UNH Insider: Football looking for payback during daunting stretch

  • University of New Hampshire freshman linebacker Oleh Manzyk returns an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in last week’s 26-10 Homecoming win against Elon. Manzyk also had three sacks on the day and eight total tackles and was named the CAA Rookie of the Week and the STATS FCS National Freshman of the Week for his efforts. JOEY WALKER / Courtesy UNH Athletics

  • The University of New Hampshire sideline celebrates as safety Evan Horn returns an interception 50 yards for a touchdown last week against Elon. UNH won, 26-10, to improve to 3-2. JOEY WALKER / Courtesy UNH Athletics

UNH Insider
Published: 10/10/2019 4:59:35 PM

Last season, the University of New Hampshire football team lost an uncharacteristic five Colonial Athletic Association games.

So far this season, the Wildcats are two-for-two in avenging those defeats. Game No. 3 on the payback tour is Saturday at Stony Brook at 6 p.m.

“We’ve lost to them two times in a row,” UNH senior running back and captain Evan Gray said of Stony Brook. “They have a really good home crowd energy. It’s another revenge game. They got us last year, really badly (35-7 loss in Durham). They got us again the year before that (38-24 in New York). It’s time to step it up and be prepared, ready to play.”

The Wildcats (3-2 overall, 2-0 in CAA play) better be ready for a daunting four-game stretch. After playing the No. 22-ranked Seawolves on Saturday, they go to No. 19 Delaware on Oct. 19, get a bye a week, host No. 5 Villanova on Nov. 2 and then travel to No. 2 James Madison on Nov. 9.

That’s a big-time stretch of games, and the ’Cats have been playing big-time defense the past couple of weeks.

They held Duquesne to 50 yards rushing and allowed only a last-minute touchdown in a 23-6 win on Sept. 28, and last week against Elon the defense contributed a pair of touchdowns to the cause.

True freshman linebacker Oleh Manzyk returned an interception 55 yards for a score late in the first period on a play set up when senior defensive end Josh Kania harassed the quarterback into a bad pass. UNH’s next touchdown was on a 50-yard interception return by junior safety Evan Horn, who makes a habit of such plays.

Manzyk, playing in his fifth collegiate game, earned regional and national awards for his efforts. He was the CAA’s Rookie of the Week, the STATS FCS National Freshman of the Week and was named the winner of the New England Football Writers/Grinold Chapter Division I Gold Helmet Award.

Horn’s pick-six was the fourth of his career. UNH also had a pair of defensive touchdowns in a 35-24 win at home over James Madison last Nov. 9. Horn had one of them with a 75-yard return for a score.

Horn pointed to a couple of basics – including cutting down on big plays allowed – as factors in the defense’s success against Elon.

“I think the biggest thing for us is our tackling rate,” he said. “Coach (John Lyons, the defensive coordinator) mentioned that this past game was our best tackling ratio we’ve had since he’s been here. I think our missed tackle percentage was like six percent. We only missed four tackles through the whole game, which is really good. That’s obviously one factor. Eliminate X-plays. We only had two X-plays. That was a big thing for us.”

The Seawolves are averaging 30.3 points a game and are second in the CAA in rushing offense at 240.2 yards per game and total offense in at 471.5 yards per game.

Quarterback Tyquell Fields, a 6-foot-2 and 195-pound junior, is dangerous running and passing. He’s completed 65 of his 126 passes for 1,251 yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s rushed 51 times for 234 yards and a couple of scores.

“Any time we pressure, we have to make sure we have somebody containing him as well,” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said. “I think it’s just scouting them, knowing the different field zones that he likes to run the ball, something we’re really harping on this week. And then do a good job by the defensive ends of trying to cage him and keep him in the pocket and not escape outside.”

Santos said freshman quarterback Mas Brosmer, who has started UNH’s last four games, is good to go.

Brosmer left the Elon game late in the third quarter and redshirt freshman Bret Edwards replaced him and led the Wildcats to a couple of Jason Hughes field goals in the fourth.

“Max had an ankle injury from the week before and kind of re-aggravated that during the game,” Santos said. “We felt like Bret was doing a really good job practicing as well. We wanted to protect him a little bit and make sure we got Bret in there and up to game speed. Max is healthy, he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”

Brosmer connected with junior tight end Nick Lorden for a 6-yard TD pass for UNH’s only offensive touchdown against Elon. He also was intercepted three times.

The Seawolves will be bringing pressure against Brosmer and the offensive line.

“We need to protect the quarterback, as we’ve been doing all year, and then find some ways to get the ball out of our hands in the passing game,” Santos said. “We’ve got to get the ball out quick and hopefully control the pace a little bit by continuing to run the ball well.”

The Wildcats will look to ride that formula, their defense and the momentum from their three-game home winning streak, to a fourth straight win.

“We always pride ourselves on protecting the Dungeon when we’re at home,” Lorden said. “It’s good that we were able to sweep that. Now kind of the mentality is being road warriors and getting one in somebody else’s place. We owe these guys. They got us last year on Homecoming and two years ago when we were down there, so we’ve got to go there and steal one from them.”

The Wildcats have not had a four-game win streak, incidentally, since the 2014 season. That year, they lost their opener and then won 12 in a row.

(Allen Lessels is the UNH Insider and can be reached at Allen.Lessels@unh.edu or on Twitter @UNHInsider)



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