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Offense shows growth in UNH football scrimmage

  • Neil O’Connor (82) is tackled by Mike Crawford (23) and another member of the Blue team during the UNH football Blue-White scrimmage at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • TOP: DeUnte Chatman (42) carries the ball during the UNH Blue-White scrimmage in Durham on Tuesday. ABOVE LEFT: UNH Head Coach Sean McDonnell talks to the team following the scrimmage. ABOVE RIGHT: QB Will Pollard carries the ball. ELIZABETH FRANTZ photos / Monitor staff

  • Trevor Knight (18) throws a pass during the UNH football Blue-White scrimmage at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The UNH football Blue-White scrimmage took place at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Christian Lupoli (5) throws a pass during the UNH football Blue-White scrimmage at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Brandon Gallagher (29) runs towards Prince Smith, Jr., (46) during the UNH football Blue-White scrimmage at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The UNH football Blue-White scrimmage took place at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

DURHAM – For most of camp, the defense has been on top for the University of New Hampshire football team. During Tuesday’s Blue-White scrimmage, however, the offense stepped up its game.

“I thought we executed on the offensive side of the ball better than we have most of camp, to be honest with you,” UNH Coach Sean McDonnell said. “I was disappointed defensively that we didn’t run to the football the way we’re capable of running to the football. That’s something we can correct. I thought some of our skill guys did a nice job catching the ball in open spaces and we did some good things running with the ball.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and next Thursday (the season opener against Maine), but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Junior quarterback Trevor Knight led the offensive effort, going 13-for-23 for 175 yards and two touchdowns. As a whole, the Wildcats completed 27 of their 51 passes with three touchdowns. Three different ‘Cats finished with three receptions, including junior Neil O’Connor, who had three catches for 49 yards.

“I thought we executed pretty well,” said O’Connor, who was one of two UNH players named to the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason All-Conference Team last month. “We’ve been practicing pretty hard all camp long and it was good to come out here and make some plays ... It was definitely a step forward for us. I think the line protected well, the running backs ran hard, the quarterbacks put it on receivers and we played better today.”

O’Connor also did a good job putting the ball on receivers. He threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Malik Love on a trick play that ended the first drive of the day at Wildcat Stadium.

Love was sick and saw limited time, but he still finished with a team-high 63 receiving yards on three catches. That production was no surprise to McDonnell.

“(Love) has been our best receiver all camp long,” he said. “He’s done a great job. I’m very excited where he’s at. (O’Connor) the last five or six days has come back to playing the way he’s capable and (junior receiver) Rory (Donovan) keeps getting better. Now the next question is, who are the next guys ... we’ve got to find the fourth, fifth and sixth receivers this week.”

The coach does not have the same concerns for the running backs.

“I know we’ve got four or five running backs, I know that, guys,” McDonnell said. “There’s no doubt that (sophomore Evan Gray) can play, (senior captain Donald Goodrich) can play, (redshirt freshman DeUnte Chatman) can play, (senior Jerickson Fedrick) ran his tail off today and the young kid (freshman Carlos Washington, Jr.) is a really good football player and we’ll be able to redshirt him if everything goes according to plan. But we’ve got four guys that can play football for us and give us an edge.”

Fedrick, a Salem High product, led all rushers with six carries for 67 yards, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown run. Chatman had six carries for 24 yards and Gray had four carries for 20 yards to go along with two catches for 34 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown reception.

Merrimack Valley grad Ivan Niyomugabo was the second quarterback on the field and looks to be behind only Knight on the depth chart. Niyomugabo, now a redshirt sophomore at UNH, didn’t have good numbers on Tuesday (2-for-5 for 11 yards, interception), but he moved the second-string offense against the first-string defense, seemed comfortable and composed running the show and looked good to the only guy that really matters.

“Today he had a petty good day,” McDonnell said of Niyomugabo. “I was happy with him.”

“I think I moved the ball pretty well with my feet,” Niyomugabo said. “Couple mental things in the passing game I should have cleaned up a little bit, but overall it wasn’t too bad.”

Sophomore cornerback Prince Smith, Jr., UNH’s other CAA Preseason All-Conference selection, came up with the game’s only turnover when he picked off a ball that bounced off a receiver’s hands. A pair of redshirt freshmen, linebacker Carson Leary and defensive back Alonzo Addae, led the Wildcats with five tackles each. Redshirt freshman defensive end Brian Carter finished with four tackles and 1½ sacks. The ‘Cats had six sacks in total.

“I’ve been very happy with the defense the whole camp, they’ve been flying around and doing great things,” McDonnell said, “but I think the offense has grown up in the last week or so in some of the things they’re doing and executing.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @timosullivan20)