EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 17, 2013

UNH football team peaking at right time

Red-hot Goldrich, Wildcats gear for powerhouse North Dakota State after dramatic win

By Dave Dyer
ddyer@eagletribune.com

---- — Talk about good timing.

Sophomore redshirt quarterback Sean Goldrich and the University of New Hampshire football team couldn’t be peaking at a better time.

With Goldrich leading the way, the Wildcats (10-4) advanced to the Division 1-AA semifinals for the first time Saturday with a dramatic 20-17 quarterfinal upset victory over Southeastern Louisiana. It was their sixth straight win.

Goldrich, who split time with former Phillips Academy QB Andy Vailas last year and part of this year, was terrific throughout the game, but particularly on a late 14-play, 80-yard drive that he capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run.

For the game, Goldrich finished with a career high running the ball (21 carries, 99 yards, 3 TDs) and was more than effective passing (24 of 35, 276 yards). Although known more as a drop-back passer than Vailas, his run option helped keep Southeastern Louisiana off guard.

“It (running) wasn’t originally in the game plan, but they were giving us the lanes,” explained Goldrich. “The coach always says we’ll take what they give us and that’s what happened.

“In high school (in West Haven, Conn.), I had a good line that protected me and I was more of a passer. But I always knew I could run if I had to. Now I like it. It makes it tougher on the defense and it helps me take the edge off, get rid of the butterflies, if I run and get hit.”

Getting to the next round, and playing so well in the process, is something Goldrich definitely won’t forget anytime soon.

“That’s a great atmosphere (in Louisiana) and it was a great experience — definitely a career highlight,” he said. “I’d never been on that kind of stage before and there was a little bit of pressure on us because we’d never gotten past the quarterfinals.”

It was the third straight playoff game in which Goldrich shined. In the opening 45-7 romp over Lafayette he threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 31 yards on just four carries and he followed that with 291 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 41-27 win over Maine.

“The thing is that I’m healthy now and that makes a big difference,” said Goldrich. “I hurt my ribs pretty bad against William and Mary. I missed a game and a half and I haven’t felt back to normal until the last couple of games. As I’ve gotten healthier, I’ve gotten a lot more confidence.

“And I think (offensively) we have a better understanding of what we want to do. In the beginning of the season, we might have been trying to get a little too complicated, a little too tricky. We’ve simplified things and gone more with plays that are more successful and found what’s worked.’

With one upset behind them, Goldrich and the Wildcats know they’ll have an even tougher task Friday (8 p.m., ESPN2) at unbeaten North Dakota State (13-0), the top-seed and two-time defending champion, in the Fargo Dome.

North Dakota State has outscored opponents by an average of 46-12 this year and defeated Coastal Carolina 48-14 in its quarterfinal victory. It boasts two 1,000-yard rushers in Sam Ojuri and John Crockett and its quarterback, Brock Jensen, has rushed for more than 400 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 30 TDs while completing 60 percent of his passes.

What’s more, the Bison will be at home in the noisy Fargo Dome, which regularly sells out (18, 219).

It’s a big challenge for the Wildcats, but Goldrich is upbeat about it.

“It’s an awesome place to play and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Goldrich. “It’s going to be loud, but we have some experience indoors. We played Georgia State in the Georgia Dome last year.

“We know we’ll have to play our best game to win, but we’re not scared of anyone and we think we’re playing really well right now.”

There is no denying that.

Goldrich showsrespect for Vailas

It’s not an easy situation competing against Vailas for the starting quarterback job and both QBs have started games each of the last two seasons and they’re making the best of it.

“Obviously, we both want to start, but we’re friends and we have a mutual respect for each other,” said Goldrich. “We joke about it sometimes, because we both feel we could start for just about any other team.”

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Playoff peak

In UNH’s three playoff games, Sean Goldrich and the offense have been clicking

Opponent Score Key Statistics

Lafayette 45-7 267 passing yards, 2 TDs; 31 rushing yards

Maine 41-27 291 passing yards, 3 TDs

SE Louisiana 20-17 276 passing yards. 99 rushing yards with 3 TDs