lacey and Prince Smith Jr. starting in the secondary, DeAndrade continues to lead by example through his tough play. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 37 and is tied with Smith Jr. with eight pass-breakups and two interceptions to lead UNH. The senior also returns punts for the ‘Cats.