STONY BROOK, N.Y. – Uncertainty surrounded University of New Hampshire (UNH) football (1-0, 1-0) when the team made the trip to Stony Brook (0-1, 0-1) for Thursday night’s opener. The loss of their starting quarterback just days prior, and a number of unproven – yet promising – players on the defense left some things up in the air ahead of week one. Senior safety Pop Bush and junior quarterback Bret Edwards served as stabilizing forces for the Wildcats, however, in a narrow 27-21 victory over the Seawolves.
“It wasn’t that pretty, but we got the job done,” Edwards said bluntly in his opening comments postgame.
The quarterback noted he felt a little rusty at the start, but his teammates gave him the confidence to settle in quickly.
“[Edwards] kept us out of bad situations,” said head coach Sean McDonnell. “Unbelievable poise for a kid who’s only played one half of football in meaningful games in college. I thought he did a great job.”
In his first start since the 2019 season opener at Holy Cross, Edwards was 17-for-25 (68%) for 233 yards and was credited with three passing touchdowns. The junior connected with sophomore tight end Kyle Lepkowski, junior wideout Brian Espanet twice, and found junior Sean Coyne on a pitch from a read option in the second quarter.
Edwards is finding himself in much of the spotlight after throwing at a 68% clip and playing a hand in each of the four scores; however, Bush may have been the true star of the night.
The man he plays alongside, senior Evan Horn, has been described as the best player on the roster by McDonnell. But there’s no mistaking the fact that Bush was the best player on the field at Stony Brook.
The safety left little to be desired in the defensive backfield Thursday night after the loss of Pop Lacey and the injury to junior Max Oxendine. Bush totaled 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and a 65-yard interception return.
“He’s an old school football player,” noted McDonnell. “Tonight was probably his best collegiate football game ever and I’m really happy for him.”
Bush aided the defense in their second game since the exit of Prince Smith Jr. and Isiah Perkins, their first game since Brian Carter hung it up, and the absence of their All-CAA linebacker, sophomore Oleh Manzyk.
The safety wasn’t focused on his performance too much after the game. He explained that he’s already moved on and is just happy the team was able to hold onto this win.
“I had a good game, but just because of the other 10 guys on the field; they made it easy for me,” said Bush.
The Wildcats allowed 21 points in the second half which breathed life into Stony Brook late into the fourth quarter. Bush thinks the defense got complacent after UNH scored the first 27 points of the night.
Another area McDonnell and the offense will likely need to try and fine tune this week will be third down conversions. The team converted just three of their 13 third down attempts on Thursday. The offensive line gave way to the Stony Brook front on a handful of short yardage situations in the first half.
The Wildcats return home next week and will welcome Towson (0-0, 0-0) into Durham. This will be Edwards’ first start of his career in Wildcat Stadium where the team went 5-0 in 2019. The game is set to be aired on FloFootball.com Saturday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.
Listen to postgame press conference with Sean McDonnell, Bret Edwards and Pop Bush on Wildcats Press Pass
Photo Courtesy of UNH Athletics.