FCS team of the week: A win was UNH’s focus
(STATS) – What New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell appreciated about his team’s FCS playoff win at Georgia Southern in 2004 was the focus of his players.
The host Eagles were the playoff staple, a national championship-winning program accustomed to playing in front of raucous, sellout crowds, while UNH was enjoying a breakout season in McDonnell’s sixth year guiding the Wildcats.
UNH snuck out of town that day with a 27-23 victory, beginning a run of playoff appearances that has extended to 13 straight years – the current national high.
McDonnell liked UNH’s focus again this past week. Their potential return to Statesboro was moved 350 miles west to Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, because of concern about Hurricane Irma, but the No. 12 Wildcats came out strong and beat Georgia Southern 22-12 for the CAA Football program’s first win over an FBS opponent since 2009.
“The kids just played,” McDonnell told unhwildcats.com Sunday. “They didn’t worry about anything but playing football and that was a good thing. I think our kids expected to win and believed they could win.”
While ending a seven-game losing streak against the upper tier of Division I, the STATS FCS Team of the Week jumped to a 15-0 lead after the first quarter and was up 22-0 at halftime, bolstered by Trevor Knight’s two touchdown passes to Neil O’Connor. UNH’s fast start forced Georgia Southern out of its flexbone option offense and to the air, allowing the Wildcats to pressure quarterback Shai Werts and sack him five times.
O’Connor collected a career-high 11 of the Wildcats’ 13 receptions for 118 yards. Rick Ellison matched his career high with 10 tackles, while Jae’Wuan Horton had six tackles, including three for a loss, and two quarterback hurries, one of which led to an interception.