BG’s Vailas gets nod at QB for UNH
DURHAM – University of New Hampshire backup quarterback Andy Vailas was signaling in the next play from the sideline when he suddenly realized he was going to have to run it himself.
The sophomore entered the game after starter Sean Goldrich came off the field in the middle of the Wildcats’ first offensive series with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder last Saturday against Minnesota.
“I saw Sean running to the sideline and I was a little confused,” Vailas said. “I didn’t have my helmet on and someone said ‘you’re in.’ I really didn’t think (the tackle) was that big at the time. Clearly, as you could see, the first play was kind of a mess with everyone running all over the place. It was obviously my fault. It was kind of a shock at first. After that play everything started to settle down.”
Vailas ended up playing most of the game and the experience should help him hit the ground running when he makes his first college start Saturday at noon as the UNH football team (1-1) takes on Central Connecticut State (0-2) in the Wildcats’ home opener at Cowell Stadium.
The former Bishop Guertin High School star’s appearances have run the gamut this season. He quarterbacked the Wildcats to the go-ahead touchdown against Holy Cross in the opener, and then came into a difficult situation against the FBS Gophers in an eventual 44-7 loss.
The defeat came in front of more than 47,000 fans and dropped UNH several spots in the national FCS poll.
“I’m very excited to get back on the field after last week,” Vailas said. “We know that wasn’t the way we normally play. We want to come out and make a statement.”
Vailas completed 18 of 34 passes for 158 yards against the Gophers in the most extensive action of his college career. He was intercepted once and sacked four times.
Goldrich won a tight battle with Vailas for the No. 1 job during training camp, and coach Sean McDonnell doesn’t expect to see a drop-off in performance.
“Andy’s a terrific athlete,” he said. “He can really get going when he’s on the perimeter. I think he throws the ball at times a little bit quicker and a little bit better than Sean Goldrich.”
Senior James Brady, who was hampered by shoulder tendinitis in camp, will be the backup and could see his first action of the season.
Who plays quarterback Saturday might be the least of the Wildcats’ problems. They gave up 240 yards rushing last week and were also hurt by poor special teams play.
“We had a good mentality going into last weekend,” said sophomore running back Nico Steriti, who leads the team in rushing after two games. “Losing like that was a shock to us.”
A fumbled punt snap led to a safety for Minnesota and the game’s first points. To compound the issue, the Wildcats didn’t cover the ensuing free kick well and were also called for a personal foul penalty, which backed them up 15 more yards.
The Gophers scored on the next play to make it 9-0.
“They played downhill against us and we didn’t respond well,” McDonnell said. “Our punt coverage wasn’t good. Our kickoff coverage wasn’t good. We addressed both those issues in practice.”
Although the Blue Devils were outscored, 84-31, in their first two games, they open with a tough schedule. Stony Brook, Lehigh and UNH all made the FCS playoffs last year.
Central Connecticut has shown the ability to run the ball. Rob Hollomon, a transfer from Kent State, rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown in a 35-14 loss last week to Lehigh.
Quarterback Andrew Clements had 103 yards and two scores in the opener, a 49-17 setback at Stony Brook. The Blue Devils are averaging 173 yards per game on the ground.
“They run the football,” McDonnell said. “We better stop the run. We better stop it really well and make sure we’re assignment specific on Saturday.”
Minnesota rushed for 240 yards against UNH, including a 75-yard jaunt by 250-pound quarterback MarQueis Gray.
“They wore us down,” McDonnell said. “They knocked us back a little bit. It has a little to do with who you’re playing, but it’s also how you’re playing and we’ve got to play better.”
The No. 18 Wildcats allowed 75 yards rushing on 22 attempts against Holy Cross. Getting junior tackle Sean McCann back from injury should help bolster the defensive line.
“It was definitely a tough game,” junior cornerback Chris Houston of the matchup with Minnesota. “We just have to be better mentally prepared and ready to go. Do what we do, fly around and play to the whistle.”
“It got away from us,” Steriti said. “It’s in the past now. We’re excited to be here in the Dungeon and open up against Central Connecticut State and get this rolling.”
Prognosis good for Carty
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Carty suffered what are being called “stroke-like symptoms” last week and did not accompany the University of New Hampshire football team to Minnesota last Saturday for its game against the Gophers.
According to head coach Sean McDonnell, Carty said a week ago Wednesday morning that he wasn’t feeling right and that he had lost some sensation on the left side of his body.
As a precautionary measure he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. McDonnell said Carty was there for several days undergoing a battery of tests.
“They were trying to find out exactly what it was,” McDonnell said Thursday after practice. “There were some stroke-like symptoms. He’s back out of the hospital right now. He’s in out-patient rehab over in Portsmouth. He’s doing great. He’s got most of the sensation back on his left side. Physically he feels good. Mentally he’s a little tired.”
The 29-year-old Carty will not coach Saturday’s game against Central Connecticut State, and there is no timetable for his return.
“Everything they tested came back negative,” McDonnell said. “They’re still trying to figure out what happened to him. He’s out indefinitely. We’re just telling him to get healthy and get feeling better.”
With Carty out, the other offensive coaches will take on added responsibilities. They include Brian Barbato (tight ends), Michael Ferzoco (running backs), Alex Miller (line) and Artie Asselta (wide receivers).
The plays are being called by committee.
“I’m doing a little bit more than I have in the past,” McDonnell said. “I’m trying to get involved with it. We’re all working to share the load. All the kids, the coaches and myself are working together on this (and) trying to get it taken care of.”
Carty, a former quarterback at Delaware, is in his sixth season as an assistant UNH and first as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
He spent the previous two years working with the Wildcats’ wide receivers.
“The prognosis is that he’s going to recover,” McDonnell said. “He’s a young guy. If anyone can come back from it, this kid can.”
Goldrich, who had his right arm in a sling as he watched practice Thursday, is expected to miss “two or three weeks,” according to McDonnell.
He has a slight separation of the AC joint.
“He took a pretty good shot there after watching tape,” McDonnell said. “Popped it pretty good.”
McDonnell said it’s not the first time the redshirt freshman has injured his right shoulder. He also hurt it in a senior all-star game the summer before he came to UNH.
“He knows the injury,” McDonnell said, “and he knows the pain level.”
The Wildcats have won seven straight home-openers. They’re 6-0 all-time against Central Connecticut, including a 33-3 win in 2010 and a 70-20 victory in 2003.