UNH moves on after loss to JMU

DURHAM – UNH football coach Sean McDonnell and two of his senior standouts – defensive end Cam Shorey and running back Dalton Crossan – took the long walk across the field at Bridgeforth Stadium late on Saturday afternoon.

They walked under the stadium stands and rode the elevator to the sixth floor to their postgame press conference where they talked about how a powerful and well-rounded James Madison University team got the best of them this day, 55-22.

Then the coach and players finished up and made their way back across the field to their locker room.

That’s a wrap.

The Wildcats closed out another fine season – their latest in an exceptional run that has seen them qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament a nation’s best 13 straight times – with an 8-5 record and it’s time to move on.

Move on to other endeavors for the seniors. Move on to finding more players. Move on to preparing for the 2017 season for the younger players who will return.

Move on. Just. Like. That.

"The hard thing is, since the beginning of August you’ve put in the work every day for four months and you’ve had a routine, you’ve had the same people around you," McDonnell said Sunday afternoon. "You wake up today and the same people aren’t going to be there anymore, especially the kids. They’ve worked their tails off and done a great job carrying on the tradition here."

McDonnell talks often of dealing with sudden change on the field. This is more sudden change.

"The thing is, you’ve immediately got to switch gears," he said. "How do we get better? What do we do to get better? It starts with recruiting, but we’ve also got to make sure the guys already in the program do what they need to do to get better. It ends abruptly and you’ve got to flip the switch to the next part without catching a breath."

Just after a tough loss came to an end and minutes before he headed across the field with Shorey and Crossan, McDonnell addressed his team in the locker room.

"I thanked them, I especially thanked the seniors," he said. "Thanked them for giving everything they had to the program and to us as a coaching staff and for leading from the front. I told them a year ago at this time we were in a lousy state of mind. This senior class, all 16 or 17 of them, took it upon themselves to make sure that wasn’t going to happen again."

A year ago, the Wildcats lost in the first round of the playoffs at home to Colgate, a team they had beaten during the regular season.

This year, they rolled against Lehigh in the first round and earned another shot at James Madison.

He thanked all the seniors, a group that starts with captains Casey DeAndrade, Ryan Farrell and Adam Riese.

"Everyone knew what Casey would be," McDonnell said of the four-year starter and multi-time Colonial Athletic Conference All-Conference cornerback. "And Ryan and Adam were unbelievable. Then you look at a kid like Cam Shorey, who was not even on a first, second or third conference team before. He does a terrific job in the offseason of getting himself in the best possible physical condition and he plays great and makes first-team All-Conference. That’s pretty impressive."

It’s time for others to step up.

There is young talent in the program.

True freshmen in Pop Lacey and Prince Smith Jr. started with two redshirt freshmen in Michael Balsamo and Rick Ellison in the defensive backfield Saturday. Redshirt freshman Malik Love and sophomores Neil O’Connor and Rory Donovan started at the receiver spots and the quarterback was Amherst native and Nashua South graduate Trevor Knight, who was a sophomore.

What happens next, McDonnell wonders.

"It’s great the younger players came through for us," he said. "They did a real nice job. We’ll know a year from now whether they learned from the guys before them how quickly it goes, how you need to buy in and get yourself in the best shape you can. You’ve got an opportunity, but now you’ve got to make the best of the opportunity and work real hard."