UNH football adds Syracuse in 2026 to list of FBS tests

UNH Insider
Published: 11/6/2019 5:48:39 PM

DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire football team is stepping up into uncharted waters. Again.

Athletic director Marty Scarano has confirmed that the Wildcats have signed a deal to play an FBS game at Syracuse University of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Wildcats will take on the Orange in the Carrier Dome on Sept. 5, 2026.

“We are excited to schedule Syracuse,” Scarano said. “They are a historic, tradition-bound Eastern program and the ‘Dome’ is a fabulous environment to play in. Our long record of playing FBS institutions has taken us all over the United States and while creating neat opportunities for our athletes, we’ve also been fairly successful on the field as well.”

It will be the first time UNH plays Syracuse in football.

This year’s Wildcats have won five of their last six games, are ranked No. 23 in the Stats FCS poll and take a 5-3 overall record and 4-1 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game at No. 2 James Madison (8-1 overall, 5-0 in the CAA).

UNH’s final regular season home game is against Maine on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. for Senior Day in the Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket.

The Syracuse contest give the Wildcats three FBS games on the schedule for the years ahead.

Last December, UNH announced upcoming games against the University of Kansas and Pittsburgh.

The Wildcats face Kansas of the Big 12 on Sept. 5, 2020. They play at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2021.

It will also be the first time UNH has played Kansas in football.

The Wildcats played at Pittsburgh and lost, 38-16, on Sept. 11, 2010 in front of 50,120 at Heinz Field, the largest crowd to attend a game in the program’s history.

UNH started a remarkable string of five straight wins over FBS teams with a stunning 35-24 triumph over Rutgers under head coach Sean McDonnell and behind the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Ricky Santos in his debut start Sept. 11, 2004.

Santos, now the team’s interim head coach with McDonnell on a leave of absence to deal with medical issues, also led the teams to wins over Northwestern in 2006 and Marshall in 2007. McDonnell and the ’Cats then knocked off Army and Ball State to make it five straight.

UNH has stepped up a level in play – the Wildcats compete in the Football Championship Subdivision – for a single game in 17 of the last 18 seasons. Many FCS teams around the country play a game at an FBS school each year and receive a financial guarantee well into six figures to do so. FBS teams are allowed to have more players on scholarship than FCS schools and generally have more resources overall.

The games not only provide a boost to the budget for the FCS programs, but provide an opportunity for the school’s players and coaches to test themselves against high-level competition.

“The setting you’re in for those games is a whole different level,” said UNH true freshman quarterback Max Brosmer. “The atmosphere is awesome. You kind of thrive on that environment as a football player and everybody looks forward to those moments. It’s a different type of energy. I don’t know, 60,000 fans, 50,000 fans. It’s a total different energy. We’re excited to play in those games. It’s really exciting.”

Brosmer, like Santos, made his first career start against an FBS school when the Wildcats played at Florida International University in the second game of this season.

Brosmer connected with redshirt freshman Dylan Laube for an 86-yard touchdown pass play in the third quarter to put UNH in front. FIU went on to win the game, 30-17.

Santos embraces the FBS challenges now, just as he did as the Wildcat quarterback.

“It’s such a great opportunity for us to display all of our hard work on a national stage,” he said. “A lot of our kids play with a chip on their shoulder thinking they have the ability to be a Division I athlete and I think those games are opportunities for us to prove that, that we can play with the FBS-caliber guys. We’ve been fortunate, we’ve won some of those games in the past. We were really close this year and gave FIU all it could handle.”

Santos appreciates the chance to play in upstate New York, in particular.

“We’ve done a great job recruiting New York athletes over the years and for us to get up there and put that on display against a really tough opponent is going to be great for us,” he said. “Hopefully we play them tough and show some of those guys that this is a really good place to go to school. Plus, the Carrier Dome is one of the neat venues in all of college football. I think our kids will really revel in that moment.”

The game against Pittsburgh in 2021 will mark the first game for the Wildcats against an ACC school. The Panthers were in the Big East the last time the teams met. The Syracuse game will give them a second shot at an ACC opponent.

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