No. 12/13 New Hampshire (4-2, 2-1 CAA) vs Richmond (4-2, 2-1 CAA)
Oct. 13, 2012 • 12:00 p.m. • Cowell Stadium • Durham, N.H.
Television: Comcast SportsNet New England
Gary Tanguay (play-by-play) • Andy Gresh (Analyst)
Radio: Wildcat Sports Radio Network
Bob Lipman (play-by-play) • Chris Chandler (analyst)
•For the second straight week, a UNH Wildcat is the reigning CAA Offensive Player of Week. RB Nico Steriti followed up QB Andy Vailas' award-winning Delaware performance by rushing for 126 yards and scoring three TDs in last week's 44-21 victory against Georgia State.
•When Nico Steriti (126 yards) and Jimmy Owens (120 yards) both exceeded 100 yards rushing in the Oct. 6 win at Georgia State, it marked the first time UNH had two players break the century rushing mark in the same game since John McCoy (157) and Ricky Santos (106) turned the trick for the top-ranked Wildcats in a 24-21 loss to Northern Iowa in an NCAA quarterfinal matchup at Cowell Stadium on Dec. 3, 2005.
•UNH head coach Sean McDonnell earned his 100th career coaching victory Oct. 6 when the Wildcats defeated Georgia State, 44-21, in the Georgia Dome. It took Coach Mac 90 games to earn his 50th career win (Oct. 28, 2006), which occurred during his eighth season. It took fewer than six seasons and only 74 games for McDonnell to win his next 50 games, making his career mark 100-64.
•In the last two matchups against Richmond, UNH has recorded three interception returns for TDs and eight picks overall. Last season at Robins Stadium, DE Randi Vines took an INT 60 yards for a score in the second quarter and LB Matt Evans added a 31-yard pick-six later in that period. In 2010, safety John Greer registered two of the Wildcats' six interceptions and returned one 40 yards for a score.
•UNH is one of only six schools in the NCAA at all levels to average more than 245 yards passing and rushing. The Wildcats are joined by Oklahoma (FBS), Heidelberg (D-III), Nevada (FBS), Mount Union (D-III) and Johns Hopkins (D-III).
•The Wildcats have defeated the Spiders in back-to-back seasons to tie the all-time series, which dates back to 1986. The 'Cats haven't won three straight vs the Spiders since 1989-91 and haven't led the all-time series since 1996. UNH hasn't dropped a home game to UR since Oct. 14, 2000, and Coach Mac is 4-4 in his career against Richmond.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
Totals (CAA Rank) UNH RICH
Total Offense 507.0 (2) 405.5 (5)
Rush Offense 259.3 (1) 135.3 (9)
Pass Offense 247.7 (3) 270.2 (2)
Scoring Offense 37.8 (2) 34.5 (3)
Total Defense 391.5 (8) 405.2 (9)
Rush Defense 113.3 (2) 150.3 (6)
Pass Defense 278.2 (11) 254.8 (9)
Scoring Defense 28.3 (8) 22.2 (6)
Possession Avg. 29:44 (6) 29:21 (7)
Sacks Made/Yards 18/115 (1) 5/19 (T-8)
Penalties Against/Yards 40/314 (7) 28/215 (3)
Punts/Net Avg. 28/33.5 (9) 29/36.9 (4)
Turnover Differential +10 (1) +9 (2)
3rd Down Conversion% 49.5 (1) 43.3 (5)
4th Down Conversion% 0-for-9 (11) 7-for-12 (T-4)
Red Zone Offense% 88.9 (2) 86.2 (5)
SCOUTING THE SPIDERS: Richmond comes into Cowell Stadium. The Spiders' only conference loss came at home against then No. 4 Old Dominion on Sept. 29. Richmond rallied late, outscoring the Monarchs 20-0 in the fourth quarter, but was unable to overcome the deficit and lost, 45-37. Redshirt senior quarterback John Laub set career marks in completions (27), attempts (44) and yards (339). Laub passed for two touchdowns while running for another in the loss. The Spiders' only other loss came on opening weekend to Virginia, 43-19, in Charlottesville.
Richmond has won its last three road games, including decided victories against VMI and Georgia State. The Spiders traveled to Philadelphia last weekend to defeat Villanova, which had won its previous four games coming into the bout and were undefeated in the CAA. Laub led the offense once again, completing 19 of 34 pass attempts for 233 yards and one touchdown through the air. The senior also rushed the ball a career-high 20 times for 79 yards and one touchdown.
Richmond is led into Durham by first-year head coach Danny Rocco. Rocco turned around a struggling football program at Liberty from 2006-11 prior to earning the head spot at Richmond in December. Under Rocco, the Flames were 47-20 overall and 26-5 in the Big South, capturing their first ever Big South Championship in 2007. In his six years at the helm, Rocco earned Big South Coach of the Year three times.
RICHMOND PLAYERS TO WATCH: Laub has split time at quarterback in each game this season, but has predominantly been the starter and offensive leader in each as well. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound QB has been efficient through the air, completing 116 of 193 passes, including eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. Not only is he an efficient passer, but Laub can get it done on the ground as well. Carrying the ball a team-high 62 times, the senior averages 4.1 yards/carry and has punched in six touchdowns.
Junior running back Jovan Smith has been the Spiders' primary threat on the ground outside of Laub. Smith has carried the ball 49 times, averaging 6.5 yards/carry with four TDs, and he's caught six passes for 77 yards.
Laub's primary targets through the air this season have been junior wide receiver Ben Edwards and sophomore receiver Stephen Barnette. Edwards has been the most prolific threat catching the ball, with 41 receptions for 511 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards had big games against Old Dominion and VMI, catching 11 passes in each for 182 and 122 yards, respectively. Edwards also adds versatility to the Spiders' special teams, returning punts at an average rate of 12.5 yards/return. Between receptions, rushes and punt returns the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder averages 106.7 all-purpose yards-per-game.
If Edwards is the possession receiver who can keep the sticks moving, then Barnette has proven to be the Spiders' deep threat. Barnette has 26 receptions for 437 yards and two touchdowns on the campaign, including a 49-yard touchdown strike in the win over Georgia State.
The middle of Richmond's defense is anchored by a pair of linebackers, sophomore Eric Wright and senior Darius McMillan. The duo has led an all-around balanced defense with 43 (Wright) and 42 (McMillan) total tackles, good for first and second on the squad. McMillan has added an interception and three pass breakups.
LAST TIME OUT: UNH-44, GEORGIA STATE-21 - OCT. 6
ATLANTA – Andy Vailas threw for four touchdowns, Nico Steriti scored three times and UNH head football coach Sean McDonnell earned his 100th career victory as the No. 14/17 Wildcats defeated Georgia State, 44-21, on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
With its second straight win, UNH improves to 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in the CAA. GSU falls to 0-5.
McDonnell, in his 14th season, joins his former head coach, Bill Bowes (175 victories in 27 seasons), as the only UNH coaches to ever reach the century mark in career wins.
The Wildcats totaled 624 yards on offense while holding the Panthers to 299 yards. UNH accumulated 332 rushing yards, as both Steriti (11 carries-126 yards, two TDs) and Jimmy Owens (15 rushes-120 yards) eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
The New Hampshire defense forced five turnovers, with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Jared Smith notched a forced fumble and two sacks among his five tackles. Matt Evans (six tackles) and Cody Muller (fumble recovery) also registered sacks. Chris Houston, Hayden Knudson and Alan Buzbee each intercepted a pass.
UNH snapped a 7-7 tie early in the second quarter by parlaying the game's first turnover into points. Smith blindsided GSU quarterback Ronnie Bell, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Muller at the Panthers' 21. Steriti then picked up 13 yards on a sweep around the right end before nabbing a Vailas pass on a shallow crossing route from right to left for an eight-yard TD –the first scoring reception of the sophomore's career and a 14-7 lead.
Special teams set up New Hampshire's next scoring drive. After a Smith sack forced GSU into a fourth-and-19 from its own 16, Knudson deflected Matt Hubbard's punt, resulting in a 24-yard kick that gave the 'Cats possession at the Panthers' 40. Steriti subsequently carried for eight yards, Vailas connected on a 25-yard seam-route pass to Spears and Steriti scored his second touchdown of the game by reversing direction on a left-side rush, slamming on the brakes, cutting to his right and maneuvering his way for a seven-yard TD and a 21-7 advantage with 8:54 left in the second.
The lead ballooned to 28-7 just 26 seconds into the second half on a five-yard TD pass from Vailas to Justin Mello. Moments earlier, UNH forced its third turnover of the game when Tre Williams got to Bell on a safety blitz, forcing an errant pass that was intercepted at the GSU 17 by Buzbee, who returned the pick 12 yards.
The Wildcats would push the lead to 35-7 when Vailas tossed his fourth TD pass of the day to a fourth different receiver, Chris Setian, who hauled in a screen pass and raced a career-best 25 yards for a TD with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Mike MacArthur tacked on a season-high 43-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining in the third to push the New Hampshire cushion to 38-7.
Georgia State received a brief spark on a 26-yard TD pass from Ben McLane to Emmanuel Ogbuehi that cut the deficit to 38-14 at 13:52 of the fourth quarter.
But New Hampshire retaliated nine seconds later courtesy of a 63-yard kickoff return by Jared Allison, followed by Steriti's third TD of the contest, a 34-yard run jaunt for a 44-14 lead.
The teams exchanged touchdowns on their initial possessions. First, UNH marched 68 yards on four plays, with a career-long 29-yard rush by R.J. Harris that set the stage for a Vailas-to-Spears 26-yard TD pass.
GSU drew even, 7-7, when Bell found Albert Wilson for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 11:01 left in the opening quarter.
SOS EXPRESS KEEPS ROLLING ON: The UNH SOS Express (Nico Steriti, Jimmy Owens, Chris Setian) has accounted for 76% of the Wildcats' rushing yardage this season and 40% of the team's scoring output. Steriti (72 attempts-550 yards, five TDs) leads the way with a CAA-best 91.7 rushing yards/game and team-high six overall TDs. The sophomore has registered three 100-yard rushing performances this season, highlighted by a career-high 201 yards at Old Dominion on Sept. 22. Owens (46 carries-349 yards, four TDs), who totaled a career-high 120 yards on 15 carries in the victory at Georgia State, is ranked ninth in the CAA with 58.2 rushing yards/game. Setian (46 rushes-276 yards, three TDs) scored in each of the first four games and has proven to be a valuable receiving commodity by adding a backfield-leading 11 catches for 95 yards and two scores.
ANDY, DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS ONE: After losing a tightly-contested preseason battle for the starting quarterback position, sophomore Andy Vailas has taken command of the signal calling on the heels of incumbent Sean Goldrich's week two injury at Minnesota on Sept. 8. Vailas leads the CAA and is tied for eighth nationally in points responsible for/game (16.0) and is third in the league in passing efficiency (144.8). He has completed 100 of 168 passes for 1,242 yards with 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In the last three weeks, Vailas has passed for 11 TDs and only one INT, compiling a pair of 300-yard passing games (at Old Dominion, vs Delaware) and a 252-yard effort in last Saturday's win at Georgia State. He was tabbed the CAA and ECAC Offensive Player of the Week for his 23-for-36, 315-yard, two-TD performance in the Wildcats' upset of then-No. 8 Delaware on Sept. 29.
STERITI, SPEARS EARN WEEKLY AWARDS: For the second straight week, a UNH Wildcat is the reigning CAA Offensive Player of Week. Nico Steriti followed up Andy Vailas' award-winning Delaware performance by rushing for 126 yards and scoring three TDs in last week's 44-21 victory against Georgia State. The game at the Georgia Dome included Steriti's first career scoring reception, an eight-yarder from Vailas in the first quarter. Sophomore tight end Harold Spears, who entered the game with all of six career catches for 70 yards, had a break-out game with six catches –including a 26-yard TD reception- for 94 yards to earn the College Football Performance Awards National Tight End Performer of the Week.
FIRST CENTURY DUO IN SEVEN SEASONS: When Nico Steriti (126 yards) and Jimmy Owens (120 yards) both exceeded 100 yards rushing in the Oct. 6 win at Georgia State, it marked the first time UNH had two players break the century rushing mark in the same game since John McCoy rumbled for 157 yards and Ricky Santos notched 106 ground yards for the top-ranked Wildcats in a 24-21 loss to Northern Iowa in an NCAA quarterfinal matchup at Cowell Stadium on Dec. 3, 2005.
SPEAKING OF DUOS AND CENTURY MARKS: UNH head coach Sean McDonnell earned his 100th career coaching victory Oct. 6 when the Wildcats defeated Georgia State, 44-21, in the Georgia Dome. McDonnell, in his 14th season, joins his mentor and predecessor Bill Bowes (175 victories in 27 seasons) as the only two coaches in the 116-year history of Wildcat football to reach that plateau. Coach Mac's first career victory came in his head coaching debut as the 'Cats dispatched Rhode Island, 37-14, at Meade Stadium on Sept. 4, 1999. His 50th career triumph was a hard-fought 10-6 defeat of Hofstra in torrential rain at Cowell Stadium on Oct. 28, 2006.
FIRST 50, NEXT 50: It took Coach Mac 90 games to earn his 50th career win (Oct. 28, 2006), which occurred during his eighth season. It took fewer than six seasons and only 74 games for McDonnell to win his next 50 games, making his career mark 100-64.
ALL SYSTEMS GO WITH HARRIS: Sophomore wide receiver R.J. Harris paces the CAA and is 11th in FCS football with 6.8 receptions/game. He ranks second in the league and 12th nationally with 95.2 yard receiving/game, and his 121.0 all-purpose yards/game rank him fourth in the CAA, one spot behind teammate Nico Steriti (122.0).
SOLIDARITY AND CONTINUITY: While the 2012 season has been marked by UNH's 'next guy in' mantra, the one unit that has seen the same group of starters each of the first six games this season has been the offensive line. When the Wildcats line up against the Spiders on Saturday, they are expected to make it seven straight games with Seamus O'Neill at left tackle, co-captain Chris Zarkoskie at left guard, Mike Coccia at center, Mickey DiLima at right guard and Rob Bowman at right tackle. This front line has aided the Wildcats' ascension to the nation's No. 4 total offense (507.0 yards/game) and CAA's best rushing offense (259.3 yards/game).