Arts & Living
On The Spot
UNH Commuter Connection
The Clock (PSU)
The Equinox (KSC)
TNH Archive (1/97 - 5/03)
Taking home the hardware
Coach McDonnell and QB Santos earn highest A-10 honors
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Media Credit: AP Photo
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ricky Santos is this year´s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. Pictured here: Santos is pushed out-of-bounds by a Black Bear defender during the ´Cats win over UMaine.
When the faxes came through to the UNH Field House announcing the Atlantic 10 Awards for 2004 on Tuesday morning, there was a buzz that ran through the hallways. Sixth-year head coach Sean McDonnell was named the Atlantic 10 Football Conference's Coach of the Year. In addition, redshirt freshman quarterback Ricky Santos took home some major hardware as A-10 Rookie of the Year and in all nine football players were named to all-conference teams.
McDonnell is always quick to recognize the players and his staff over himself, but he is the main reason why the UNH football program has reached new heights and clearly his peers in the conference who voted for him felt the same way.
McDonnell has led the No. 5-ranked Wildcats to their first NCAA I-AA tournament bid since 1994 and its best record (9-2) since UNH was 10-2 in 1994. The Wildcats have rolled to five straight wins to end the regular season and McDonnell has led his squad to seven consecutive road victories, the best performance ever by a UNH team in games away from Durham. UNH's two most visible players, redshirt freshman Ricky Santos and sophomore wide receiver David Ball were not recruited seriously by any other I-AA team and have become two of the top players in I-AA football. Santos, who has 29 touchdown passes this season, remains a strong candidate for the Walter Payton Award and would be the first freshman in 18 years to ever win the honor. Ball, who has made a UNH record 17 touchdown receptions this season, has led the nation in several receiving categories and could be named an All-American in the near future. Under McDonnell, UNH has improved from a 5-7 overall mark and 3-6 record in the conference in 2003 to a 9-2 overall record in 2004 and a 6-2 mark in the A-10, good enough to earn the team first-place in the North Division. UNH was picked to finish fourth in the North in the preseason Coaches Poll.
McDonnell is also quickly improving his overall career record at UNH. He is now 32-34 and needs two wins to reach a .500 winning percentage.
It was also announced on Monday that McDonnell is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award, which will be announced on Dec. 16th in Chattanooga, Tenn., on the eve of the NCAA, I-AA national championship.
Santos, who was also named second-team All-Atlantic 10 in addition to being named Rookie of the Year has been an amazing story, moving from fourth-string quarterback to starter. His first career-start was a win over I-A Rutgers in which he tied the UNH record for touchdowns in a game with five and then he broke his own mark with six in a win at Villanova. Santos has been named the USA Today National Player of the Week, a two time Sports Network National Player of the Week, a two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Week and he was the Rookie of the Week five times, the most by any player in the conference. Santos has completed 217 of 345 passes for an average of 278.4 yards per game. He has also connected on 62.9 percent of his passes and has rushed for 295 yards. Santos' statistics have been ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation for most of the 2004 campaign.
Ball was a first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection after breaking the UNH mark for touchdown catches in a season with 17. Ball is ranked second in the nation in average yards per game (135.77) and third in the I-AA in receptions with 7.64 catches per game. Ball tied the Atlantic 10 record for touchdown catches in a game with four vs. Towson on Nov. 13.
Also named an offensive first-teamer was junior tight end Jon Williams. Williams was the Cats' third-leading receiver with 34 catches for 387 yards and a pair of touchdowns. An impressive third-down receiver, he averaged 11. 4 yards per catch for UNH. He is also one of the strongest players pound-for-pound on the team and is an outstanding blocker on the offensive line.
Senior offensive lineman Christian Leibl-Cote was a second-team all-conference pick after anchoring UNH's explosive offensive line. UNH's offense averaged 427.2 yards per game and he has been a leader on and off the field for the Wildcats.
Senior David Bailey was recognized twice for his ability as a returner. He was named the second-team kick returner in the conference with 25 for 427 yards and an average of 17.1 yards per return. He also scored one touchdown. Bailey was the third-team punt returner with 34 for 341 yards and a 10.0 average. He also scored a touchdown off a punt.
A Granite Stater also made the third team in junior offensive lineman Tim Carignan, who was also named a CoSIDA District I Academic All-American has been a key starter for UNH since he transferred here from Syracuse in the middle of last season. Carignan is also a main reason why UNH is averaging 282.8 yards through the air and 145.4 on the ground.
Senior defensive end George Peterson has led the entire league in tackles for a loss with 20 for a loss of 77 yards. He is also second on the squad in sacks with 5.5 for a loss of 39 yards and he is the team's fifth-leading tackler (46-17-63). He forced one fumble and had five pass deflections, including one that preserved a win for UNH at Northeastern. He had a key sack to stop Maine from knotting the score in Orono as UNH held on to win 50-36.
Senior free safety Aaron Thomas was truly the leader of a UNH backfield that improved in nearly every area this year. As the quarterback of the defense. Thomas led UNH in tackles with 102 during the regular season and he is ranked third on UNH's all-time career tackles listing with 315. Thomas also recorded two interceptions and a sack for the Wildcats.
Last but certainly not least was sophomore corner back Corey Graham, who was a third-team selection. Graham was a two-time Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week and he was named the Sports Network National Defensive Player of the Week when he returned an interception for the game-winning touchdown vs. Northeastern. Graham leads UNH with four interceptions and he has 98 tackles in 2004, good for second-best on the squad.
National College Advertising and Marketing
If you were to win a Spring break vacation, where would you want to go?