FOOTBALL GAME DAY (NO. 10 UNH TRAVELS TO BATTLE NO. 2 VILLANOVA IN NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTERFINAL GAME, DEC. 5)
UNH ADVANCES TO NCAA DIVISION I QUARTERFINALS FOR FIFTH TIME IN LAST SIX YEARS: ThIs is not unfamiliar territory for the UNH Wildcats who are making their sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Division I Championship Playoffs and their fifth trip to the quarterfinals over the last six seasons. The one thing UNH has never done in the quarterfinals is win and that is deep in the minds of everyone involved with the football program. They face a tough task to break that streak as they will travel to play No. 2 ranked Villanova on Dec. 5. However, the good thing is that UNH is the only team to have beaten Villanova this season, a 28-24 victory in Durham. The bad news is that the other Wildcats will be looking for revenge and they will be playing on their home turf. Both teams play in the No. 1 conference in the nation, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Both teams have strong defenses. Both teams feature offenses that move the football well and can score in a hurry. Both teams have experienced head coaches who have been here before, and both teams have experienced seniors who are fired up and ready to do anything they can to lead their respective teams to a National Championship. However, only one of these outstanding teams will survive and advance to the semifinals. One thing is for sure, there will be Wildcats in the semifinals.
SCOUTING VILLANOVA: When you look at what Villanova has done in 2009, you are hard-pressed to find any weaknesses in the No 2 football team in the land. They are coached well, run well, play defense well, are strong on special teams and that is all reflected in the team's 11-1 record this season. Wins over the likes of BCS team Temple (27-24), then No. 1 FCS team Richmond (21-20), and then No. 5 William & Mary (28-17) says it all for the Wildcats, who lost only once this season, which coincidentally was against New Hampshire in Durham (28-24). The talent on the team spreads into all areas of the football field. It starts at QB where Chris Whitney is the leading rusher (65.8 ypg. and 4 TDs) and the leading passer (129 of 209 for 137.7 ypg. and 17 TDs.). Perhaps the most gifted player in the CAA is Matt Szczur, who is tied for the team lead in rushing TDs with six, second on the team in receptions with 43 catches for 488 yards and 4TDs and he is an outstanding kick returner with an average of 27.3 ypr. with one TD. The teams' top receiver has been Brandyn Harvey with 50 catches for 629 yards and five TDs. On the defensive side of the football it's Terrence Thomas and Osayi Osunde getting it done. Thomas checks in as the leading tackler on the squad (54-43-97) and he leads the squad in sacks with seven. Osunde is all over the football field and has 32-42-74 tackles. James Pitts leads the squad in interceptions with four. Head coach Andy Talley has over 200 victories in his outstanding career with 204 and he was voted the Coach of the Year in the CAA for 2009 as voted upon by CAA coaches.
UNH FOOTBALL MAKING ITS SIXTH CONSECUTIVE APPEARANCE IN THE NCAA FCS PLAYOFFS AND EIGHTH OVERALL: The University of New Hampshire football program is making its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Division I Championship Playoffs. UNH has also moved on to play in the NCAA Quarterfinals in five of the last six seasons after this past week's 49-13 first-round win at McNeese, 49-13. In 2008, the Wildcats defeated Southern Illinois, 29-20 in first round action in Carbondale. However, the 'Cats ran into Playoff nemesis Northern Illinois and were defeated in the UNI Dome, 36-34. UNH's streak of six consecutive NCAA appearances is third-best in FCS, behind only Montana and Southern Illinois. The Wildcats now own an overall playoff record of 5-7. In 2007, UNH was defeated at No. 1 seed Northern Iowa in the first round (38-35), after the Panthers came back to win on a late TD pass. In 2006, UNH posted a victory over Hampton (41-38) in the first round and lost to Massachusetts in the quarterfinals (24-17). In 2005, UNH lost to UNI in the quarterfinals at Cowell Stadium (24-21) and the Wildcats defeated Colgate in Durham in the first round (55-21). In 2004, UNH won at Georgia Southern (27-23) and was defeated at Montana in the quarterfinals (47-17). UNH also lost in the first round of the NCAAs to Appalachian State in 1994 (17-10 OT) and lost to Samford in the first round in 1991 (29-13).
CAA TEAMS SUCCESSFUL VS. FBS THIS SEASON: How tough is the CAA going to be this season? Take a look at what CAA teams did so far against FBS opponents, many stepping up and defeating the big boys. William & Mary topped Virginia (26-14), Richmond defeated Duke (24-16), Villanova topped Temple (27-24), and Massachusetts narrowly missed defeating Kansas State, losing by just a 21-17 margin. UNH defeated Ball State 23-16 and James Madison lost in overtime to a very strong Maryland squad.
UNH FOOTBALL RANKED FOURTH IN THE FCS IN KICKOFF RETURNS: The UNH football team is averaging 25.05 yards per return this season in kickoff return yards and that ranks them fourth in the nation in that category. The team has been led by senior Chad Kackert and his 19 returns for an average of 22.4 yards per return and by junior Dino Vasso at 29.9 yards per return in nine attempts. UNH's average is second in the CAA only to James Madison (25.49 ypr.).
WILDCATS LEAD THE CAA IN SCORING; NINTH IN THE NATION: The UNH football team leads the CAA in points per game this season with an average of 33.9 points per game. That mark is also good for ninth in the nation according to the NCAA FCS statistics.
WILDCATS LEAD THE CAA IN INTERCEPTIONS THIS SEASON WITH A GRAND TOTAL OF 21: UNH has been very solid at intercepting opponent passes this season and the Wildcats lead the CAA with 21 picked off passes in 2009. Leading the team in interceptions this season has been junior corner Dino Vasso with five pick-offs and senior safety Terrence Klein with six interceptions. UNH also leads the conference in interceptions returned for touchdown with four after Klein returned one 79 yards to the house in the win at McNeese State.
UNH RANKED NO. 6 IN FCS AND NO. 1 IN THE CAA IN TURNOVER MARGIN: The University of New Hampshire football team is presently ranked No. 6 in the FCS and No. 1 in the Colonial Athletic Association in turnover margin with a mark of 1.25. Looking at what the defense has done this season, it has come up with 11 fumble recoveries and 21 interceptions for a total of 32 turnovers gained, while UNH has lost just five fumbles this season and has had 12 intercepted passes for a mark of just 17 turnovers lost. That puts the Wildcats at +15 in the turnover margin department.
SENIOR KICKER TOM MANNING NOW RANKS EIGHTH ON THE CAA ALL-TIME EXTRA POINT LISTING WITH 150 IN HIS CAREER: Senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) presently ranks eighth on the CAA all-time career extra points list. He heads into the game vs. Villanova with 150 kicked PATs for the Wildcats.
SENIOR RUNNING BACK CHAD KACKERT MOVES UP TO NO. 7 ON UNH'S ALL-TIME CAREER RUSHING LISTING: Senior running back Chad Kackert is finally playing healthy after suffering a hamstring injury in the preseason and he is quickly moving up UNH's all-time career rushing listing. He now has 2,431 rushing yards in his career and moved past Avrom Smith (1991-1994) and his 2,237 career rushing yards. Kackert now needs 470 rushing yards to catch Andre Garron, who is No. 6 on the all-time rushing list with 2,901 yards from 1982-1985.
Here's a look at the UNH career rushing list:
1. Jerry Azumah (1995-98) 6,193
2. Bill Burnham (1974-77) 3,773
3. Stephan Lewis (1999-02) 3,679
4. Norm Ford (1986-89) 3,538
5. Barry Bourassa (1989-92) 3,015
6. Andre Garron (1982-85) 2,901
7. Chad Kackert 2,431
SENIOR ALL-AMERICAN TIGHT END SCOTT SICKO MOVES INTO THE UNH TOP 10 IN CAREER CATCHES MADE: Senior All-American tight end Scott Sicko (Stillwater, N.Y.) has moved into the UNH top 10 when it comes to career catches made with 156 in his career. With his five catches at McNeese State, Sicko moved up to eighth on the all-time listing to pass Chris Braune. Sicko needs just three more catches to move past Calvin Jones for seventh place on the list.
Here's a look at the UNH career receptions listing:
1. David Ball (2003-06) 304
2. Keith LeVan (2004-2007) 201
3. Curtis Olds (1985-88) 193
4. John Perry (1989-92) 191
5. David Gamble (1990-93) 182
6. Stephan Lewis (1999-2002) 164
7. Calvin Jones (1993-96) 158
8. Scott Sicko 156
9. Chris Braune (1986-89) 155
10. Mike Gallagher (1989-92) 150
A LOOK AT THE CAREER NUMBERS FOR SENIOR ALL-AMERICA TIGHT END SCOTT SICKO: Senior All-American tight end Scott Sicko continues to move up among UNH's and the nation's all-time best tight ends. Against Villanova, he recorded three catches for 135 yards and a touchdown on his way to the victory. Against UMass he had his best game of the season with 10 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Looking back over his career so far, he has made 156 career catches for 1,994 career yards at UNH. He has also grabbed 202 touchdown receptions during his time wearing the Blue and White.
QUARTERBACK R.J. TOMAN MOVES UP TO FOURTH ON UNH'S ALL-TIME CAREER PASSING YARDAGE LIST: Junior quarterback R.J. Toman has had a relatively quiet year in terms of his stats compared to his junior season, but UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said he has been very proud of his leadership and toughness as the starting quarterback in 2009. This season he has completed 168 of 302 passes for 15 touchdowns and has averaged 194.1 yards per contest. He is also UNH's third-leading ball-carrier with 103 attempts for 277 yards and four rushing touchdowns. For his career, Toman has completed 424 of 691 passes for 5,555 yards. He also has passed for 47 touchdowns in his career so far. Toman now ranks fourth on UNH's all-time career passing yardage listing.
Most Passing YardsﾑCareer
1. Ricky Santos (2004-2007) 12,189
2. Bob Jean (1985-88) 7,742
3. Ryan Day (1997-2001) 7,670
4. R.J. Toman 2007-2009 5,555
5. Matt Griffin (1987-91) 5,425
6. Jim Stayer (1992-94) 5,349
7. Mike Granieri (2000-) 4,775
8. Jeff Allen (1974-77) 4,184
9. Chris Bresnahan (1995-96) 4,085
10. Bob Hopkins (1969-71) 3,143
TOMAN RANKED SECOND IN THE CAA IN TOTAL OFFENSE WITH A MARK OF 219.3 YARDS PER GAME: Junior quarterback R.J. Toman is now ranked second in the CAA with a mark of 219.3 ypg. in total yardage. The only player ahead of him is Delaware QB Pat Devlin with 253.7 pg.
UNH WHEN STATISTICS: Here is how the UNH football team has done when:
at home: 6-0
on the road: 4-2
on grass: 0-0
on turf: 10-2
in day games: 9-2
at night: 1-0
leading at the half: 9-0
tied at the half: 0-1
trailing at the half: 1-1
leading after three quarters: 9-0
behind after three quarters: 2-0
tied after three quarters 0-2
UNH scores first: 7-1
Opponent scores first: 3-1
UNH on television 4-1
WILDCATS RIDING A NINE-GAME HOME WINNING STREAK DATING BACK TO LAST YEAR'S LOSS TO WILLIAM & MARY IN DURHAM; The Wildcats have won nine consecutive home games played at Cowell Stadium dating back to Oct. 11, 2008 when William & Mary defeated UNH, 38-34. In this order, UNH has defeated Towson, Hofstra, Massachusetts, St. Francis, Dartmouth, Villanova, Northeastern, Rhode Island and Maine, all in Durham. UNH is, of course undefeated at home this season with an impressive 6-0 mark.
UNH IS 10-0 WHEN SCORING 18 POINTS OR MORE AND 0-2 WHEN SCORING 17 POINTS: The UNH football team is 10-0 when scoring 18 points or more in a game. However, the squad is 0-2 in games where it has scored 17 points. The Wildcats lost to UMass 23-17 and lost to William & Mary by a 20-17 margin.
A LOOK BACK AT THIS TIME LAST SEASON: The UNH football team was also 10-2 overall at this point last season after posting a 29-20 victory at Southern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs. UNH finished the season 10-3 after losing at Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals, 36-34.
SENIOR KICKER TOM MANNING NAMED CAA SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK FOR THIRD TIME THIS SEASON AFTER KICKING TWO LATE FIELD GOALS FOR THE THIRD TIME IN 2009 IN WIN OVER RHODE ISLAND: Senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) is making quite a name for himself this season. For the third time in 2009, Manning kicked two key late game field goals to lead UNH to a victory and for the tird time this season he was the recipient of the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week Award. Manning accounted for 13 points in the win over Rhode Island including kicking two late field goals of 42 and 47 yards and going 6x6 with his PATs. After a slow start, Manning has been more than steady for the team, nailing 14 of his last 15 field goals dating back to Sept. 26.
SENIOR KICKER TOM MANNING NAMED A CoSIDA ESPN THE MAGAZINE ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT SELECTION: DURHAM, N.H.—It was announced today that senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) of the University of New Hampshire football team was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team for his efforts in the classroom and on the playing field. Manning, a Business Administration/Marketing major at UNH, posted a grade point average of 3.45 through the spring semester. He has connected on 15 of 19 field goals this season with a long field goal of 54 yards at Hofstra, which broke the UNH record for longest field goal in a game. The previous best was 53 yards made in 1977. It was also a Shuart Stadium record kick. Manning was a key factor in three wins this season, as he kicked two late field goals in UNH’s victory over then-No. 2 ranked Villanova, did it again with two late three-pointers in the Wildcat win at Hofstra and then again with two late three-pointers in the win over Rhode Island. As a result of his heroics, he received CAA Special Teams Player of the Week honors following all three conference victories. Manning leads the Wildcats in scoring this season with 78 points. He has made 14 of his last 15 field goals dating back to Sept. 26 and he has put 33 of 36 PAT kicks through the uprights in 2009. His ability to score points as a kicker has helped keep UNH in the top 10 of the national polls all season long and the Wildcats are presently ranked No. 8 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 national poll. Manning will now be included on the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America national ballot, and the team will be released on Nov. 24, 2009.
WILDCATS HAVE NOW POSTED AT LEAST 10 WINS IN FOUR OF THE LAST SIX SEASONS: With 10 wins posted this season by UNH, the Wildcats have now recorded 10 or more wins in four of the last six seasons. Here's a look at UNH's successful records in those four campaigns. UNH's 11 victories in 2005 is the most ever recorded by a Wildcat squad all-time in a single season. UNH can tie that mark with a victory at Villanova on Saturday.
2009 10-2 so far
WILDCAT RUNNING BACKS MAKE UP TWO OF THE TOP SEVEN SCORERS (TDS) IN THE CAA AND SICKO MAKES THREE: UNH's running back tandem of junior Sean Jellison and senior Chad Kackert make up two of the top three scorers in the CAA in terms of touchdowns. Jellison checks in with 4.7 points per game this season for seventh place and Kackert is fourth in the CAA with 5.5 ppg. Tight end Scott Sicko gives UNH three of the top 10 players in the conference with an average of 4.5 for eighth place.
SPREADING THE OFFENSE AROUND: In 11 games played, UNH has had 13 different players run with the football and no less than 15 different players have caught the football for the Wildcats.
UNH LINEBACKERS DEVON JACKSON AND SEAN WARE MOVING UP AMONG CAA TACKLE LEADERS: UNH starting linebacker Devon Jackson (Wiliamstown, N.J.) and Sean Ware (Bristol, Conn.) continue to rack up tackles and lead the Wildcats as Jackson checks in with 44-53-97 and Ware has 44-49-93. That places Jackson in seventh place in the CAA with an average of 8.8 tackles per game and Sean Ware is 11th among CAA leaders with an average of 7.8 tackles per contest.