Football Gameday Preview
No. 10 UNH vs No. 21 Lehigh
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 01:09
After a week of rest, the UNH Wildcats travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to faceoff with the No. 18 Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The two nationally ranked teams will hit the field at Goodman Stadium on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
The Wildcats (1-1) spent the week off getting players back to health, including running backs Jimmy Owens and Chris Setian, and wide receiver Mike DeTroia.
UNH has played just two games this season while many teams around the league have played four. Players and coaches alike are eager to get out on the field and hit another team.
The Mountain Hawks come into the weekend with a 2-0 record after defeating Princeton last week 29-28. Lehigh rallied to win the close game after being down 22-3 at the end of the first half.
Lehigh has a knack for winning games from behind; it beat Central Connecticut State earlier this season in double overtime after overcoming a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
If the Wildcats get ahead by a score, the defense will have to hold tight until the final whistle.
When UNH runs the football
The S.O.S Express is back with the return of Jimmy Owens and Chris Setian to back up Nico Steriti. The Wildcats’ running force is back at full strength and will be their strongest weapon on Saturday as wide receiver R.J. Harris continues to deal with an ailing left hand. With Harris and Setian out against Colgate, redshirt freshman running back Dalton Crossan made a case for more playing time as he rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown. UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said Crossan will get a few touches in the game.
When UNH passes the football
Harris had surgery on his left hand during the bye week, but practiced this week leading up to the game. Harris will, at the least, be limited. Senior wide receiver Justin Mello and tight end Harold Spears will be the prime targets for quarterback Andy Vailas. Mello is a subtle member of the offense, but when called on, he delivers. McDonnell praised Mello following the Colgate game for his consistency and catching ability. Spears scored the first two touchdowns of the 53-23 win over Colgate.
When Lehigh runs the football
The Mountain Hawks’ top rusher is Keith Sherman, who has rushed for 240 yards on 43 attempts averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Lehigh’s offense is mostly weighed on the passing game with a focus on the screen pass, leaving the rush to play a minor role in the offense. This season, the rushing game has accounted for six touchdowns with the passing game contributing four. Don’t expect to see too much running with the ball from Lehigh quarterback Brandon Bialkowski. The senior has averaged 0.6 yards per carry.
When Lehigh passes the football
McDonnell said the Lehigh offense is very effective with the screen pass. Once again, the Wildcats’ defense will need to lock down on open field tackles and keep the plays in front of them. Bialkowski completed a team single-game record 42 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns against Princeton last weekend. Wide receiver Lee Kurfis leads the FCS in receiving yards per game with 195. Bialkowski has thrown nine touchdowns through three games this season. Kurfis has scored four touchdowns.
Impact Player: Chris Setian
Senior captain Chris Setian is returning for his first game back from a left knee injury that kept him from playing in UNH’s first two games. After a solid week of practice, Setian is looking to get back into the rotation of running backs, rounding out their “S.O.S.” committee, alongside Jimmy Owens and Nico Steriti.
Setian was second on the team in rushing yards last season with 490 and averaged a team-high 5.9 yards per carry. He also led the running back corps with 22 receptions, 185 yards and four receiving touchdowns, to go with five on the ground.
Setian’s bruising style of running makes him an excellent situational back, serving as a formidable option on third down and in the red zone. While the coaches may look to ease him back into play, don’t be surprised if Setian makes an immediate impact in his first game back.