Wildcats will be tested against Old Dominion
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Coming off of a 43-10 victory over Central Connecticut State, the University of New Hampshire football program (currently No. 18 in The Sports Network top 25 poll) will travel to Norfolk, Va. this weekend to take on the No. 5 Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday.
This game marks the first conference match-up for both the Monarchs and the Wildcats of the season.
The Monarchs remain undefeated this season and are leading the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in total offense (averaging 618.3 yards per game) as well as total defense (averaging 222 yards per game).
Sean McDonnell, UNH head coach, said ODU is a really well rounded football team and that this game “is a great opportunity.”
One particular area of the Monarchs game where they thrive has been their pace of offense on the field. The Monarchs, who commonly run a no-huddle offense, are quick to the line and are often ready to snap the ball before the first down marker has even been set.
“Even as quick temp as we play, at times, I don’t know if we’re playing as fast as they are right now,” McDonnell said. “Our kids know the tempo. We can do it.”
“They go so quickly and it requires you to get the [defensive] calls in and everyone needs to get lined up and be ready to go,” John Lyons, UNH defensive coordinator said.
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who was named the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year, CFPA Freshman Performer of the Year and received the CFPA Quarterback award last year, leads ODU.
“[Heinicke] has good size, good speed and probably has as good an arm as anyone we will see this year,” McDonnell said.
Heinicke leads the CAA in passing yards per game with 397.
On the topic of quarterbacks, Andy Vailas will start again this Saturday. Sean Goldrich is not expected to be ready for at least another week.
McDonnell said Vailas has not just improved from week to week, but from quarter to quarter as well.
“I thought he made some good throws, he made some good reads, and he made some good run decisions,” McDonnell said.
When asked who will start once Goldrich is healthy, McDonnell said it would be Goldrich again.
“As I have done things all throughout my career, the guy that gets hurt, he comes back and starts until he cannot perform again,” McDonnell said.
Vailas has proved that he can be the starter for the team, and although he may not start once Goldrich returns, it gives McDonnell options and the confidence that whatever may happen on the field, the team can adjust comfortably to the circumstances.
The Monarch defense is lead by redshirt senior linebacker Craig Wilkins, who leads the defense with 17 tackles and two sacks so far this season.
The Monarch secondary also presents a challenge for the Wildcats passing offense. Linebacker Rodney Hunter leads the team with two interceptions this season and safety Devon Simmons leads the secondary in tackles with 10.
“They play a lot downhill and make big plays against the run,” redshirt freshman wide receiver R.J. Harris said. “They play very physical … and we can use their physicality and their aggressiveness against them.
“We just want to go out and play hard and get our first CAA win on the road,” Harris said.
Away games are where teams win and lose their seasons, and the Wildcats have four games on the road in their first six weeks of the season. The Wildcats are 1-1 on the road heading into this Saturday’s game.
“Winning on the road is important for all of the goals we have in our program,” McDonnell said. “We got to go, we got to prove that we can win on the road, so let’s go do it at their [Old Dominion’s] place.”