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FCS East Recap: Wildcats (UNH) Turn Around Wildcats (Nova)

(Photo courtesy the Laconia Citizen/AP)

For the second week in a row, the No. 2 team faced the No. 5 team in the in the Sports Network Top 25. Last week, it was Villanova who jumped out in front of William & Mary to coast to the victory, but this weekend would end quite differently for the Wildcats.

In Durham, New Hampshire, two top defensive teams slugged it out and it would be No. 5, New Hampshire, that would emerge on top 28-24. After UNH jumped out to a 22-7 lead midway through the second quarter, Villanova junior WR Matt Szczur showed he is the heart and soul of their offense, scoring two big play touchdowns (one 26 yard reception, and a 58 yard touchdown run) in the next two quarters to give Villanova the 24-22 lead. He would have an eye-popping 283 yards of total offense on the afternoon - more than half of the Wildcats' yards from scrimmage.

But it was UNH's defense, led by senior LB Sean Ware (10 tackles) and sophomore S Ryan McGuinness (10 tackles) that held Villanova when it counted. While UNH's "no-name" defense doesn't have one standout star, their bruisers wore down Villanova and didn't break when it counted, when senior LB Terence Klein grabbed a key interception late and batted down Villanova's final pass.

New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell thought his team made a statement. "I told the kids it's your stage, your opportunity to go do something. There's a lot of doubters still, I believe, how good we can be. I was very proud of the way they stood up in this game and bounced back and won one in our house."

"New Hampshire played the exact kind of game I thought they would play," Villanova head football coach Andy Talley said afterwards. "We had our chances to win the game and we didn't."

It doesn't get any easier in the CAA, that's for sure: Villanova gets to head out to a James Madison team that is fighting for it's postseason life after the Dukes fell just short at home against Richmond 24-17, while UNH heads to another team stung by defeat: UMass, who was drilled 43-27 by a resurgent Delaware.

Here's a roundup of some of the other action in the East:

  • Call it "The Drive": down the entire game to Columbia, senior QB Rob Curley overcame his own mistakes in a night filled with Lion blitzes to engineer the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left as the Leopards snatched victory from Columbia from the jaws of defeat, 24-21. Head coach Frank Tavani was livid at halftime, his Leopards down 21-10: ''I don't know who that was, but that wasn't Lafayette football,'' he told his team. ''That wasn't playing with pride, purpose, passion.'' Yet Curley came out and found sophomore WR Mitchell Bennett in the end zone for the first TD, and senior RB Maurice White bulled in from the 3 yard line for the decider. The 4-1 Leopards showed that they are a team that will always fight to the finish, and they will be a very, very tough out in the Patriot League race.
  • The Leopards' next opponent, meanwhile, is 3-1 Harvard, who ran roughshod over Cornell 28-10 in what was ostensibly a battle of undefeated Ivy League teams. But junior RB Gino Gordon and freshman RB Treavor Scales dominated the Big Red defense, combining for 251 yards rushing and 4 TDs. You wonder if Cornell head coach Jim Knowles gave the Leopards the key to success next Saturday, if they can achieve it: “If you can’t stop the run, and you can’t run the ball effectively, it makes for a tough game. It makes for a very tough game.”
  • On paper, the Thursday night clash between Colgate and Princeton was a mismatch of gigantic proportions: Princeton junior RB Jordan Culbreath, their leading rusher last year is gone due to injury, and the Tigers' run defense has struggled all year. Faced with going against the Raiders' No. 1-ranked rushing offense - and dangerous running junior QB Greg Sullivan - one could only imagine the carnage. But it wasn't the case: Princeton battled bravely in a sloppy game that the Raiders barely pulled out, 21-14, in double overtime. Senior LB Greg Hadley was the defensive star for the Raiders, whose unit held Princeton scoreless for 3 quarters. Hadley had 11 tackles and a big stop on 4th and 1 to stop a Tiger drive. Colgate plays Georgetown this weekend, while Princeton heads to Brown.
  • Speaking of Brown, they did something last weekend nobody else could do: out-duel Holy Cross in a 34-31 upset of the nationally-ranked Crusaders. Just to give you an idea of how this game played out featuring Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph and Brown junior QB Kyle Newhall: out of 51 first downs in the game, 40 were passing. There were 98 yards rushing - combined - and 53 of those yards came from the quarterbacks. It would actually be a Randolph interception - Bear senior LB Brendan Gallagher's 28 yard interception return for a TD gave Brown a 20-17 lead midway through the 3rd quarter and gave notice that they weren't going away - until junior PK Patrick Rooney booted the FG as time expired to get the win. Holy Cross will lick their wounds with Dartmouth this weekend, while Brown host Princeton in a class broadcast nationally on Versus Network.
  • "We finally played a complete game," said Fordham head coach Tom Masella after Fordham finally put things together in 35-7 win over Bryant, a team in transition to Division I. "I thought we played well on offense, defense and special teams. The kids played hard and it was nice to see that hard work pay off. Hopefully this is something we can build on for next week." The key stat for Masella may not have been yards (427) but instead +1 (turnover ratio) and 100% (3 for 3 in the red zone). Junior RB Xavier Martin had a good game against the Bulldogs with 122 yards rushing and a TD, and junior LB Jamal Haruna led all Fordham tacklers with 11. The Rams close out their out-of-conference schedule this weekend at Cornell.
  • Starting their fourth-string QB, you'd think Penn might be even with Bucknell. But it turned out that Penn head coach Al Bagnoli had some tricks up his sleeve - like scoring on a direct snap to the RB, and a RB toss-and-pass - as the Quakers beat the Bison 21-3. It was an ugly game, featuring seven turnovers, twelve punts and lots of defense - but the yeoman effort of senior LB Greg Jones would be in vain in the end. Penn's defense held Bucknell to under 200 total yards on the game.
  • Finally, Yale's early season struggles seem to be behind them after they manhandled Dartmouth 38-7 after a fiery pregame speech by senior LB Paul Rice and senior WR John Sheffield. A glass-half-empty person might have said that Dartmouth, currently mired in a huge multi-season losing streak and saw their starting QB, senior QB Alex Jenny, have to leave the game, the optimist would say that Yale, who had been platooning two quarterbacks, found their starter: junior QB Brook Hart, who tossed for 390 yards and 3 TDs. Like Lehigh, Yale may have to answer the a question this week: are their troubles behind them, or did they just feast on a lesser opponent last week?

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Anonymous said…
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