Sports

Kelly’s 1st season comes to end

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The University of New Hampshire’s football season is officially over.

True, the Wildcats were eliminated from the FCS playoffs three weeks ago to eventual champion North Dakota State. But UNH football’s legacy continued marching onward into the NFL playoffs.

UNH, from administrators to the last guy off the bench and even alumni, is a proud institution. Proud of its history and especially those that carry the torch forward. Despite the college’s team being done for the fall, there was still its favorite son to root for.

Unfortunately, on Saturday night, Chip Kelly’s season came to an end. A clear NFL Coach of the Year candidate, Kelly took the Philadelphia Eagles from worst to first in the NFC East and the franchise hosted a playoff game in his first season at the helm.

Following the Eagles’ 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Kelly felt it might be too early to really look back on his first professional season as a head coach.

“It’s probably a little too soon for that,” said Kelly, whose team went from 4-12 last season to 10-6 and division champions.

“I thought we were going to be a good team when I met these guys for the first time because I know how hard they worked and how hard they wanted to invest in this and then I watched it firsthand – them come to work every day and really invest in this whole process. It’s just disappointing right now. But I don’t think us winning the division or getting to the playoffs was a surprise to us. I just think everybody is really disappointed that we’re not moving forward.”

He made sure to let his players know how grateful he was for the effort this season. A successful first NFL campaign indeed.

“I just told them I was proud of them,” Kelly said, “and for us being together for such a short amount of time, how they acted and how they came to work every single day, as a staff how much we appreciated them, how they made this from a work environment standpoint. A really special feeling every single day when you go to the Novacare Complex and just thanked them for that.”

Likewise in Durham and throughout the Granite State, the feeling was mutual. From Day 1 of his hiring in Philadelphia, Kelly had Wildcats Nation supporting his every move.

His good friend and UNH head coach Sean McDonnell joked at the first preseason media gathering that UNH didn’t make Chip into the household name that he is. That all falls on the Great Northwest.

Truth is, the Chip everyone knows now is the same guy that was offensive coordinator at UNH. His career did take off in New Hampshire. It was in Durham that Kelly’s version of the spread-option offense was born.

It’s evolved over the years at the University of Oregon and now in Philadelphia, but the groundwork was laid Saturday afternoons on the Cowell Stadium turf.

Win or lose, from Cowell Stadium to Lincoln Financial Field, the Wildcats will roar for years thanks to Chip Kelly.

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).

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