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Wildcats regrouping after Maine loss; Knight status uncertain



For the Monitor
Friday, August 31, 2018

By ALLEN LESSELS

For the Monitor

ORONO, Maine – The buses rolled away from Alfond Stadium and out of town late Thursday night, leaving behind the Brice-Cowell Musket that goes to the winner of the University of New Hampshire versus Maine football game each season.

The immediate task ahead for the Wildcat football team is to wash out the bitter taste of a 35-7 opening night loss to border rival Maine.

“From here, you take it to the next one,” UNH senior captain and linebacker Jared Kuehl said. “Forget about this one. It’s early in the season. Just learn from it. See the film on it. Learn. Get back at it next week against Colgate.”

Forget. Learn. Forge ahead.

The Wildcats play a challenging home opener Sept. 8 against Colgate University in Wildcat Stadium at 6 p.m. The Raiders are the preseason favorite to win the Patriot League and finished last season on a roll. They won their last five games to end up 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the league and feature the conference’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year in junior lineman Nick Wheeler, who had 11.5 quarterback sacks last season.

Colgate has had success in Durham in the recent past. The last time the two teams met Colgate ended UNH’s season with a 27-20 decision in the first round of the NCAA FCS Division I Championships in 2015 in the final game played in Cowell Stadium. And that came after UNH won a 26-8 game at Colgate in its second game of the 2015 season.

The Wildcats have six regular season home games scheduled this year for the first time since 2014 and here’s an oddity for a team that has posted a winning record each season since 2004: Each of the teams UNH will play at home this season beat the Wildcats the last time the teams played.

That big picture is the least of head coach Sean McDonnell’s concerns at the moment. The immediate concern is to figure out what went wrong Thursday night and fix it in time for Colgate.

“He said keep our heads up and keep moving on to the next one,” senior defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton said when asked what message McDonnell delivered after the game. “They came out and they played harder than us and we’ve got to keep moving on. ... We’ve just got to regroup and come back next week.”

Whether the Wildcats will be regrouping with veteran starting quarterback Trevor Knight calling the shots remains to be seen.

Knight was hit while passing the ball in the second quarter and left the game with an AC sprain or shoulder injury.

McDonnell said on Friday afternoon that Knight’s shoulder will be kept in a sling and immobilized for a couple of days and it is not yet clear what his status is going forward.

Sophomore Christian Lupoli replaced Knight and teamed with redshirt freshman running back Carlos Washington, Jr. for the team’s only touchdown on a 62-yard pass play with 12:47 left in the fourth quarter.

Maine-UNH was not the only CAA result that opened eyes in the FCS on Thursday night.

Delaware, ranked No. 15 in the country going into the season, lost at home to Rhode Island, 21-19.

Delaware was picked to finished third in the league’s preseason poll and Rhode Island was last at No. 12.

UNH was picked third and Maine was chosen eighth.

Go figure. Typical of life in the always-difficult CAA.

“We didn’t play as physical as them, we didn’t play as hard as them,” junior running back Evan Gray said. “They woke us up a little bit. My hat’s off to them. We shot ourselves in the foot. We couldn’t make plays. Mistake after mistake. It’s going to hurt. We can’t do anything about it right now. We’ve just got to back tomorrow. Get back to work. Focus on Colgate.”