After a well-needed week off the UNH football team will begin play again as they head to North Carolina to face off against eleventh ranked Elon.
The Wildcats have started the year off with a surprising 0-3 start, after losing the season opener to Maine and then dropping two more against Colgate and Colorado. No one could have predicted this start from the ‘Cats after being a preseason top 10-ranked team in the FCS.
UNH has been plagued by injuries this season. Senior quarterback Trevor Knight has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since opening night and offensive weapon Malik Love has been out with a lower body Injury.
With the absence of Knight the Wildcat offense has struggled mightily. UNH has scored a total of 24 points in three games this season, and if they want to steal a win against a top 15-ranked team then they’ll have to put more points up on the board.
Christian Lupoli has done what people expected while filling in for Knight. Lupoli completed 13 of 31 passes for 160 yards, including a 71 yard TD pass to Neil O’Connor, last week against a strong Colorado team.
In an interview with UNH insider Head Coach Sean McDonnell had some praise for his quarterback.
“One of the things we look for in the quarterback position is toughness, when you talk about him taking hits and physical stuff like that, Christian is a tough kid. The thing I saw is him stepping up. His scrambles were with a purpose this week. He got some balls off and got licked and got back up. That’s a credit to him,” he said.
But Wildcat fans can’t expect to win games relying on Lupoli; the running game will have to improve if the offense wishes to improve. The UNH ground game has only rushed for a total of 100 yards this season, due in part to teams stacking the box.
“ Teams have been doing a great job at putting people in the box. They’ve been putting 8 people in the box and forcing us to get out on the perimeter and forcing us to throw the football,” said Head Coach Sean McDonnell.
The defense has showed promise, doing it’s best to keep UNH in football games. In the home opener the Wildcat defense held Colgate to just 10 points, and against Colorado UNH had some key defensive turnovers and touchdowns that helped the Wildcats stay competitive with the Buffaloes. Coach McDonnell is pleased with the defense but there is still room for improvement moving forward.
“I’m pleased, but we still have to tackle better, when we don’t tackle we leave open spaces,” said McDonnell.
The Wildcats will face off against the Elon Phoenix Saturday, Sept. 29 at 1:30 p.m. This game is the last away game before the Wildcats kick off a three game home stand. A win on the road could be just what the ‘Cats need to close out three games at home and rise above .500.
Elon has a record of 2-1 with one game cancelled this season. The Phoenix opened up the season with a loss against a talented FBS opponent in South Florida, followed by a monstrous win against twenty-first ranked Furman, and a gutsy win against Charleston Southern.
UNH has the upper hand in this CAA matchup; the Wildcats hold a 4-0 lead in the all time series against the Phoenix. The most recent one coming at the end of the year last year when the sixteenth ranked Wildcats beat seventh ranked Elon, which helped UNH secure a spot in the FCS playoffs.
As the heart of fall approaches UNH will head into the bulk of their CAA games. Fans around here are used to seeing UNH football wins and hopefully the Wildcats can get off on the right foot this week down in North Carolina.