Skip to main content

Know Your 2010 Opponents: New Hampshire

(Photo Credit: Deb Cram/Seacoast Online)

You can probably forgive New Hampshire fans for being a little bit obsessed with polls.

After all, the announcement this week that they were going to be starting the year ranked in the Sports Network poll at No. 10 was nothing unusual for them.

Since breaking into the Top 25 on the 13th of September of 2004 - after their shock 35-24 win over Rutgers, behind the efforts of freshman QB Ricky Santos - they never left the polls.

Think about that a second. To date, that's 2,165 days as a top team in FCS. That also off the heels of a year where the Wildcats never dropped below 11th in the country, and rose to as high as 4th.  That's what Lehigh is going to be up against when they travel to Durham, New Hampshire this fall. (more)


What's even more remarkable about New Hampshire's justified respect in the polls this year is that they are there with three of their big stars from last year - TE Scott Sicko, LB Sean Ware and RB Chad Kackert - spending their August in NFL camps.  They also don't boast a single finalist for the Walter Payton or Buck Buchanan awards this year.  So what does New Hampshire do to replace them?

"Like we do every year, we reload," said senior QB R.J. Toman to Seacoast Online. "It's not a sense of rebuilding anything; we reload because we have guys that are just as willing and able to step in."

The Wildcats are hoping to reload on offense with some players that got a lot of playing time last year, notably junior RB Sean Jellison who stepped in and did a whale of a job for the Wildcats when Kackert went down with injury.

But it's the Wildcat defense that really stands up and demands your respect.

Forget the fact that they don't have any Buck Buchanan candidates - yet.  Senior DB Dino Vasso (5 interceptions) and senior FS Hugo Souza (77 tackles, 3 INTs) have the capability to be there by year's end.  With Souza and Vasso patrolling the secondary, New Hampshire could have one of the best secondaries in all of FCS.

Add to that a nighmarish front seven starring returning junior DE Brian McNally (4 sacks), senior DT Steve Young (39 tackles, 2 sacks) and senior LB Devon Jackson (98 tackles including 9 tackles for loss), it's no wonder the Wildcats - who only allowed on average a tiny bit more than 21 points per game in 2009 - are ranked so highly.

"I think we have the most depth at every single position than we've had since I've been here," said Souza. "We'll do well."

In this defense, where Souza seems to be the calm co-captain, it's McNally who seems to be the live wire - which is a good thing when you're talking about defensive linemen.  At UNH's media day, one of the athletic department's "Flipumentary" hosts said that everyone "seems to be scared" of McNally ;as they light-heartedly debated sandwiches.

"We want to bring a championship to New Hampshire," McNally told Seacoast Online.  "I've been here two years and lost in the (Division I) quarterfinals both years. You think, 'All right, we've only got two more years to go. We've got to hurry up and get this thing out of the way.'"

Like Lehigh, UNH is thinking about their brutal schedule as well.  They see Pitt, who they know is a step up from Rutgers circa-2004, Army and Marshall, and had the potential to be a rough afternoon.  They've seen their 2010 schedule go from having Hofstra and Northeastern (who discontinued football late last year) to including instead fellow Top 25 denizens William & Mary and James Madison.  Add local CAA rival UMass and the defending national champions Villanova - and that's one brutal schedule.

"It's going to be a good challenge for us," Vasso, calmly told Seacoast Online, "but no different than usual. We have the same outlook and the same expectations."

It's hard not to look at New Hampshire's camps, media day and press reports and see a team that is completely and utterly relaxed - if not a little bit cocky.  But then again, they've earned that right.  The team has beaten FBS opponents and won FCS playoff games the last two years.  Head coach Sean McDonnell isn't in any danger of being canned - he's the most successful current FCS head football coach over the last five years.

New Hampshire is a team that will be bringing one of the best defenses in the country, a solid offense that doesn't make many mistakes, and one of the strongest FCS reputations over the last five years.  It's going to be a huge challenge for Lehigh.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Nick Shafnisky Is Pushing Hard to Get To Play at the Next Level in Football

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing."
Those are the words of QB Nick Shafnisky, told to The Whitehall-Coplay Press all the way back in 2013, about his preparation as a high school athlete.
And they seem to summarize the Whitehall, PA native perfectly, then as now.
Dubbed the "Male Athlete of the Year" by that publication, the article goes on about Shaf's many exploits at Whitehall high school - leading the Zephyr football team to a co-Lehigh Valley Conference title, becoming the first player ever in that conference to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earning the league's co-MVP award as well.
He also was a member of the Zephyrs playoff basketball team, and for good measure also helped set a record for the 4x100 relay team as well.
At Whitehall, and at Lehigh, coaches pushed him, but it was his own hard work that helped make him the best athlete he could be.
This weekend, Shaf, like every eligible college football player, will be …

#TheRivalry Flashback: November 21st, 1987: Lehigh 17, Lafayette 10

Since becoming an undergrad at Lehigh back in the late 1980s, I first heard about the historic nature of the football team and "The Rivalry" through the stories that fellow students would share.

I did not attend the final meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette at Taylor Stadium, which was the final time a football game would be played there.

Those that did attend said that was that it was cold.

"I remember it being one of the coldest games ever," Mark Redmann recollected, "with strong Northwesterly winds and the temperature hovering around 20.  By the end of the game, the stands were half empty because most of the fans just couldn't take the cold.

"Fortunately, several of my fraternity brothers snuck in flasks to help fend off the chill."

Dominick Bragalone Goes Into Monster Mode As Lehigh Is One Win Away From Title

It has been a most unusual season for Lehigh.

Starting the year off at 0-5 and getting swept in their out-of-conference schedule, the Mountain Hawks were in danger of having their season go off the rails.

But two things have come together over the last five football games that have put Lehigh on the brink of back-to-back championships.

The first is the late blooming of the Lehigh defense, which kept battling every week since the low point of the September 30th loss to Wagner to do the job in four of their five Patriot League conference games. 

The second is the development of junior RB Dominick Bragalone into a bellcow running back, a back who has to be in the conversation for Patriot League offensive player of the year.

In five Patriot League games, Bragalone has run for 863 yards in 5 games, rushing for 11 touchdowns and adding two more receiving touchdowns as well. 

The South Williamsport, PA native certainly wasn't unknown before this week - after all, as a freshman and a sop…