FCS First Round: Lehigh-New Hampshire
FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – Lehigh (9-2) at New Hampshire (7-4)
Kickoff – 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Wildcat Stadium (11,015) in Durham, New Hampshire
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – New Hampshire leads 12-3
Players to Watch – Lehigh: QB Nick Shafnisky (182 of 275, 2,448 yards, 20 passing TDs, 10 rushing TDs), RB Dom Bragalone (1,106 yards, 13 TDs), WR Troy Pelletier (88 receptions, 1,140 yards, 11 TDs); New Hampshire: RB Dalton Crossan (1,255 yards from scrimmage, 9 TDs), FS/PR Casey DeAndrade (60 career passes defended), LB Ryan Farrell (50 tackles, 2 sacks)
The Skinny – This is a familiar matchup of traditionally strong programs, although their only playoff meeting was back in their Division II days in 1975 (New Hampshire won 35-21). Lehigh enters Saturday's game on a nine-game winning streak. The Mountain Hawks rank seventh in the FCS in offensive yards per game (491.5) behind two 1,000-yard passers (Shafnisky, the Patriot League offensive player of the year, and Brad Mayes), one 1,000-yard rusher (Bragalone) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Pelletier and Gatlin Casey). Their defensive leader is senior linebacker Colton Caslow, who's been first or second on the team in tackles for four seasons. New Hampshire is appearing in the FCS playoffs for the 13th straight year – the nation's longest active streak – and the CAA Football power is opening play against the Patriot League champion for the fourth straight postseason. The Wildcats hope to control the game clock and avoid turnovers. Starting quarterback Trevor Knight was injured against Maine last Saturday and senior co-captain Adam Riese shined off the bench. Senior tight end Jordan Powell (25 receptions) sat out the first half of the season because of a team suspension, but he's come back strong and is a veteran presence in an otherwise young receiving corps. In the secondary, safety Pop Lacey (leading tackler) and cornerback Prince Smith Jr. (CAA defensive rookie of the year) are freshmen.
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 4 seed James Madison (10-1) in the second round Dec. 3.
Prediction – UNH suffered a surprising home loss to Colgate to open last year's playoffs. A loss to this year's Patriot League champion wouldn't be surprising. Lehigh 30-27.