GAME DAY: No. 6/7 Football gears up for Villanova this Saturday at 12 p.m.
104 WEEKS AND COUNTING: UNH is ranked in the Top 25 for a CAA-best 104th straight week, the nation's second-longest streak that dates back to Sept. 13, 2004. William & Mary, at a distant 42 weeks, has the second-longest ranked streak in the CAA. Montana's run of 184 consecutive weeks leads the country:
School Consecutive Weeks Ranked
Appalachian State 88
William & Mary 42
CAA WITH RECORD 8 RANKED TEAMS: UNH, which is a season-best No. 6 this week, is one of eight CAA teams ranked in this week's The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25. CAA Football's accomplishment of eight teams in the poll makes it the first league to ever boast that many ranked programs in a single week's poll. Prior to its number of eight ranked, CAA Football was the only conference to ever boast seven among TSN's rankings in a single week having done that 14 times.
SERIES HISTORY- VILLANOVA LEADS, 11-10: UNH and Villanova have been conference rivals since 1988. The northern Wildcats won the first two meetings between the schools, with the initial meeting between the two being the most lopsided, 58-7, in favor of UNH. Villanova rebounded by winning the next three encounters before UNH went on a four-game winning streak between 1993-96. Villanova then went on a tear, taking six consecutive games from '97-2003, including a dominant 45-3 effort in '02. UNH, though, has had the better of Villanova in recent years, earning wins in five of the last seven encounters. However, one of the two 'Nova wins in that span was a 46-7 triumph on a snow-covered Villanova Stadium field in the D-I FCS national quarterfinals Dec. 5, 2009.
SCOUTING THE "OTHER" WILDCATS: Villanova head coach Andy Talley is in the midst of his 27th season at the school in 2011. During his Wildcat career, Talley has registered a 189-111-1 record, making him the all-time winningest coach in school history. Throughout his tenure at Villanova, Talley has guided the Wildcats to nine NCAA playoff appearances (1989, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2008, 2009 and 2010), five conference titles, three national semifinal appearances and the 2009 National Championship.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Villanova lost 12 starters from last year's team that went 9-5 overall, advanced to the national semifinals for the second straight year and finished the season ranked No. 3 in The Sports Network Top 25. Of the 12 starters lost, 10 were all-conference performers, including four first-team honorees. In particular, the team was hit hard by graduation along the offensive line as the team has replaced three starters. Two of the three starters included left tackle Ben Ijalana and left guard Brant Clouser. Those two started all 53 games of their careers. Ijalana was a second-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts. The third offensive line starter lost from last year was junior right tackle Chidozie Ekweozor, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in spring practice and is lost for the season.
Four 'Nova players were named to the CAA Preseason First Team. The four include senior wide receiver Norman White, senior defensive back Jimmy Pitts, junior center Dan Shirey and sophomore defensive lineman Antoine Lewis. White will miss the season due to a left foot injury. White had a breakout year a season ago with 69 catches for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning a place on the All-CAA First Team.
The job of replacing the graduated tandem of RBs Angelo Babbaro and Aaron Ball falls primarily on senior RB Lawrence Doss, who leads the running attack with 197 yards on 50 carries, averaging 39.4 yards/game. Senior QB Christian Culicerto earned his first start in the win at Penn and followed that up with a start last week versus William & Mary. Culicerto is 48-for-87 for 549 yards (137.2/game) with 3 TDs and 3 INTs. The leading receiver is junior Dorian Wells, who has hauled in 21 catches for 276 yards (55.2/game) and 2 TDs.
Freshman linebacker Dillon Lucas heads the defense with 46 tackles, 28 solo, while junior DB Ronnie Akins has already picked off two passes to go along with his 43 tackles, 27 solo.
Junior kicker Mark Hamilton has connected for 12 consecutive field goals, including six in the last two weeks and a career-best 45-yarder last week against the Tribe. He is 13-for-14 in his career, and his streak of 12 straight kicks began against UNH on Nov. 13, 2010.
•RB Dontra Peters needs one more rushing TD for 10 in his career. Peters needs 256 more kick-return yards for 1,000 in his career.
•WR Mickey Mangieri needs three all-purpose yards to reach 500 for his career and 151 receiving yards for 500 in his career.
•WR Joey Orlando needs 10 receptions for 100 in his career.
•K Mike MacArthur is 12 points away from 100 in his career.
DECKER ADDED TO WALTER PAYTON AWARD WATCH LIST: UNH senior quarterback Kevin Decker was added to the 2011 Walter Payton Award Watch List for the most outstanding player the FCS on Oct. 4. Decker, a co-captain, has guided the Wildcats to a 3-1 record and a No. 6 ranking in this week's The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25. The signal caller ranks fifth nationally and second in the CAA in passing efficiency (169.59), eighth nationally and tops in the CAA in total offense/game (310) and he's No. 2 in the FCS in points responsible for/game (23.5). The 6-foot-2, 205-pound QB leads the CAA in passing yards/game (270.8) and is second among non-kickers in scoring/game (8.5 points).
Through four games, the first-year starter has completed 89 of 125 passes (71.2 percent) for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns; he is UNH's second-leading rusher with a team-high 46 carries for 157 yards, averaging 3.4 yards/carry, and he's tallied five of the Wildcats' seven total rushing scores.
Decker, who set personal bests with 352 passing yards and four touchdowns while tying a career high with 23 completions in last Saturday's 39-32 victory against Holy Cross, has previously been feted with the Gold Helmet Award from the New England football writers Sept. 28 and the CFPA National Performer and National Quarterback Performer of the Week awards Sept. 12.
A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the 25th Walter Payton Award after the regular season. The honor will be presented at the FCS national awards banquet Friday night, Jan. 6, in Frisco, Texas.
Running back Jerry Azumah (1998) and quarterback Ricky Santos (2006) are the two previous Wildcats to garner the Payton Award.
PACE-SETTING EVANS: Junior preseason All-America MLB Matt Evans is atop the NCAA rankings in tackles/game (15.8), solo tackles/game (9.5) and his 63 total tackles through four games are tied for the most in the nation, despite UNH having played one fewer game than most teams due to the open week Sept. 17. Evans has posted double-digit tackles in all four games this year and in 15 of his last 17 games. He set a career benchmark with a 24-tackle performance in the victory at 11th-ranked Lehigh on Sept. 10, and then registered 14 more tackles and returned his second career interception for a TD, racing back 31 yards for a score, in the Wildcats' 45-3 upset of No. 5 Richmond on Sept. 24. For his efforts, Evans was feted with honorable mention as the CFPA National Linebacker Performer of the Week.
BERANGER PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE: Even though Matt Evans leads the team and the country in tackles, sophomore FS Chris Beranger has been the Wildcats' leading tackler in each of their last two games, both victories. Beranger tallied a career-high and game-leading 17 tackles in UNH's win at Richmond on Sept. 24 and amassed 12 more stops in the defeat of Holy Cross on Oct. 1. Beranger resides in second place in the CAA and is tied for 6th in the FCS with 12.0 tackles/game. In addition, his 6.25 solo tackles/game are the seventh-most in the CAA and tied for 15th-best in the FCS.
WR CENTURY CLUB: UNH's potent receiving attack has included at least one 100-yard receiver in each of the last three games, and two WRs have hit the century mark in two of the last three contests. Joey Orlando set a career high and a team season-high with 166 receiving yards while R.J. Harris chipped in with 107 yards, in the win at Lehigh on Sept. 10. It was Harris's turn to claim career-high honors with his 120-yard performance at Richmond on Sept. 24. In the home opener Oct. 1, two other receivers set personal benchmarks by eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark: Justin Mello (107) and Mickey Mangieri (102). By comparison, the 2010 Wildcats only had three WRs record 100-yard receiving games the entire season: Terrance Fox (twice) and Chris Jeannot.
HOME DOMINANCE: UNH's victory over Holy Cross on Oct. 1 marked the 9th straight win over a non-conference opponent at Cowell Stadium. The Wildcats have rattled off 14 straight regular-season home wins against non-league foes. The last out-of-conference opponent to defeat the 'Cats at Mooradian Field was Northern Iowa, 24-21, in the NCAA quarterfinals Dec. 3, 2005. To find the last regular-season home defeat at the hands of a non-CAA team, you have to go back to Nov. 11, 2000, when D-II Gardner-Webb stunned the Wildcats, 38-35.
UNWELCOME TO THE DUNGEON: UNH has cultivated one of the most pronounced home field advantages in the FCS. Since the start of the 2007 season, the Wildcats are 19-3 at Cowell Stadium, a.k.a The Dungeon, and have lost to only two schools during this amazing stretch: Northeastern, 31-13, on Nov. 3, 2007, and twice to William & Mary: 38-34, on Oct. 11, 2008, and 13-3 on Nov. 6, 2010. Villanova hasn't been victorious in Durham since 2003.
ALL-PURPOSE PETERS: Dontra Peters notched the third 100-yard rushing game of his career and first of the season Oct. 1 when he collected 104 yards on 18 carries in the victory over Holy Cross. Peters continues to bedazzle the opposition in a variety of ways: as a receiver, running back and kick returner. His 195.5 all-purpose yards/game lead the CAA, and he ranks 4th in kick-return yardage (25.1/return). Overall, Peters has 477 kick-return yards, a team-leading 232 rushing yards and he has already tied his career high (set in '10) with 73 receiving yards on 10 catches, tied for third on the squad.
PETERS LOOKS TO TAKE IT TO THE HOUSE: As part of the partnership between Wildcat Sports Properties and Ross Furniture, lucky fans at each home game have the opportunity to win a new couch if the Wildcats can "take it to the house" and score on the opening kickoff. Terrance Fox turned the trick Sept. 4, 2010. Dontra Peters, who ranks 4th in the CAA with 25.1 yards per kick return, with a high of 70 yards, is a threat to take it to the house each time he receives a kick. Since the early 1940s, Ross Furniture Company has been a landmark in downtown Dover. Located at 38 3rd Street in Dover, Ross Furniture was voted "Best of the Best" in the seacoast area for seven years running and has been an official partner of Wildcat Sports since 2009.
MACARTHUR AMONG TOP PUNTERS IN FCS: Mike MacArthur continues to impress in his first season as the Wildcats' punter. The North Hampton, N.H. native launched a career-high 58-yard punt late in the Wildcats' 45-43 win at No. 5 Richmond on Sept. 24, he's had two punts for 57 yards apiece, six punts of 50-plus yards and three kicks inside the opponent's 20. Through four games, his 43.4 yards/punt avg. is ranked 2nd in the CAA and 9th in all of FCS football. MacArthur was twice recognized with the College Football Performance Award (CFPA) FCS Honorable Mention as Punter Performer of the Week following the Toledo game (Sept. 1) and the Lehigh contest (Sept. 10).