Despite the fact that the offense stalled for much of the afternoon, UNH’s (3-2, 2-0) defense still found a way to lead their team to a win against Elon (2-4, 1-2). This win was UNH’s third straight, all coming at home.
In the team’s second play from scrimmage, first-year quarterback Max Brosmer was intercepted by Elon senior defensive back Greg Liggs Jr. The interception led to a Phoenix field goal from 34 yards to give Elon an early 3-0 lead.
After surrendering the first points of the afternoon, the UNH offense marched 75 yards and down into the Elon red zone. Brosmer connected with junior tight end Nick Lorden, who went up high to reel in a six-yard touchdown pass. Following the score, UNH tried for two points but failed to convert – keeping the score at 6-3. Lorden explained how he wasn’t supposed to be an option on that play, just setting a screen for the tight end.
“I just got outside of the safety and Max threw it up in the perfect spot, as he always does.”
Just five plays into the ensuing possession, senior defensive end Josh Kania laid a hit on Elon’s junior quarterback Davis Cheek. The hit led to Cheek floating the ball to UNH freshman linebacker Oleh Manzyk who returned the interception 55 yards for the touchdown; giving UNH a 13-3 lead. Manzyk walked through his interception after the game, giving praise to Kania for causing the errant ball.
“All I saw was the ball and green grass, so I just went.”
Elon began the second quarter with four straight running plays as the offensive line parted the seams for sophomore running back Jaylan Thomas, who capped off the drive with a 13-yard run for the touchdown. This score minimized the UNH lead to three points.
With 9:18 remaining in the first half, senior cornerback Isiah Perkins continued to help keep the New Hampshire offense on the field with the team’s second interception of the day.
Although UNH’s drive didn’t amount to anything, it didn’t matter. The defense continued their dominance with their third interception on the afternoon. Junior safety Evan Horn jumped the Elon pass to return the interception 50 yards for a touchdown; extending the Wildcat lead to 10 points.
“I’m just glad I didn’t drop it – I would’ve heard that from the team,” joked Horn after the game.
The score of 20-10 would hold true for the rest of the half. Brosmer drove the Wildcats downfield, but with 11 seconds on the clock, Liggs ended the half just as he began it, intercepting Brosmer to bring the second quarter to a close.
The stifling defense for both sides shined through again in the first two drives of the second half. A forced fumble from sophomore defensive tackle Niko Kvietkus gave Brosmer and the offense back the ball. The Wildcats wouldn’t have the ball for long however, as Liggs would record his third interception of the day.
In this game, redshirt-first-year quarterback Bret Edwards saw his first action since week one at Holy Cross. Edwards took over for Brosmer with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter after Brosmer completed 15 of 25 passes for 135 yards, with three interceptions and a touchdown. Coach Santos mentioned that Brosmer reaggravated an ankle injury from the previous game, and simply wanted to get Edwards back up to game speed. Santos assured that Brosmer will be ready to go this week at Stony Brook (4-2, 1-1).
On Edwards’ second drive of the afternoon, the Wildcats settled for a 45-yard field goal from junior kicker Jason Hughes, which ties his career-long. The Hughes field goal extended the Wildcat lead to 13 points.
Senior safety Pop Lacey recorded his second interception of the season with 3:41 remaining in the game; giving UNH the ball back on their own 30-yard line. A 30-yard rush by Evan Gray brought UNH into opponent territory with the clock ticking down. The UNH running backs kept the clock moving until Elon called a timeout with 27 seconds remaining. Hughes secured the game with a 42-yard field goal to put the Wildcats ahead 26-10.
Gray and sophomore running back Carlos Washington Jr. padded their rushing numbers late in the contest, finishing their afternoons with 89 and 73 yards respectively.
After starting the season 0-2 with an inability to finish late in games, Santos, along with the rest of the team feels great about this most recent home stand.
“We’re building a ton of momentum heading into league play,” said Santos after Saturday’s win. At Wednesday’s media availability, Santos continued to praise his team’s play but noting that the team still is yet to put all three phases of the game together in the same week.
The defense has been the strength of the team to this point in the season and leading the defense against Elon was Manzyk. The true-freshman had eight total tackles, three sacks, and a pick-six on Saturday, which led to the linebacker earning three different accolades this week. Manzyk was named the STATS FCS National Freshman of the week, was given the New England Football Writers/Grinold Chapter Division I Gold Helmet Award, along with the CAA Rookie of the Week. Santos had nothing but good things to say about his freshman linebacker.
“[Manzyk] is such an instinctual football player. He’s well coached, he plays hard, and we’re very encouraged with his future.”
Manzyk even noted how much more comfortable he feels within the defense through the first five games of the season.
“In the preseason I didn’t really know much yet, I was still trying to learn the concept of the defense. Now I feel like I have a better understanding of the defense to just go out, not think, and just react on the field.”
UNH will be at Stony Brook this week looking to extend their winning streak to four games. The game will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 12 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.