UNH to start Knight if he is ‘100 percent’

The quarterback picture for the University of New Hampshire was made clearer on Wednesday by coach Sean McDonnell, but it’s still not definite.

"If Trevor (Knight) is 100 percent ready to go, he’ll be the starting quarterback," McDonnell said.

If Knight is not 100 percent healthy, senior captain Adam Riese will get a second consecutive start. As for when that decision will be made, McDonnell said "we’ll figure it out as we go along."

Riese was the starter last week as UNH had its highest offensive output of the season in a 64-21 first-round playoff win against Lehigh that advanced the No. 22/21 Wildcats (8-4) to Saturday’s second-round matchup at fifth-seeded James Madison (10-1).

Riese was 18 for 30 for 273 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions against Lehigh. He also ran for 26 yards and a touchdown

"(Riese) threw the deep ball really well … he scrambled with a purpose…he just had a command of what was going on," McDonnell said. "That’s what we’ve come to expect from him all along. That’s what we’ve seen from him, especially his last two or three years. He’s always got a presence about him with what’s going on. He understands where the ball has got to go and gets it to them."

Riese came in for Knight early in the regular-season finale at Maine and led UNH to a 24-21 comeback win. Knight suffered a foot injury which took away the thing that beat out Riese for the starting job in the first place – athleticism.

Last week McDonnell put Knight’s health at 70 percent and said 100 percent of Riese was better than 70 percent of Knight. But Knight, a sophomore from Nashua South, has been getting healthier in the last few days.

"Last week (Knight) was playing with a limp. (Tuesday) he got out there and he ran very well," McDonnell said. "A couple times you could see it it would bother him a little bit, but he threw the ball in the rain as good as anybody could do it, he moved it, he threw on the run, he ran some options, he looked good. Now we’ve got to see how he comes back from it."

Knight had been making steady progress with his understanding of the offense and decision making during the season. He was 171-for-298 (57.4 percent) for 1,645 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before the injury.

Dominating Dalton

McDonnell won’t have any decisions to make on who will get that start at running back.

That job is secure in the hands of Dalton Crossan, who has been a monster in the last two games. Against Maine Crossan ran for 163 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, good for a a 6.5 yards per carry average. Against Lehigh he had 184 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, a 7.7 average.

"At Maine he was something else and then last week he did a really good job, so what I’ve seen from him is something that’s always been in there," McDonnell said.

The coach also pointed out that Crossan looked pretty good against Albany on Nov. 12, one week before the Maine game. Crossan had 37 yards on five carries, three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, and he had helped UNH to a 22-0 lead before he had to leave the game with concussion symptoms.

The Wildcats wound up losing that game, a result that may have been different if Crossan had stayed on the field.

New Hampshire had its bye week just before the Albany game, and both McDonnell and Crossan said that extra rest probably helped the running back. Crossan, like any smart back, credits the big guys up front with the resurgence of the running game.

"The offensive line is really where it all starts," Crossan said.

Injuries, new positions and new players disrupted the o-line continuity early in the season. But the same five have started the last seven games – tackles Andrew Lauderdale and Dane Herron, guards Curtis Nealer and Will McInerny and center Tad McNeely – and that consistency has made a difference.

Holt digs for info

Junior defensive tackle Ricky Holt is eighth on the team in tackles (42), tied for fifth in tackles for a loss (6.5) and tied for third in sacks (1.5). But he leads the UNH defenders in questions asked.

"The thing that really makes Ricky go is he’s a very smart kid and he (asks) really smart questions … He wants answers. He wants to know what’s going on and he figures it out," McDonnell said. "And you better dot all your i’s and cross your t’s with Ricky because he’ got a long memory and that’s a great thing."

Holt said he used to ask just as many questions of his baseball and basketball coaches. He admitted he likes to talk a lot, but there is a purpose to his inquiries.

"It helps me understand why I’m doing things, like a certain blitz that we’re running, why am I going there, stuff like that … just to know the whole thing so I don’t mess it up," Holt said.

The Portsmouth High grad didn’t have far to travel to go to college, but he did have plenty to learn.

"When I first came here as a freshman I didn’t know a thing," Holt said. "Like they showed me the simplest thing and said go write this play up on the board and I wouldn’t be able to do it. And now I pretty much have an understanding of it, but it probably took me two years to fully grasp it."