By SAM DONNELLY
Grading UNH football by position through the first two weeks.
The UNH football team entered the season with a bunch of questions marks on the offensive side of the ball. The expectations were high, as they have been for the past few years. The Wildcats began their season against a San Jose State team that was known to have a strong offense…and they proved it by pummeling the Wildcats 43-13.
After the Wildcats returned home to practice and regroup, they made the trip to Colgate where they grabbed their first win, 28-6. Although it was a win, the offense and defense have not looked as impressive as in years past, nor as impressive as many expected. The Wildcats will go on the road again to play Stony Brook, and the hope is that the Wildcats can improve on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback: Sean Goldrich
Goldrich rebounded this week after a rough performance at San Jose. The senior quarterback completed 17 of 23 passes for 166 yard and a touchdown. Although his numbers weren’t great, Goldrich controlled the game well and helped the Wildcats maintain a comfortable lead. The loss of R.J. Harris and Harold Spears may be part of the reason Goldrich’s numbers aren’t as strong as last year. He is going to need to find a guy he can rely on when his first read isn’t there. Who that guy is remains to be seen, but Goldrich has certainly left plenty to be desired.
Running backs: Dalton Crossan, Trevon Bryant
Crossan was one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats during their loss at San Jose. Crossan ran for 47 yards and a score on nine carries, had four catches, and 102 return yards. His speed and athleticism are two facets of his game he’s used to his advantage. At Colgate he ran for 96 yards and a score. Although we have only been through two games, it Crossan is the most explosive weapon the Wildcats have on offense and look for him to get the ball more and more as the weeks go on. Bryant has 100 yard on 17 carries through two games, and like Crossan, has two touchdowns. Bryant is smaller than Crossan but has good lateral quickness that makes him hard to get a hand on. I would look for him to get more work in the passing game. His skill set would make him dangerous coming out of the backfield. Bryant is good enough to carry the ball 10 to 15 times a game. If Crossan goes down with an injury, the Wildcats should feel confident in Bryant’s abilities.
Receivers: Jared Allison, Aaron Lewis-Cenales
The wide receivers, much like Goldrich, bounced back after struggling against San Jose. After only combining for three catches for 13 yards, Allison and Lewis-Cenales tallied a combined eight catches for 90 yard including a 12-yard touchdown for Allison in the 2nd quarter. Both guys are quick and have potential to create separation, but they have yet to live up to their potential. In order for the offense to be successful through the air, the Wildcats need Allison and Lewis-Cenales to step up and make plays.
Tight End: Jordan Powell
Through the first two games, Powell has been the most consistent threat through the air. Against both Colgate and San Jose State, Powell had three catches, for 31 and 33 yards respectively. Although these aren’t incredible statistics, Powell is showing that he is capable of stepping into the tight end role vacated by Harold Spears, who is currently playing with the Green Bay Packers. Powell will certainly be getting the ball more as he and Goldrich develop chemistry.
The big men up front have played relatively well. The Wildcats are averaging 5.1 yards a carry and have only allowed 2 sacks through two games. The offensive line has opened up good holes for Bryant and Crossan, which is always good for the Wildcat offense. Despite the protection for Goldrich, there have been moments where he has been hurried due to pressure. If the offensive line can continue to be strong and improve their pass blocking, the Wildcat offense will be successful.
Obviously there has been a trend of improvement throughout this article and that doesn’t change with the defensive line. They allowed 285 yards on the ground at San Jose State with an average of 5.4 yards per carry. They also allowed five rushing touchdowns. This week against Colgate, things got much better. The Wildcats only allowed 141 yards on the ground with just 3.5 yards a carry and no touchdowns. As the season progresses, the defense is going to need the defensive line to get a push. The secondary is full of veterans, but getting pressure on the quarterback usually leads to mistake from the offense, particularly in the turnover department.
Linebackers and Defensive Backs
This was supposed to be the strength, not only of the defense, but of the entire team. In the San Jose State game, the secondary allowed 422 yard through the air. Spartan quarterbacks went a combined 30 for 35 with an average of 14.1 yards per completion. The one bright spot was they only allowed one touchdown through the air. Like every other position, Colgate was big improvement. The Wildcats only allowed 195 yards on 21 of 41 passing. With a defense filled with upperclassman, the Wildcats need to step up their defense. In the secondary, that task will fall upon the veteran players like Casey DeAndrade, who recorded four pass breakups against Colgate, and Daniel Rowe, who leads the team with 21 tackles. Akil Anderson, a senior captain, will be the backbone of the linebacking corps. If the secondary doesn’t create turnovers or at least stop the offense consistently, it will be a long season.