Sep 20, 2014 8:21 AM
Wildcats seeking early road victory
Last year, the UNH football team lost its first three road games.
The Wildcats are hoping to avoid that kind of start to this season. They dropped their first game at Toledo three weeks and get their second road opportunity on Saturday at Colonial Athletic Association rival Richmond in a 4 p.m. game.
Much is on the line.
"It's huge," said head coach Sean McDonnell. "It's the conference opener. It's on the road. . . . It's a big barometer I think of how a team is going to be, how they play on the road."
The game matches a pair of ranked opponents with the No. 7 Wildcats and the No. 17 Spiders. UNH bounced back from the loss to Toledo with a 45-27 win over Lehigh last weekend to even its record at 1-1. Richmond is 2-1 with wins over Morehead State, 55-10, and Hampton, 42-17, sandwiched around a 45-13 loss to Virginia.
The Spiders are averaging 36.7 points per game and UNH is at 32.5.
A top priority for tackle Matt Kaplan and the Wildcat defense is slowing down Richmond senior quarterback Michael Strauss, who comes into the game with numbers similar to those of UNH junior QB Sean Goldrich.
Each quarterback has passed for six touchdowns and been intercepted twice. Strauss has completed 68.2 percent of his passes and Goldrich is at 68.4. Goldrich has a wide edge in passing yardage with his 356 yards through two games to the 247 of Strauss over three games.
"He is a very, very good quarterback, in terms of throwing the ball," said UNH defensive coordinator John Lyons of Strauss. "He's got a really good arm and he gets rid of the ball very quickly. He's very accurate and will take some chances. Sometimes, fundamentally, he'll throw the ball off the back foot, but he has a strong enough arm to do that and complete balls."
Strauss runs an offense that has piled up 530 yards a game, 176 on the ground and 354 through the air.
"I haven't seen everybody yet that we're going to play, but I would think - I hope - nobody's better than this guy," Lyons said. "I'm very impressed with him."
UNH and Richmond did not play last season. The Wildcats won a pair of shootouts in the two seasons prior to that - 44-40 in Durham in 2012 and 45-43 in Richmond in 2011.
At Richmond, the Spiders passed for 350 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but the UNH defense came up with a couple of huge plays, too.
Defensive end Randi Vines returned an interception 60 yards for a score in the second period to give the Wildcats their first lead and Matt Evans picked another for 31 yards and a TD later in the period to extend the advantage.
"The Randi Vines special," Kaplan said. "The old deflection and take it back to the house. Randi scored on a deflected ball and Matty Evans made an unreal play like he always did and we were right back in it."