UNH Football: Regular Season Finale Brings Playoff Implications/Maine Scouting Report

Spencer Marks, Sports Writer

Durham N.H.- With their backs against the wall and the season on the line, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (7-3, 6-1) put together a game-winning 89-yard drive to beat the University of Rhode Island Rams (6-4, 4-3) on Saturday’s Senior Day. 

Sophomore quarterback Max Brosmer who completed 31 for 44 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns, threw first-year wide receiver D.J Linkins arguably his best throw of the season with just 23 seconds left in the game. Linkins came down with the catch in the back left corner of the endzone on this crucial fourth down play that put the Wildcats up by three points with 19 seconds remaining. 

In his mid-week press conference, Linkins mentioned what head coach Rick Santos had said to him prior to the game-winning touchdown. 

“He said look man, I love you. Don’t stop running,” Linkins said, “So that’s what I did, I didn’t stop running…Max [Brosmer] identified it and we scored.” 

The most exciting game of the season concluded with a final score of 31-28 giving the ‘Cats a much-needed bounceback following their loss vs. Richmond two weeks back. 

Santos described it as “…a program redefining moment for us. For them to find a way to get it done both offensively and defensively in the waning moments of that game. It shows a lot about the mental toughness our team has and the ability to believe when it might not look like it was gonna go in our favor.”

That puts the Wildcats in as good of a spot as they could be in with the way that the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) has shaped up. 

The CAA strictly goes by record for the conference champions so with a win this weekend against the University of Maine (2-8, 2-5), the Wildcats will hoist the trophy as co-champions with the winner of the William & Mary (9-1, 6-1) and Richmond (8-2, 6-1) game. 

As for the FCS playoffs, a Wildcat win over the Black Bears pretty much guarantees a slot in the bracket. The tie-breakers come into play through the William & Mary and Richmond game.


Playoff Scenarios (Assuming UNH beats Maine):

  • Outcome One: Richmond beats William & Mary: Richmond will be granted an automatic bid to the tournament as they already defeated UNH
  • Outcome Two: William & Mary beats Richmond: William & Mary will be granted an automatic bid to the tournament unless option three occurs
  • Outcome Three (Point Differential Tie Breaker): UNH beats Maine by a point differential of seven or more points then Willaim & Mary beats Richmond: The Wildcats will be granted an automatic bid to the tournament (Example final scores that would qualify this: UNH 24 Maine 14, W&M 10 Richmond 7)


Of course, in order for this to happen the Wildcats have to come out of the Boarder Battle victorious. The battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket (UNH vs. Maine rivalry) has occurred 111 times dating back to 1903 (The teams have been playing for the Musket trophy since 1948). The Wildcats currently control the series record 57-46-8. 

Last year the Black Bears took care of business in Durham as they beat the ‘Cats by a dominant score of 33-20. 

“We layed it out for them that the trifecta [win the CAA, make the FCS playoffs, bring musket back to Durham] is up for grabs,” Santos mentioned, “So for us, we’re gonna embrace the moment, the pressure is a privilege and we are in the right to feel it. We’re gonna go relish in it and attack the Black Bears head-on.” 


University of Maine Scouting Report:

The Black Bears are quarterbacked by redshirt sophomore Joe Fagnano, who has completed 192 of 332 passes for 2029 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games; he’s been intercepted six times. Last week he completed 15 of 25 passes for 164 yards and one passing touchdown (one rushing touchdown/one INT). 

Graduate student running back Elijah Barnwell takes the bulk of the carries (113) and leads the Black Bears with 487 rushing yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and four touchdowns. He has a long rush of 24 yards and averages 48.70 rushing yards per game.

Graduate student wide receiver Zavier Scott leads the Black Bears receiving core with a total of 405 yards on 37 receptions for an average of 10.95 yards per catch and 40.50 receiving yards per game. He has one touchdown and his longest reception of the year was a 49-yard gain. Right behind him is senior tight end Shawn Bowman who has caught 31 passes for 377 yards for five touchdowns. Bowman averages the most receiving yards per game with 47.13. 

The Black Bear defense is led by senior linebacker Adrian Otero, who has a team-high of 67 total tackles with 27 solo stops. His stat line consists of two and a half tackles for loss (6 yards), one sack (4 yards), two interceptions, four pass breakups, and one quarterback hurry. 

Sophomore defensive backs Kahzir (Buggs) Brown and Shakur Smalls make up the Black Bears’ secondary. Brown has recorded 59 total tackles with a team-leading 34 solo stops along with two interceptions, and nine pass breakups. Smalls has 48 total tackles with 25 solo stops, one fumble recovery, and one pass breakup.

The defensive line is showcased by junior Khairi Manna. He has five and a half tackles for a loss (25 yards), three sacks (17 yards), and one forced fumble.

Maine’s defense has 11 takeaways (eight interceptions, three fumble recoveries) while the offense has nine giveaways (six INTs, three fumbles lost). 


Weather Forcast (Courtesy of @Weatherremarks):

No battle in the atmosphere, but the bears will head to hibernation as winter’s chill blankets Orono for Saturday’s Border Battle. 12pm kickoff temps will be in the upper 30s and remain steady throughout the game. Fortunately, the game will be under mostly sunny skies, combined with a 12pm start, and little wind (5-7mph out of the SW), all lead to a classic late November game!


Catch all the action of this year’s Boarder Battle play out on Flo Sports (Don’t have Flo ports? Follow @spencermarks8 on Twitter for live updates the whole game) as UNH looks to become CAA Champions since 2014 along with booking their ticket to the FCS Playoffs.