UNH Insider: McDonnell and the ’Cats are back, finally, Friday night in Durham

  • University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell speaks to his team after practice on March 3, 2021, in Durham. UNH will open its spring 2021 season on Friday night against Albany. ALLEN LESSELS—UNHwildcats.com

  • UNH quarterback Max Brosmer (red jersey) talks with running back Carlos Washington Jr. (kneeling) during a practice on March 3. Allen Lessels

UNH Insider
Published: 3/4/2021 5:04:30 PM

DURHAM – They’re back. He’s back.

Try this number on for size: 468. That will be the number of days since the University of New Hampshire football team last played a game when the Wildcats, ranked No. 14 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll, take on No. 13 UAlbany on Friday night at 7 in Wildcat Stadium on NBC Sports Boston.

Here’s another number: 846. That’s how many days it will have been on Friday night since UNH coach Sean McDonnell has led his team into Wildcat Stadium.

The game is the first of six – all of them Colonial Athletic Association league contests - scheduled for UNH’s regular season. The next is Saturday, March 20 against Delaware, also at home. No fans will be allowed in the stadium on Friday night due to COVID-19 regulations, but all three home games will be televised on NBC Sports Boston. When the regular season is done, 16 teams will take part in the FCS playoffs.

In their most recent home game under McDonnell, the Wildcats knocked off Albany, 24-10, for what was their third straight win back on Nov. 10, 2018. The victory was a bright light in an overall tough season that ended with a loss at Rhode Island the next weekend to leave the team at 4-7 for the season and snap its streak of 14 consecutive playoff appearances.

McDonnell sat out the 2019 season as he battled bladder cancer. The Wildcats bounced back with a 6-5 record under interim head coach Ricky Santos that season and just missed returning to the FCS postseason.

McDonnell took the reins again a year ago on March 1, shortly before spring practice and the fall 2020 season were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now he and the Wildcats are back and roarin’ to go.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” McDonnell said during his weekly press conference on Zoom on Wednesday. “It’s within reach, it’s really within arm’s grasp. Friday, 7 o’clock, we’re teeing it up with Albany. There’s going to be no better place to be than Durham.”

McDonnell has long preached playing with a sense of urgency and a “next-game-is-the-only-thing-that-matters” approach. This truncated spring season plays perfectly into his messaging.

“It’s a six-game season,” he said. “There’s no opportunity to ease into something. We’ve got to be good. It’s got to be good Friday night.”

The Wildcats plan to continue the 2019 push and look to get into the playoff hunt and ideally start a new streak of FCS tournament appearances.

Senior safety Evan Horn returns to lead from the back on defense and the unit should be strong up front with ends Brian Carter, a senior, and Gunner Gibson, a junior, and tackles Elijah Lewis, a senior, and Niko Kvietkus, a junior.

McDonnell is excited to see how much sophomore quarterback Max Brosmer has progressed after starting as a true freshman in 2019. The offense also features a pair of productive running backs in Carlos Washington, Jr. and sophomore Dylan Laube.

“I think they’re two very good football players and they’re going to be able to share the task and give us a great one-two punch,” McDonnell said.

Albany presents a tough challenge out of the gate. The Great Danes finished 9-5 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2019. Their 24-17 win over UNH in Albany on Nov. 17 helped keep the Wildcats out of the tournament and propel Albany into it.

Jeff Undercluffer, a 6-foot-5 and 235-pound quarterback, threw 41 touchdown passes as a redshirt freshman in 2019 to lead all of FCS and he was intercepted 10 times. Karl Mofor, 5-foot-9 and 229 pounds, led the CAA with 1,290 rushing yards and had 10 rushing touchdowns.

The Wildcats – players and coaches alike – are ready to finally get a season going.

“It’s definitely exciting, trying to find ways to keep myself calm,” Washington said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Longer still for the head coach.

“He’s the same guy, definitely,” Washington said. “But obviously he’s way excited. He didn’t get a chance to coach us last year. He’s been on us. We’re all excited to be back together.”

McDonnell admitted he was getting a bit anxious. 

“Thursday night there will be a lot of butterflies, I’ll tell you that,” he said.  

Extra points

UNH’s three home games during the spring will be on NBC Sports Boston, and all games will be available on FloFootball and on the radio at the Wildcat Sports Network.  

 

 

■Wildcat virtual spring memberships offer a chance for fans to engage with the team. The memberships include virtual huddles on gamedays, question-and-answer sessions with Wildcat coaches, the opportunity to be selected as the Dunkin’ Fan of the Game, raffles and more. 

■Information on UNH football Fall 2021 season tickets and virtual spring memberships is available at www.unhwildcats.com and by calling 603-862-4000. 




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