UNH football makes it 14 straight FCS playoff bids, good for longest in the nation
The University of New Hampshire's streak now stands at 14.
Despite a 15-0 loss at Albany on Saturday that clouded their playoff hopes, the Wildcats' emotions turned 180 degrees on Sunday when they were awarded an at-large berth in the upcoming NCAA FCS playoffs. UNH earned a home game, to boot, and will play Central Connecticut State University on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Wildcat Stadium.
The NCAA appearance will be UNH's 14th straight, which is the longest current streak in the nation. It marks the Wildcats' 18th in program history.
UNH, ranked 21st nationally in the latest FCS poll, is 7-4 overall and finished 5-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association. UNH was one of four clubs from the conference to be selected; the other three — No. 1 overall seed James Madison (8-0, 11-0 overall), Stony Brook (7-1, 9-2 overall) and Elon (6-2, 8-3) — finished above UNH in the league standings.
Like UNH, Delaware also finished 5-3 and 7-4, but was not picked.
On Sunday, UNH players gathered in their locker room for the televised selection show. The mood was guarded, considering a shutout loss at Albany less than 24 hours earlier.
But then the mood changed when UNH was chosen.
"The place was nuts," UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. "The kids were out of their chairs, jumping around, excited about to the opportunity to play again after a bad game. The taste was awful after that game. We know we're better than that. We live for another day. You want to end it giving your best effort. You get beat and your hat goes off to the other team. My hat goes off to Albany. They played their tails off against us. But we didn't play our best and we've got to figure that out."
"I'm still shaking," said senior center and captain Jake Kennedy, of Amherst, about a half an hour after the announcement. "I feel like I'm in a dream. That last game is not us. We're not going to go out like that.
"Everyone erupted when it was announced. I turned and hugged everybody. We got a second chance at life and we can't waste it. What we put on film yesterday is not the team we are."
Said senior defensive tackle Rick Holt, of Portsmouth:
"Immediately after the game I thought there was no chance and I'm not going to lie, I cried a little bit," Holt said. "I thought I had played my last game. But then I saw that some stuff during the day went our way and there were a lot of teams with seven wins. Delaware losing to Villanova was big for us. A couple of other things went our way."
Central Connecticut finished 8-3 overall and won the Northeast Conference with a 6-0 mark, earning the league's automatic bid. The Blue Devils have an eight-game winning streak and advanced to the NCAAs for the first time in school history. They were a Division II team until 1993.
UNH is 8-0 all-time against CCSU, with the most recent victory coming on Sept. 26, 2015. In that game, a 57-14 Wildcats win, current starting quarterback Trevor Knight threw his first career touchdown pass and ran for his first career score.
CCSU and UNH shared one common foe this season, Bryant University. Central Connecticut beat the Bulldogs 31-14 and UNH won its match with Bryant, 45-17.
The winner of the UNH-Central Connecticut game will visit No. 4 seed Central Arkansas on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. ET.
With reports from Allen Lessels, UNH Insider
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