WILDCAT FOOTBALL OPENS 2009 SEASON AT HOME VS. ST. FRANCIS (PA):  The University of New Hampshire football team, ranked eighth in both major FCS polls, will kick of the 2009 campaign with a contest on Sept. 5 vs. St. Francis at Cowell Stadium. The Wildcats are coming off their fifth straight season as an NCAA tournament team and their second straight as the winner of the CAA North Division. UNH was picked to once again win the North Division of the CAA in this year's preseason poll with an experienced defense returning and an offense that is loaded with dangerous weapons. The defense returns all four starters on a defensive line that was successful stopping the run last season and the Wildcats have several key starters returning in the backfield as well. On offense, the return of CAA Offensive Player of the Year R.J. Toman and All-American tight end Scott Sicko bodes well for an offense that has been ranked among the best in the nation in recent years. St. Francis is coming off a tough 2008 season and faces two very tough opponents to begin 2009 in UNH and the team that knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs last season, Northern Iowa, both on the road. The Red Flash are looking to bounce back from a winless 0-11 season in 2008,  while UNH was 10-3 overall and is looking for an unprecented sixth straight appearance in the NCAAs and run at the CAA title as well.

SCOUTING ST. FRANCIS:  The Red Flash may have lost all of their games last season, but were in some close contests, losing at Marist 30-22,  vs. Wagner (17-15) and to Robert Morris (35-20). Both UNH and St. Francis played Albany last season, as the Wildcats defeated the Great Danes by a 32-24 margin at Cowell Stadium and the Red Flash were defeated by a score of 27-3. One of the team's top players to keep an eye on is junior Scott Lewis who broke the conference and school record for tackles last season with 142 and was named a Sports Network second-team All-American. He also notched a career-high 23 tackles in the game vs. Wagner.  The team also hired a new offensive coordinator for this season in Chris Villarrial, an 11-year veteran of the NFL who was drafted by the Chicago Bears and Played for the Buffalo Bills. He was All-Pro twice while in the NFL. The team is focusing on youth and a new attitude this season. In 2008, St. Francis averaged was outscored by opponents by a 32.5 ppg. to 11.4 ppg. margin and the squad gave up 351 yards per game, while moving the ball for an average of 242.5 ppg. St. Francis head coach Dave Opfar returns for his eighth season with The Red Flash. A 1983 graduate of Penn State, he returns a defense with most of its starters returning and a pair of linebackers who both topped the century mark in tackles last season. The squad also returns quarterback George Little, who connected for nine touchdowns last season and passes for an average of 173.4 yards per contest for St. Francis as a 10-game starter., but they could start freshman John Kelly.

• First-year assistant coach Jake Zweig was a Navy SEAL for Team 8 in Little Creek, Va. and attained the rank of Lieutenant.

• First-Year assistant coach Matt Dawson is the brother of Mike Dawson who was defensive coordinator at UNH and moved on to coach at Akron.

• The football team picked sophomore linebacker John Duffey as the best dancer on the squad. He can be seen on video on the front page of

• The players had several nominations for funniest UNH teammate in the video, but sophomore wide receiver Micky Mangieri was widely regarded as one of the funniest.

• Projected starting left tackle Seth Price was recruited for and played basketball for the UNH men's basketball team before switching over to play football for the Wildcats. He is 6-6, 280 pounds and was recruited by several Division I colleges to play both football and basketball.

• Some of you may have heard that UNH back-up sophomore quarterback Kevin Decker had transfered , but he has returned to UNH and is ready to play a third-string or backup role once again in 2009.

• The UNH defense returns two of its top three tacklers from last season. The leading tackler from 2008 returns in junior Dino Vasso, who recorded a team-best 66-33-99 last season and the team's third leading tackler, senior lineback Sean Ware, returns after posting 44-44-88 tackles.

• The UNH defense also returns both of its top interception leaders from 2008.  Junior defensive back Dino Vasso and senior defensive back Ryan Hinds each return after picking off five passes last season.

• The UNH defense also returns its top performer in terms of forced fumbles. Junior linebacker Hugo Souza led the team with three forced fumbles in 2008

UNH FOOTBALL RANKED NO. 8 IN SPORTS NETWORK FCS TOP 25:  The UNH football team begins its 2009 campaign ranked No. 8 in the first Sports Network FCS Top 25 released this week. The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 6 in the preseason polls and were ranked in the top 10 in nearly every single FCS poll: Here's a look at The Sports Network rankings:

1. Appalachian St. Mountaineers     (79)     3,853     5
2. Richmond Spiders         (72)     3,792     1
3. Montana Grizzlies         (2)    3,506     2
4. Northern Iowa Panthers         (2)    3,408     4
5. Villanova Wildcats         (2)     3,285     6
6. James Madison Dukes         (1)     3,069     3
7. Southern Illinois Salukis         0-0    2,897     11
8. New Hampshire Wildcats     0-0     2,544     8
9. Weber State Wildcats (1)         0-0     2,525     7
10. Wofford Terriers         0-0     2,169     9
11. Elon Phoenix             0-0     2,162     17
12. Cal Poly Mustangs         0-0     1,780     10
13. Central Arkansas Bears         0-0     1,670     12
14. William & Mary Tribe         0-0     1,635     20
15. McNeese State Cowboys         0-0     1,453     21
16. South Carolina State Bulldogs     (1)     1,379     13
17. Massachusetts Minutemen     0-0     1,055     NR
18. Eastern Washington Eagles     0-0     1,038     NR
19. Maine Black Bears         0-0     1,033     18
20. Texas State Bobcats         0-0     860     22
21. Jacksonville State Gamecocks     0-0     808     23
22. South Dakota State Jackrabbits     0-0     707     NR
23. Harvard Crimson         0-0     504     15
24. Eastern Kentucky Colonels     0-0     394     19
25. Grambling State Tigers         0-0     382     24
25. Holy Cross Crusaders         0-0     382     NR

UNH FOOBALL SUCCESSFUL IN RECENT SEASON-OPENERS: Head coach Sean McDonnell has always talked about getting off to fast starts and that is usually what the Wildcats have done in recent years.  The Wildcats have won five of their last six season-opening contests, including wins over Army in 2008, Northwestern in 2006, UC Davis in 2005, Delaware in 2004, and Central Connecticut in 2003. The only season-opening loss during that span was at James Madison in 2007.

TOMAN LEADS WILDCATS IN ANNUAL FALL BLUE/WHITE SCRIMMAGE: DURHAM, N.H.—The University of New Hampshire football team held its annual Blue/White Scrimmage on Thursday afternoon and junior starting quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) showed why he was voted the CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while the experienced UNH defense showed off its ability to make the big play. Toman completed 9x14 passes for 193 yards, including a pair of touchdowns, one to junior wide receiver Mike Greene (Stonington, Conn.) for 27 yards on the opening drive, and the other a 33-yarder to senior tight end Kamal Mohammed (San Diego, Calif.). Toman also completed a long pass of 50 yards to junior wide receiver Kevon Mason (Quincy, Mass.). Toman notched three carries for 44 yards, but lost yards after a 9 yard sack. Greene finished the afternoon with four catches for 80 yards and senior receiver Travis Negron (San Diego, Calif.), made two catches, including a 28-yarder from Toman. Leading the rushing game was freshman running back Chris Setian (East Long Longmeadow, Mass.) with 14 carries for 58 yards and he scored on a 1 yard run. In all, the five quarterbacks combined to pass for 415 yards on the afternoon. The defense got into the scoring column when junior defensive back John Greer (Buffalo, N.Y.) intercepted a pass and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats had four interceptions; four quarterback sacks, one pass deflection and one blocked point after attempt (PAT). Freshman Chris Beranger (Winthrop, Mass.) led the way with 11 tackles, including five solos.  Sophomore Mark Petercuskie (Holliston, Mass.) followed with nine tackles. Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J.) also chipped in with nine tackles, including one for a six-yard loss. Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.) registered a pair of sacks. Chris Houston (Harrisburg, Pa.) registered a 40-yard interception return. Jason Roach (Dorchester, Mass.) and Jeff McMath (Peabody, Mass.) also had interceptions, while Jim Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) blocked a PAT and had a pair of tackles, including one for loss.

Scoring Summary

1 – 12:15 – Mike Greene 27-yard touchdown reception from RJ Toman (Tom Manning PAT Good)

1 – 4:35 – Shawn Sweeney 2-yard touchdown run (Manning PAT Good)

1—11:52 – Derek Coppola 13-yard touchdown reception from Mike Roberto (DeLago PAT blocked)

2 – 6:34 – Chris Jeannot 18–yard touchdown reception from Kevin Decker (Manning PAT Good)

2 – 4:53 – Kamal Mohamed 33–yard touchdown reception from Toman (Manning PAT Good)

2 – 4:13 – John Greer 45-yard interception return (DeLago PAT Missed)

2 – 0:19 – Sean Jellison 4-yard run (DeLago PAT Good)

3 – 8:15 – Chris Setian 1-yard run (McNulty PAT Good)
JUNIOR QB R.J. TOMAN NAMED TO SPORTS NETWORK WALTER PAYTON AWARD WATCH LIST:  PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—Junior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viego, Calif.) of the University of New Hampshire football team was recently announced by The Sports Network as one of 20 players named to this year’s Walter Payton Award Watch List. Toman, who was recently named the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, became the starting quarterback for New Hampshire in 2008, replacing 2006 Payton Award winner Ricky Santos, and threw for 3,110 yards and 28 touchdowns, while completing 65% of his passes. Toman was also a threat on the ground, with 219 yards rushing and six scores. He helped lead UNH to a CAA North Division Title and the NCAA playoffs, and was rewarded with second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors for his efforts. He finished the 2008 campaign ranked seventh nationally in passing efficiency and 17th in total offense with 256 yards-per-game. Toman passed for a career-high 309 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-43 win at Rhode Island. In 2007, in his only game as a starter, Toman completed 15-of-19 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, one coming on the ground. He also came off the bench for an injured Santos and keyed a 35-30 victory over Delaware with 98 yards and two touchdown passes. Despite his limited opportunities, Toman piled up 310 passing yards and four touchdown passes before the 2008 season.

11TH YEAR HEAD COACH SEAN McDONNELL NAMED NEW ENGLAND FOOTBALL WRITERS COACH OF THE YEAR IN 2008: 11th-year head coach Sean McDonnell was  named the New England Football Writers Coach Of the Year for his outstanding efforts in 2008. It was the second time he  won the award, after being honored in 2005. McDonnell  led UNH to its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Playoffs and a 10-3 mark in 2008.  For hs career he now owns a 79-49-0 record as the head coach at the University of New Hampshire. He was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of  the Year in 2005 as selected by "The Sports Network".  In the the last five seasons, McDonnell and his team has posted an impressive overall mark of 47-17 and the program is 28-12 vs. CAA opponents during that timespan. McDonnell was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2004 and was named District I Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) after leading UNH to its best season ever in the history of the program. The Wildcats also finished first in the North Division of the Atlantic 10 Football Conference and won their first-ever NCAA I-AA tournament game with a victory at Georgia Southern. McDonnell led his squad to the NCAA I-AA Quarterfinals four  times 2004 through 2006 and in 2008.

FOOTBALL PICKED TO FINISH FIRST IN CAA NORTH DIVISION AND R.J. TOMAN PICKED CAA PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR FOR 2009: BALTIMORE — The University of New Hampshire football team was picked to finish first in the North Division of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) preseason coaches and media poll and junior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) was named one of three CAA Preseason Players of the Year. The announcement was made  by the CAA during its annual Media Day at the ESPNZone in Baltimore. The Wildcats, who recorded 12 first-place votes in the poll, led the way and were followed by Massachusets (7 first-place votes), Maine, Hofstra, Northeastern and Rhode Island. Richmond and Villanova were picked as the preseason favorites to win the CAA and the South Division, as each had 9 first place votes, followed by James Madison (1), Delaware, William and Mary, and Towson. The Wildcats are coming off their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA FCS Tournament and have advanced to the quarterfinals four of the last five years. UNH also won the CAA North Division title in 2008. Toman, who was named a first-team preseason all-conference selection at quarterback, was selected as the CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year following an outstanding sophomore campaign where he passed for 3,110 yards and connected for 28 touchdowns. He led UNH to a 10-3 overall mark and 6-2 record in the CAA. Toman also rushed for six TDS in 2008. The UNH offense exploded for an average of 404.2 yards per contest with Toman as UNH’s starting field general. Joining Toman on the first team was senior All-American Scott Sicko (Stillwater, N.Y.), who returns as UNH’s leading receiver after making 50 receptions for 660 yards and seven touchdowns. He has been named to almost every preseason All-America team by the various FCS newspapers, magazines and web sites. Also honored by being named to the first-team defensive all-conference squad for UNH was junior corner Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.). Vasso, a returning starter, led the Wildcats last season with five interceptions and returned them for a total of 113 yards, including a 66 yd. touchdown return. Vasso also led a vastly improved UNH defense in tackles with 99, including 66 unassisted and 33 assists.

THREE UNH FOOTBALL PLAYERS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS BY THE SPORTS NETWORK: Senior tight end Scott Sicko, senior defensive back Ryan Hinds and junior defensive back Dino Vasso were all recognized by the Sports Network as preseason All-Americans. Sicko earned first-team honors, Hinds was a third-team All-American and Vasso earned honorable mention.

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