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Wildcat gameday: UNH vs. University of Maine

Saturday at 1 p.m.

Alfond Stadium in Orono, Maine

UNH is 6-4, 5-2 in CAA; Maine is 6-4, 5-2 in CAA

The Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket

This Saturday will be the 105th edition of the Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket. The Wildcats are 53-43-8 all-time against the Black Bears and have won the last six meetings, including a playoff win in 2013. The Brice-Cowell Musket has resided in the UNH locker room since before the current seniors arrived in Durham and has been in the ‘Cats’ possession for 12 of the last 13 years, the lone loss came in a 16-13 overtime defeat in Orono in 2010.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere with Maine,” senior captain Casey DeAndrade said about the rivalry. “Every game’s been a battle, every game’s been a war. There hasn’t been really a winner that’s came out until the last quarter.”

The Musket is named after former Maine coach Fred Brice and former UNH coach William Cowell. Brice coached the Black Bears from 1921-40 and Cowell coached the Wildcats from 1915-36. The Musket started to be awarded to the victors of the regular-season matchups in the late 1940s, after both coaches had retired. 

Maine head coach Joe Harasymiak will make his first appearance in the rivalry game as the youngest Division I head coach in the country at age 30. UNH head coach Sean McDonnell will be making his 19th coaching appearance in the rivalry and is 14-4 against the Black Bears in his career.

CHINA WONG/STAFF The Wildcats have won six straight games against the Black Bears dating back to 2011.
The Wildcats have won six straight games against the Black Bears dating back to 2011.

“[Maine]’s the biggest rival we got. This is a team that knows us, we know them,” McDonnell said. “Whatever the [playoff] ramifications that are involved in it, that’s fine. The number one goal is to beat the University of Maine this week.”

This meeting for the Musket holds slightly more implications than usual as a win from either side could propel them to the playoffs while a loss will end one team’s season most likely. The Wildcats aren’t letting themselves think about that quite yet and remain focused on this week’s goal.

“The Musket’s been in the locker room since I’ve walked in, even our recruiting trip it was there,” DeAndrade said. “I’m not used to the Musket not being in there so hopefully I can leave with it still being up there.”

Four Quarters

UNH rushing attack

Senior Dalton Crossan left last week’s game versus Albany in the first quarter with a concussion and did not return. His status for Saturday at Maine is still in question but McDonnell sounded confident in his chances of playing.

“The concussion test will be taken [Thursday],” McDonnell said. “It isn’t like it’s a lingering concussion… He’s symptom free right now.”

Whether Crossan can go or not, expect plenty of junior Trevon Bryant following a career-high 112 rushing yards last week.

UNH passing offense

The UNH passing attack struggled in its second-half collapse against Albany as sophomore Trevor Knight threw for a mere 86 yards and no touchdowns in the second half. A big reason for the struggles was the lack of involvement from freshman Malik Love. Love didn’t catch a pass for the first time this season versus the Great Danes. The freshman still leads the ‘Cats with 54 receptions in 2016.

Maine rushing attack

The UNH defense was decimated last week on Senior Day as Albany running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks ran for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Maine’s freshman running back Josh Mack won’t be easy to stop either, coming off of his third 100-yard rushing game of the season against Stony Brook. Mack has accumulated 635 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground for the Black Bears.

Maine passing offense

Senior quarterback Dan Collins struggled in the Brice-Cowell Musket game last year as he threw two interceptions in a 22-6 loss. Collins will get his second opportunity to bring the Musket back to Orono for the first time since 2010. Collins has thrown 14 interceptions and 16 touchdowns this season. Sophomore receiver Micah Wright has caught five of those touchdown passes while freshman Earnest Edwards has three touchdown grabs. The Black Bears rank second in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in passing offense with 217.3 yards per game.

Impact Player: Trevor Knight

When Trevor Knight was named the starting quarterback in late August, he had never made a career start and had only 52 career passing yards. Knight quickly flashed the talent that won him the starting job in the home opener against Holy Cross by throwing for 190 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 87 yards.knight_trevor_18_dsc_2768

Since then, Knight has started every game for the Wildcats while leading them to a 5-2 record in the tough CAA.

“It’s been a really good growing process for [Knight],” McDonnell said about his quarterback. “I think he brings something to that position that makes him special and that’s the ability to escape.”

Knight is also second on the Wildcats with 406 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. The sophomore’s running ability has been a major weapon for UNH this season, adding another element to the offense.

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