GAME DAY: No. 10 Football Plays Host to Rhode Island on Homecoming at 12 p.m.
No. 10/11 New Hampshire (5-2, 3-1 CAA) vs Rhode Island (2-5, 1-3 CAA)
Oct. 29, 2011 • 12:00 p.m. • Cowell Stadium • Durham, N.H.
TV: Comcast SportsNet New England
Gary Tanguay (play-by-play) • Andy Gresh (analyst) • Greg Dickerson (sidelines)
Radio: Wildcat Sports Radio Network
Jim Jeannotte (play-by-play) • Bob Lipman (analyst) • Nick Anastos (sidelines)
•Senior QB Kevin Decker, a member of the 2011 Walter Payton Award Watch List, is responsible for the top two passing performances in the CAA this season: 422 yards at William & Mary (Oct. 15) and 395 yards vs Villanova (Oct. 8). The co-captain is No. 2 in the nation in points responsible for/game (19.4), fourth in the country in total offense (330.9 yards/game), fifth nationally in pass efficiency (164.7) and ninth in passing yards/game (291.0). He leads the CAA in all those departments, plus he is tied for first in the league in completions/game (22.4/T-13th in FCS) with Maine's Warren Smith.
•Junior MLB Matt Evans was named a College Sporting News All-Star, the CAA Defensive Player of the Week and the Beyond Sports Network Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Wildcats' 27-21 Colonial Clash victory over Massachusetts last Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Evans registered a game-high 13 tackles, all solo, and forced two fumbles. Evans paces the FCS in tackles/game (13.9), solo tackles/game (8.9) and his 97 total tackles lead the CAA.
•Junior KR/RB Dontra Peters received the Bill Knight Trophy as the most outstanding player in Saturday's triumph over UMass after amassing 208 all-purpose yards. Peters, who was named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, notched 98 yards on three kickoff returns, with a long of 44 yards on the game's opening kick that ignited a UNH scoring drive. He added 92 rushing yards on 13 carries, matching a career high with two touchdowns. The last time he scored two rushing TDs in the same game was the inaugural Colonial Clash win over the Minutemen on Oct. 23, 2010. Peters is 25th in the nation and second in the CAA in kick return yards/game (25.6), and he is second in the CAA in all-purpose yards/game (155.0).
•Despite being overshadowed by Matt Evans, sophomore FS Chris Beranger continues to rack up impressive tackle totals. Beranger led the squad with 14 tackles in the win over UMass, marking the fourth time in seven games he's paced the 'Cats. Overall, Beranger is seventh in the nation (second in the CAA) with 11.9 tackles/game, and his 6.4 solo tackles/game are tied for eighth in the FCS and good for No. 4 in the CAA.
107 WEEKS AND COUNTING: UNH is ranked in the Top 25 for a CAA-best 107th straight week, the nation's second-longest streak that dates back to Sept. 13, 2004. William & Mary, at a distant 45 weeks, has the second-longest ranked streak in the CAA. Montana's run of 187 consecutive weeks leads the country.
UNH-URI ALL-TIME SERIES (WILDCATS LEAD 52-27-5): The Wildcats and the Rams engage in football battle for the 85th time, the second-longest rivalry in school history (Maine-98 meetings). UNH and Rhode Island met each year from 1905-1917, resumed the annual series from 1923-28, played just once ('42) over the next 17 years and then have squared off each season since 1946 with one exception (2002). New Hampshire has won six of the last seven meetings and is 8-3 vs the Rams in the Sean McDonnell era. Coach Mac's first-ever victory came in his coaching debut at Meade Stadium, 37-14, on Sept. 4, 1999. In that game, 5-foot-3 Imion Powell returned a punt 88 yards for a TD, and RB Dan Curran carried the ball 24 times for 167 yards and three scores.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
Totals (CAA Rank) UNH URI
Total Offense 444.6 (2) 367.7 (6)
Rush Offense 150.1 (5) 179.6 (3)
Pass Offense 294.4 (1) 188.1 (8)
Scoring Offense 34.0 (2) 23.6 (8)
Total Defense 458.3 (11) 342.9 (4)
Rush Defense 171.0 (10) 110.7 (2)
Pass Defense 287.3 (11) 232.1 (8)
Scoring Defense 33.7 (11) 28.7 (9)
Possession Avg. 25:50 (11) 29:53 (7)
Sacks/Yards Lost 17/108 (9) 10/76 (1)
Sacks Made/Yards 13/79 (T-7) 15/97 (5)
Penalties/Yards 38/355 (6) 38/366 (7)
Punts/Net Avg. 21/38.3 (2) 34/31.6 (11)
Turnover Margin -3 (T-8) -10 (10)
3rd Down% 48.3 (2) 36.2 (10)
4th Down% 42.9 (T-8) 46.2 (6)
Red Zone Offense% 87.1 (3) 87.5 (T-1)
DOWNRIGHT OFFENSIVE VS RAMS: UNH has averaged a whopping 49.5 points in its last four home games against Rhody. Before last year's setback in Kingston, the Wildcats averaged an eye-popping 54.2 points/game in the teams' five meetings from 2005-09.
FUTURE OF THE UNH-URI RIVALRY: Current league rival Rhode Island leaves the CAA for the Northeast Conference (NEC) following the 2012 season, but UNH and URI will continue their long-standing series that dates back to 1905 in a non-conference capacity when the 'Cats visit Meade Stadium on Sept. 21, 2013, and welcome the Rams to Cowell Stadium on Sept. 20, 2014.
SCOUTING THE RAMS: Rhode Island is coming off a 38-34 upset of No. 13 Delaware at Meade Stadium last Saturday, improving to 2-5 overall, 1-3 in the CAA. The Rams have won four of their last seven games vs ranked opponents, including last season's stunning 28-25 defeat of the No. 8 Wildcats, snapping UNH's six-game winning streak in the overall series. URI has not won at Cowell Stadium since tallying a 10-7 win on Sept. 16, 1995, going 0-5 at Mooradian Field since then.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior WR Anthony Baskerville ranks second in the CAA in receiving yards/game (82.0). Baskerville has nabbed 34 passes for 574 yards and six TDs, the highest total among all league receivers. That includes a 73-yard catch in last week's upset of No. 13 Delaware, 38-34, in Kingston, when he set career highs with seven catches for 147 yards. URI's leading tackler is sophomore SLB David Zocco, a native of Nashua, N.H., and a product of Nashua South H.S. Zocco is tied for eighth in the CAA in tackles (9.0/game), having compiled 63 stops, 48 solo. Backup SLB Doug Johnson ranks No. 1 in the CAA in tackles for loss, averaging 1.71 per game with a total of 12. Overall, Johnson has posted 55 tackles, 33 solo, averaging 7.9 per game (16th in CAA).
GETTING IT DUNGEON: After playing five of their first seven games away from Cowell Stadium, the Wildcats are back at "The Dungeon" for three of the next four games. Since the start of the 2007 season, the Wildcats are 20-3 at Cowell Stadium 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.
FAN-TASTIC SUPPORT: Heading into Homecoming, fans have been flocking to Cowell Stadium, filling the facility up to 108.21% of capacity. The 'Cats are averaging 7,033 fans per home contest at the 6,500-seat stadium.
OUT OF CONFERENCE HOME DOMINANCE: UNH's victory over Holy Cross on Oct. 1 marked the ninth 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.
•QB Kevin Decker has passed for at least one TD in every start of his career, a span of nine consectuvie games.
•Joey Orlando, Justin Mello and Dontra Peters have all secured at least one pass reception in each of the first seven games.
•The Wildcats' defense has recorded at least one INT in each of the last six games.
GRUELING SCHEDULE: In 2010, UNH set a school record by knocking off five ranked opponents en route to a national-leading seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA D-I FCS Championship tournament. Three of the Wildcats' five victories (Lehigh, Richmond, UMass) in 2011 have come against ranked foes, and three of their five remaining opponents (James Madison, Towson, Maine) are ranked.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: Following Saturday's Homecoming battle with Rhody, the Wildcats' final three matchups come against the top three teams in this week's CAA standings. UNH plays host to No. 9/10 James Madison (3-1 CAA record) on Nov. 5, visits No. 11/12 Towson (4-0) on Nov. 12 and concludes the regular season against No. 8/12 Maine (4-0) at Cowell Stadium on Nov. 19.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: After being victimized by opponents for a combined 40 first-quarter points over the season's first three weeks, the UNH defense has bounced back to surrender only three points in the opening stanza over the last four games, pitching first-quarter shutouts in each of the last three weeks.
HONORING THE 1991 YANKEE CONFERENCE CHAMPS: The 20-year anniversary of the 1991 Yankee Conference Champion Wildcats will be celebrated during Saturday's Homecoming game. The '91 UNH team was the first 'Cats squad to earn a berth in the I-AA (now FCS) postseason after tying a then school record with nine victories (9-3, 7-1 Yankee). UNH captured its first Yankee Conference crown since 1976 in the 20th season for legendary head coach Bill Bowes. The Wildcats dropped a 29-13 decision to Samford in the first-ever home playoff game at Cowell Stadium on Nov. 30, 1991.
LAST TIME OUT: UNH-27, UMASS-21 OCT. 22:
FOXBORO, Mass. – Dontra Peters rushed for a pair of touchdowns and amassed 208 all-purpose yards to lead the 13th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team to a 27-21 victory over No. 22 Massachusetts in the second edition of the Colonial Clash, the 74th and final scheduled meeting between the longtime rivals, before a crowd of 24,022 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
UNH improved to 5-2 with the victory and 3-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. UMass tumbled to 4-3 overall.
Peters carried the ball 13 times for 92 yards, compiling 98 yards on three kick returns while collecting a team-leading three receptions for 18 yards to win the Bill Knight Trophy as the game's most outstanding player.
Kevin Decker completed 11 of 15 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Evans spearheaded the defensive attack with 13 tackles, all solo, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup. Chris Beranger posted a game-high 14 tackles, and Alan Buzbee chipped in with 13 stops for a New Hampshire defense that forced two fumbles and notched an interception.
Peters returned the game's opening kickoff 44 yards to the UMass 42-yard line. The junior running back then capped an eight-play drive by taking a sweep around the left side for a five-yard touchdown. The Wildcats' captains combined on the successful two-point conversion when Decker avoided the pass rush just long enough to find Brian McNally (two tackles, fumble recovery), lined up as a tight end, in the end zone for an 8-0 lead with 12:01 left in the first quarter.
The Minutemen threatened on their initial drive, marching from their 49 to the Wildcats' 10, but Kellen Pagel's 3rd-and 8 pass in the end zone was intercepted by Manny Asam (seven tackles) for his team-leading third pick of the year.
UNH seized an 11-0 advantage on the ensuing drive when Mike MacArthur matched his career high with a 47-yard field goal with 6:14 left in the first.
UMass coughed up the ball on the first play of its next possession when Evans stripped the ball from Jonathan Hernandez (29 rushes-89 yards, TD), and McNally recovered the fumble on the UMass 26. New Hampshire failed to capitalize, as MacArthur's 37-yard field goal try went wide left with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
UMass got on the board with 7:26 left in the opening half. Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the UNH 23, wide receiver Julian Talley (two rushes-31 yards, TD) took an end around, bounced off a tackle attempt at the 15 and spun his way into the end zone for his second rushing score of the season. The two-point try failed, however, allowing UNH to hold an 11-6 lead.
The Wildcats went right back to work, going on a seven-play, 62-yard drive culminating in the second rushing TD of the game for Peters, who barreled in from a yard out. MacArthur's PAT staked New Hampshire to an 18-6 lead with 5:18 left in the half.
UMass scored the final points of the half on a four-yard TD rush from Hernandez with 19 seconds remaining in the second. Brendon Levongood's point-after was no good, so the 'Cats brought an 18-12 lead to the locker room.
Massachusetts appeared to take its first lead of the contest on a 45-yard rushing touchdown by Hernandez early in the third quarter, but a holding penalty took the points off the board. The Minutemen then up came up completely empty handed when Pagel's 4th-and-9 pass from the UNH 32 was broken up by Buzbee, preserving UNH's six-point cushion.
The Wildcats upped the lead to 24-12 with 4:42 left in the third quarter when Decker connected with tight end Sean Cullen (one catch-23 yards, TD) for a 23-yard TD strike on 3rd-and-11. That capped a six-play, 87-yard drive highlighted by a season-high 48-yard rush by Peters and a 17-yard run from Nico Steriti (eight rushes-56 yards/one catch-34 yards). The two-point try failed.
The Minutemen reduced the Wildcats' lead to 24-18 with 10:43 left in the game by going on a 19-play, 80-yard drive that chewed eight minutes and 59 seconds off the clock. Pagel kept for a five-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-4, meeting Beranger head-on at the 1-yard line before lunging into the end zone. Levengood again missed the PAT.
MacArthur's 35-yard field goal with 5:09 left increased the lead to 27-18.
Brandon Yelovich hit a 22-yard field goal with 1:45 left to bring UMass within 27-21, but Justin Mello (one catch-six yards) recovered the subsequent onside kick and the Wildcats ran out the clock to ice the victory.
Pagel went 25-for-42 for 249 yards and an interception, while Talley set career highs with 10 receptions for 113 yards in the losing effort.
EVANS & PETERS EARN CAA WEEKLY AWARDS-OCT. 24: University of New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans and kick return specialist Dontra Peters were recognized as the CAA Defensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively, the league announced Oct. 24.
Evans racked up a game-high 13 solo tackles, forced two fumbles and notched a pass breakup in 13th-ranked UNH's 27-21 victory over No. 22 Massachusetts at the Colonial Clash on Oct. 22 at Gillette Stadium. The junior leads the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in tackles/game (13.9) and solo tackles/game (8.9), while his 97 total tackles rank first in the CAA. It marks the second time he's garnered the award this season and fifth time in his career. Evans previously was recognized for his career-best 24 tackles in the Wildcats' victory at then No. 14 Lehigh on Sept. 10.
Peters, who received the Bill Knight Trophy as the most outstanding player in Saturday's triumph, amassed 98 yards on three kickoff returns, with a long of 44 yards on the game's opening kick that ignited a UNH scoring drive. The running back added 92 rushing yards on 13 carries, matching a career high with two touchdowns. He also grabbed a team-leading three receptions for 18 yards, compiling a game-high 208 all-purpose yards. Peters is 25th in the nation and second in the CAA in kick return yards/game (25.6), and he is second in the CAA in all-purpose yards/game (155.0). It is the second career CAA Special Teams Player of the Week award for the 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior; he was honored following the win at then fifth-ranked Richmond on Sept. 24 when he produced 141 kick-return yards and 261 all-purpose yards against the Spiders.
UNLIKELY SOURCES-OCT. 22: The Wildcats received eight points from unlikely receivers in their 27-21 triumph over UMass on Oct. 22 at Gillette Stadium. DE Brian McNally was on the receiving end of a two-point conversion pass from Kevin Decker after the first TD. It was McNally's first career grab. In the fourth quarter, TE Sean Cullen hauled in a 23-yard TD. It was Cullen's second career scoring catch and first since Sept. 11, 2010.
•LB Matt Evans is three tackles away from 100 for the season. He needs 20 tackles to move into 10th place in school single-season history and 22 tackles to move into 10th place all-time at UNH.
•WR R.J. Harris needs 14 receiving yards for 500 this season.
•WR Joey Orlando needs 59 receiving yards for 500 this season.
•RB/KR Dontra Peters needs 134 more kick-return yards for 1,000 in his career.
EVANS APPROACHING TOP 10 IN TACKLES AT UNH: With his FCS-leading 97 tackles and 267 career stops, junior MLB Matt Evans is quickly approaching the UNH Top 10 in both departments. Here is a look at Evans' bid for the record books:
1. Steve Doig (1981) 195
8. Jeff Pammer (2005) 123
9. Scott Curtis (1986) 122
10. Neal Zonfrelli (1985) 117
Matt Evans (2011) 97
1. Steve Doig (1978-81) 434
T-9. Brett Bashaw (1996-2000) 297
Romande Carter (1993-96) 297
10. Dino Vasso (2007-10) 289
Matt Evans (2009-11) 267
EVANS LEADS NATION IN TACKLES: Junior preseason All-America MLB Matt Evans is atop the FCS rankings in tackles/game (13.9), solo tackles/game (8.9) and his 97 total tackles are good for fourth in the nation.
Evans has posted double-digit tackles in six of his seven games this year and in 17 of his last 20 games. He set a career benchmark with a CAA season-high 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' 45-43 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.
In the Colonial Clash victory over UMass (27-21) on Oct. 22, Evans notched a game-high 13 tackles -all solo- and was subsequently named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week, a College Sporting News All-Star and the Beyond Sports Network Defensive Player of the Week.
SAFETY IS BERANGEROUS: Sophomore FS Chris Beranger has proven to be more than just Robin to Matt Evans's Batman in 2011. While Evans leads the CAA (and the nation) in tackles, Beranger is second in the league (seventh in the FCS) with 11.9 tackles/game, and his 6.4 solo tackles/game are No. 4 in the CAA and tied for eighth nationally. The Winthrop, Mass., native led the Wildcats with 14 tackles in the Colonial Clash victory over UMass on Oct. 22, the fourth time in seven games he's led the team in tackles. He recorded a career-high 17 stops in the win at Richmond and 16 tackles in the loss at William & Mary.
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 second in the CAA with 25.6 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.