Saturday, October 22, 2011
McCluskey's Notebook: UNH 27, UMass 21
By Jack McCluskey
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the 74th edition of a rivalry that dates back more than a century, the question wasn’t which team won the game. It was: Will these teams ever play again?
UMass and UNH first played a football game in 1897, with the Minutemen winning 10-4.
Much has changed in the game since, and more change is on the horizon: UMass will move to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012, meaning the series with Football Championship Subdivision UNH is very much in doubt.
After his team lost 27-21 on Saturday, UMass coach Kevin Morris was in no mood to reminisce.
“I think it’s one of those things where you move up and move on,” he said. “We’ve got a future in the MAC conference and we’ll create some rivalries there. The regional one will be Temple immediately but we’ll certainly get some great games with some of the other teams and form some great rivalries at the top of that league.”
Sean McDonnell, on the other hand, said he’ll miss the Wildcats’ border rivalry with the Minutemen.
“Losing this, it’s sad,” the UNH coach said. “It’s been something special for a long time, and if it goes away that would be very disappointing.”
Trophy talk: Each year the two teams play, the MVP of the game is awarded the Bill Knight Trophy.
After rushing 13 times for 92 yards, including a long run of 48 yards, and two touchdowns, and returning three kicks for 98 yards, with a long of 44, UNH’s Dontra Peters won the honor in 2011.
Asked what it meant to him to win the trophy for potentially the last time, Peters said the win over a rival meant more.
“Personally it’s not even about the trophy,” he said. “This game was huge for us, because like Coach said it might be the last [time] we ever play them. I think it’s much more than a trophy.
“We get all hyped up for [the rivalry game] all week. I’m just satisfied getting the win and putting the last W up on the board.”
Bad hands: With UNH up 27-18 and UMass in the red zone late in the fourth quarter, Wildcats linebacker Matt Evans had a chance to put the game away for good.
On third-and-3 from the 4-yard line, Minutemen quarterback Kellen Pagel was looking to get his team in the end zone. Rather than his intended receiver, however, his pass hit Evans and bounced off his hands, falling harmlessly to the ground.
Asked whether he was thinking about the end zone before he caught the ball, the junior from Hanover, Mass., was blunt.
“That was disgusting,” he said, drawing laughs from reporters. “Not really proud of that.”
“And we have him on the hands team, too,” McDonnell joked.
Return ticket: With three kick returns for 72 yards, including a 48-yarder that set up a touchdown, Jesse Julmiste has 621 return yards on the season. That’s the third-most return yards in a single season in UMass history.
In a rush: Minutemen running back Jonathan Hernandez carried the ball 29 times for 89 yards and a score. The touchdown, which came on a 4-yard run late in the second quarter, was the 25th of Hernandez’s career, tied for fifth most in UMass history.
Catching on: UMass wideout Julian Talley set a career high with 10 catches for 113 yards. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound senior also added a touchdown on the ground, spinning off two would-be tacklers and sprinting in for a 23-yard score on an end around in the second quarter.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.