‘Cats impress in home opener against CCSU
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
A week of hard work after a blowout in Minnesota led to an amazing defensive performance from New Hampshire, as the team allowed 234 total yards and forced six turnovers against the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils’ struggles on offense, as well as good field position and a dominate rushing attack for UNH helped lead the way to a 43-10 in its home opener at Cowell Stadium on Saturday.
“This was a win we needed to get,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said.
The game started off on a poor note, as quarterback Andy Vailas – who was making his first collegiate start against CCSU – fumbled the ball on the Wildcats’ opening offensive play of the game.
“It was my fault,” Vailas said. “I should have kept it and went up field and got the yards we needed, but I made a mistake.”
Vailas’s mistake was quickly forgotten when defensive tackle Matt Kaplan was able cover a CCSU fumble after a bad exchange took place on the Blue Devils’ first offensive play of the game.
After that mistake Vailas and UNH’s stable of running backs led the way down the field 79 yards. The drive was capped off by a five-yard Vailas rushing touchdown, putting the score at 6-0 after kicker Mike MacArthur missed the PAT.
On the ensuing CCSU possession, the Blue Devils responded with a 17-play drive that included two successful fourth-down conversions and ended with a 33-yard field goal from Juan Duque.
From that point onward it was UNH’s ball game as the Wildcat defense would keep Central Connecticut from scoring again until there was 1:08 left in the fourth quarter and a 38 yard fumble recovery by David Rose gave CCSU its first touchdown of the game.
“New Hampshire is a really, really good defensive football team,” Central Connecticut State Head Coach Jeff McInerney said. “They’re big and physical and they’re first class.”
The physicality of the Wildcat’s defense played an important role in the unit’s success. UNH held the Blue Devils to 121 rushing yards on 50 carries and limited the CCSU quarterback to Andrew Clements to 10-21 for 98 yards and three interceptions.
“I was very pleased with the defense. The ends, the tackles and the linebackers in particular did a real nice job keeping the ball caged and inside,” McDonnell said. “I thought our safeties, inside and out, did a real good job of getting to the perimeter and making some plays.”
Turnovers played a huge role in the Wildcats’ victory, as the team managed to grab four interceptions while Kaplan came up another fumble recovery in addition to the one he recovered at the beginning of the game.
“Us coming here and turning over [the ball] six [times], we gave ourselves no chance. Not one chance,” McInerney said.
On the offensive side of the ball, UNH was led by the running back trio of Nico Steriti (12 carries, 104 yards), Jimmy Owens (11 carries, 91 yards, two touchdowns) and Chris Setian (11 carries, 81, one touchdown) who combined for 331 yards on the ground.
Vailas stepped up as well against CCSU, going 14-20 on passes for 122 yards as well as a touchdown in addition to six carries for 17 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
With this win now behind them, UNH prepares for the heart of its schedule as it opens up conference play. All eight of the Wildcats’ remaining regular seasons games are against CAA conference foes, starting off next week at No. 6 Old Dominion.
“We got through the first three weeks of school and now we’re starting to go. This is it,” McDonnell said. “And we’re talking about what I think is the most talented team in the CAA next week in Old Dominion.”