Wildcats ready to get back to work
DURHAM – Members of the University of New Hampshire football team spent Tuesday talking about turning the page on a new season, but perhaps the loudest statement to that was the constant beeping that filled Cowell Stadium.
The Wildcats held their annual media day get-together on the turf amidst a sea of changes that included the on-going improvements to the stadium, along with new uniforms.
Only the middle section of the stands remains in the stadium, and so far, one of the four light towers has been put in place, but UNH coach Sean McDonnell was quick to point out that the most important part of those changes – to the stands and with the uniforms – is who is in them.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about all this stuff, but I’m more worried about who is in (the stadium) and how we’re going to play,” McDonnell said. “People are going to come support us because of the way we play and how we play, I think. They’re also going to come if you win football games.
“What the stadium has done is not just for this football program, but for the whole university, every athletic program, and the second thing is for the state. It’s going to be exciting to have three of the high school championship games here on this turf in November.”
Before that, UNH will play six home games, five of which will start at 3 p.m. or later, including a 6 o’clock kickoff against Dartmouth College on Sept. 27 and Albany on Nov. 1.
“I guess it’s an exciting thing,” quarterback Sean Goldrich said. “It’s nice to have new gear and it’s nice to have new lights. It’s going to change things here, because we don’t have any early games this year.”
The stadium’s lights won’t be the only ones shining on the Wildcats this year, as they enter the season ranked No. 4 in the FCS preseason coaches poll, and were selected to finish first in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Players and coaches know those rankings mean more about the way they finished last season – making the FCS semifinals for the first time – than what they’ve done this year.
“It’s cool that we’re preseason No. 1 (in the CAA), but it doesn’t mean anything,” running back Nico Steriti said. “It’s other people’s opinions. Each team picks up recruits every year, their practicing hard every year, so you can’t just say that. It’s nice to get recognition, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter until you strap it up and go play football.”
McDonnell has been pleased with the work guys have put in since the offseason began in January, and while there have been great results from the team’s preseason testing, he won’t really know what any of it means for some time.
“They’ve put in a fair amount of work and it started right in January, when they went home for break,” he said. “They had five weeks home and came back in shape. I thought we had a good spring this year, and that was set up by a good winter program. The summer, we had the best conditioned team coming back with our testing, in the running especially, so I felt pretty good about that.
“These next 21 days are going to determine our future though. Everything that is leading up to here sets the table. Now we have to figure out how to put the dinner together and figure out how we’re doing it.”
UNH opens the season at Toledo, an FBS team from the Mid-American Conference, on Aug. 30 and has a week off before its home opener against Lehigh on Sept. 13.