MERIDEN, N.H. -- New Hampshire will enter Saturday's 58th Annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in a familiar role: as the heavy favorite.
Vermont hasn't beaten New Hampshire since 2000, and Vermont's offense and defense can share the blame for the current 10-game losing streak. New Hampshire's last 10 victories have come by an average score of 32-10.
Containing New Hampshire's running game may be the key to an upset Saturday. New Hampshire has completed two passes in the last two years – one TD pass in each game – but has won those games 40-6 (2009) and 34-20 (2010).
“Generally speaking, if we can force them to throw the ball that's a win for us,” Vermont coach Jim Provost (Champlain Valley Union) said. “Absolutely, I think New Hampshire is a run-oriented offense. If we can contain their running game that's gonna bode well for us.
“The key for us defensively against what we anticipate seeing from New Hampshire is to be disciplined in our assignments. We really need to play team defense and try to force some turnovers. Make them uncomfortable as early as possible.”
Making the New Hampshire offense uncomfortable is coach speak for making New Hampshire pass the football. New Hampshire has attempted nine passes in the last two years and although two were good for touchdowns, two others were intercepted.
New Hampshire will run the Wing-T offense, and Winnacunnet's Steve Cronan has been named the team's starting quarterback.
“I think it's gonna be awfully tough to completely shut them down,” Provost said. “The only way we're gonna be able to do that is to keep their offense on the sideline. We gotta control the ball.”
Saturday's game will be played at Windsor (Vt.) High School. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
New Hampshire has won 27 of the last 30 games and leads the series 42-13-2.
New Hampshire has three running backs on its roster who will play Division I (FCS) football this fall: Bishop Guertin's Mike Kelley (UNH), Salem's Max Jacques (Marist) and Lebanon's Cody Patch (Dartmouth). Patch suffered cracked ribs during practice at Kimball Union Academy, but has been cleared to play.
“I think running back is our deepest position,” New Hampshire coach Chris Childs (Lebanon) said. “We've got three Division I kids back there. We'll just have to see how Cody feels.”
Provost tried to run the ball against New Hampshire when he was Vermont's head coach in the 1990 Shrine Game. New Hampshire prevailed 35-0 that year.
Vermont will run a spread offense Saturday. Among Vermont's key weapons will be Rice Memorial quarterback Christian McCormick and Hartford fullback Trevor Wood. McCormick, Vermont's Gatorade Player of the Year, completed 262 passes for 2,619 yards and 37 touchdowns last fall, when he guided Rice to the Division II championship. He was intercepted three times.
“I really think the key for us is getting pressure on the quarterback,” Childs said. “We expect them to throw the ball all over the place and we can't let him sit back there and pick us apart. From what I've been told he can really throw the ball.”
Proceeds from the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl benefit the Shrine Hospitals in Boston, Montreal and Springfield, Mass.
“We're the underdog obviously,” McCormick said. “We haven't won in 10 years, but we're a new team and they're a new team. It's not like it's the same teams playing every year, so as a team we think we're in a good enough position to try and win. The confidence is there.”