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UNH football: What To Watch For vs. Colgate

The stage is set for New Hampshire running back Nico Steriti to shine in Saturday’s football home opener against Colgate. The Raiders (0-2) allowed 747 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns on 111 carries in their first two games this year. Plus, Steriti’s two primary backups, Chris Setian and Jimmy Owens, will both miss the game due to knee injuries.

Steriti, a 5-foot-11, 221-pound junior, led UNH last year with 921 rushing yards on 140 attempts. He gained 56 yards on 16 carries last week in the Wildcats 24-21 loss at Central Michigan. It could also be a big day on the ground for quarterback Andy Vailas, who is just as dangerous running as he is throwing. Vailas was third on the team in rushing yards last season (451).

∎ The UNH defense should be ready to defend the pass. Colgate senior quarterback Gavin McCarney was named the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after setting a school record of 3,778 total yards of offense last season.

McCarney went 25-for-32 for 303 yards in last week’s 37-34 loss to Albany. And Colgate’s starting tailback, John Wilkins, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of that game, so it only makes sense for the Raiders to look to the air for offense, although McCarney is also a threat to run the ball. Tight end Kevin O’Connell (11 catches, 128 yards) and wide receiver Dan Cason (12 catches, 138 yards) have been McCarney’s favorite targets so far.

∎ Colgate might be 0-2, but don’t let that fool you. The Raiders started 0-2 last year then went 8-1 the rest of the way to win the Patriot League title and claim their seventh NCAA playoff berth.

∎ The Wildcats haven’t lost a home opener since 2004, when they dropped a 9-7 decision to William & Mary, and they are 11-3 in home openers under Coach Sean McDonnell. UNH, ranked No. 12/9 in this week’s polls, has also won 10 straight home games against non-conference opponents under McDonnell.

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