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Football: McDonnell ready for Louisiana

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, December 13, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 13, 2013 07:12

It was one thing to beat the CAA champion Maine Black Bears last week in Orono, ME, but according to UNH football head coach Sean McDonnell, the Wildcats will be taking on an even bigger handful in this Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinal, where they will face Southland Conference champion No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana University.

“We’ve stepped it a notch, here,” McDonnell said. “We’re going to another level. That’s what I see.”

From what McDonnell’s seen in the tape room, Southeastern’s success begins with its offensive and defensive leaders on both sides of the ball- quarterback Brian Bennett and middle linebacker Cqulin Hubert.

“A lot of very good football players. No. 4 in the country for a reason,” McDonnell said. “You know, and the reason they are is that they have two guys that you can put your thumbs on as outstanding. Between the quarterback, Brian Bennett, and then their middle linebacker, Cqulin Hubert.”

Before starting at Southeastern, Bennett was a backup quarterback at University of Oregon, where former UNH offensive coordinator Chip Kelly was head coach from 2009-2012. McDonnell called Kelly to get some pointers.

“I called Chip [Kelly] on Sunday night,” McDonnell said. “I said, ‘Chip, what do you know about this guy?’ and he said, ‘I’d like to give you some good news. I can’t.’ He goes, ‘I’m going to give you some bad news, he’s a really good football player.’

Bennett threw for 2896 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013. At Oregon, between 2011 and 2012, he totaled 580 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

“[Bennett] left Oregon for one simple reason,” McDonnell said. “That he wanted to be play, and the guy at quarterback was a pretty good player ahead of him.” 

Most notably, he led the Lions last Saturday to a game winning touchdown drive in the last two minutes of play, covering 85 yards in 45 seconds and giving his team a miraculous 30-29 victory over Sam Houston State.

Hubert led his team with 77 tackles this season, and he was 16th in the conference for most tackles. He averaged 5.9 tackles per game.

The two leaders are surrounded by skilled role players. Accompanying Hubert in the linebacking core is Cqulin Corbett, who had 50 tackles and seven sacks this year. While Bennett led the team in rushing with 1137 yards this season, Rasheed Harrell, Xavier Roberson and Sutton combined for 1602 yards, rushing for 665, 547 and 390 yards, respectively. Wide Receiver Jeff Smiley totaled 705 receiving yards and caught six touchdowns. Last week against Sam Houston State, Smiley, and fellow wide receivers Tony McCrea and Marquis Fruge combined for 286 yards and two touchdowns. 

“They’re very athletic. They are very good football players,” McDonnell said. “They have very good schemes, and this team has a lot of the things that need to be an explosive football team on both sides of the ball.”

McDonnell hopes to use the win on Saturday, in which the Wildcats won two playoff games in one season for the first time in program history, to motivate his players this week, but he also wants to push his players to aspire to more. 

“Motivation now is to do something that no one has ever done. We sort of done it winning two games back to back, but no one has ever gotten past the quarterfinals,” McDonnell said. “The motivation is also, there’s eight teams left. After Saturday, there’s going to be four. We’re one of those four standing. [If we] live for another day, that’s going to be awesome.”

Quarterback Sean Goldrich, who passed for 291 yards and three touchdowns this past Saturday, feels motivated by the possibility to take that next step to the semi-finals, especially in light of the early season struggles the Wildcats overcame this year. 

“The great part is the opportunity we have,” Goldrich said. “We really didn’t think much of this after that Towson game, [having a record of] 1-3, we were thinking, ‘What type of team really are we? What are we capable of?’… Next thing you know, we’re here and we have this chance to play for a national championship, against a team that we definitely think is beatable.”

Wednesday, Southeastern was penalized for having 137 academically ineligible students competing in their program over the last five years. This will not affect Southeastern in this season’s playoffs.

The Wildcats play at Southeastern this Saturday at 7 p.m.

 

Max Sullivan can be reached on Twitter @MaxSullivanLive

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