Crusaders Set To Face New Hampshire In Season Opener

Sean Whited

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. #14 New Hampshire (0-0, 0-0 CAA)
Date: August 30, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Fitton Field (23,500), Worcester, Mass.
Live Video Streaming: Crusader Vision
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM & 94.9 FM, Worcester; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Tom Kelleher, color; Click Here to Listen
Unofficial Live Statistics: Presto Sports Primetime
Series Record: Tied, 6-6
Last Meeting: New Hampshire 39, Holy Cross 32; Oct. 1, 2011; Durham, N.H.

The Series With New Hampshire
This will be only the 13th meeting between the Crusaders and the Wildcats on the gridiron, with the all-time series tied at 6-6. New Hampshire posted a 39-32 victory in Durham last season, but prior to that the two schools had not met since 1984. Holy Cross holds a 4-2 advantage for games played in Worcester, although the Wildcats did post a 14-13 win during their last visit to Fitton Field (on Nov. 10, 1984). The schools first met on Oct. 2, 1909, with Holy Cross winning 13-0 in Worcester.

Series Quick Facts
Overall: Tied, 6-6
In Worcester: Holy Cross leads, 4-2
At Fitton Field: Holy Cross leads, 4-2
Current Win Streak: New Hampshire, two games
Tom Gilmore vs. New Hampshire: 0-1
Sean McDonnell vs. Holy Cross: 1-0

Let There Be Light
The season-opening game against New Hampshire will mark only the second contest to ever take place under the lights at Fitton Field. In the previous 116 years of Crusader football only one other night game has been played on the Holy Cross campus, coming on Sept. 1, 2011, against Massachusetts. The Crusaders are not strangers to playing games under the lights, as they have played four night games over the last four seasons. The Crusaders have taken part in a total of 16 night games in their history which are on record, with the first coming at Louisiana State on Oct. 5, 1940.

Football Legends Ring Of Honor Inductions Set For August 30
The athletic department at the College of the Holy Cross will honor three former football standouts this week, as the third class of the Crusader Football Legends Ring of Honor. Ronnie Cahill (Class of 1940), Pat McCarthy (Class of 1963) and Jeff Wiley (Class of 1989) will all be honored in a ceremony prior to the New Hampshire game, and receive permanent recognition at Fitton Field. Only former Crusader football players who have been elected to the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame are eligible for this honor, which is an annual event each fall. Individuals who have previously been inducted into the Crusader Football Legends Ring of Honor include George Connor (Class of ex1946), Gill Fenerty (Class of 1986), Bruce Kozerski (Class of 1984), Gordie Lockbaum (Class of 1988), Jon Morris (Class of 1964), Edmund Murphy (Class of 1943), Bill Osmanski (Class of 1939), Vince Promuto (Class of 1960), John Provost (Class of 1975) and Joe Wilson (Class of 1973).

For Openers
Holy Cross will start its 117th season of intercollegiate football with the New Hampshire game. The Crusaders have always been excellent on opening day, posting a record of 69-38-9 in their season debuts. Following last season's 24-16 loss to Massachusetts, Holy Cross stands 7-5 on opening day over the last 12 years. Since the beginning of the 1980 season, Holy Cross owns a 20-11-1 mark in its opener. The Crusaders also have an all-time record of 78-30-7 in their opening home game of the season. Holy Cross has a 9-6 record in home openers over the last 15 years.

Crusaders Look To Post Another Winning Season
In 2012, Holy Cross will attempt to finish with a winning record for the eighth year in a row. The Crusaders concluded the 2010 and 2011 seasons with identical marks of 6-5, after going 9-3 in 2009 (marking only the ninth time the school history the team has won at least nine games). Holy Cross previously went 7-4 in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and its 42-25 mark over the last six seasons is its best in a six-year span since going 42-23-1 from 1989-1994. Holy Cross also posted a winning record in 2005 (6-5), and has an overall mark of 48-30 since the beginning of the 2005 campaign. The last time the Crusaders posted a winning mark in seven straight seasons was from 1986-1992. Holy Cross is one of only 12 football championship subdivision teams in the nation with at least seven straight winning seasons, along with Appalachian State, Drake, Harvard, Jacksonville State, James Madison, McNeese State, Montana, Montana State, New Hampshire, Northern Iowa and South Carolina State.

Balanced Group Of Receivers Returns
The Crusaders look to have a number of outstanding weapons in the passing game this season, with the top five wide receivers off of last year's squad all returning in 2012. Senior wide out Gerald Mistretta (Brooklyn, N.Y.) caught 60 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, to lead the team in all three categories and earn first team All-Patriot League honors. He had six catches for a career-best 136 yards and a touchdown at New Hampshire, and posted a career-high 12 receptions for 103 yards and a score against Dartmouth. Junior wide receiver Mike Fess (Caldwell, N.J.) ranked second on the team with 45 receptions for 417 yards and two scores last season, and was selected second team All-Patriot League. He set career-highs by catching 11 passes for 95 yards and a score at New Hampshire. Junior wide out Kyle Toulouse (Arlington, Va.) stood third on the squad with 40 catches for 472 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. He posted a career-high 13 receptions for a career-best 110 yards at New Hampshire, tying for second place on the school single-game list for most catches. Junior wide out Jon Smith (Matawan, N.J.) totaled 23 catches for 274 yards and one touchdown in 2011, including a career-high four catches for 43 yards against UMass and three receptions for a career-high 51 yards at Bucknell. In addition, junior wide receiver Nate Stanley (Euclid, Ohio) had 18 receptions for 216 yards last season, with career-highs of nine catches and 109 yards at Bucknell.

Defense Coming Off Strong Season
The Holy Cross defense had an outstanding year in 2011, holding the opposition to just 20.0 points and 342.4 total yards per game. That marked the fewest points per game the Crusaders had allowed since 1992 (15.9 points per game), and the fewest yards per contest they had given up since 2006 (335.4 yards per game). On Nov. 5, Holy Cross held Lehigh to just 14 points and 394 total yards, well below their averages of 37.1 points and 491.0 yards entering the game. Previously at Bucknell, the Crusaders limited the Bison to just 146 yards of total offense, 13 points and eight first downs. At one point during the second half, Holy Cross held Bucknell to three-downs-and-out on six consecutive possessions. The 146 total yards were the fewest the Crusaders had allowed since giving up only 65 yards to Georgetown on Sept. 2, 2007, while the eight first downs were the least by a Holy Cross opponent since Georgetown had only seven first downs on Sept. 5, 2009.  In addition, the Crusaders totaled six quarterback sacks during the contest against Bucknell, their most in a single game since posting six sacks against Fordham on Sept. 30, 2006.

The Last Meeting With New Hampshire
New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Justin Mello with 1:10 remaining, to break a 32-32 tie and lift the seventh-ranked Wildcats to a 39-32 victory over Holy Cross at Cowell Stadium on Oct. 1, 2011. Ryan Taggart connected on 40 of 57 passes for a career-high 412 yards and two touchdowns for Holy Cross, in addition to rushing 12 times for 55 yards and two scores. The game was close throughout the first half, and the Wildcats led 18-13 at halftime. In the third quarter, New Hampshire increased its lead to 25-13 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Decker to Joey Orlando. But the Crusaders refused to go away, as Taggart ran 10 yards for a touchdown and then threw a 35-yard scoring strike to Gerald Mistretta, tying the score at 25-25 early in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats pulled back in front on a one-yard touchdown run by Chris Setian, and would get the ball back with less than seven minutes to play up 32-25. Chandler Fenner then forced a fumble which was recovered by Cav Koch, giving Holy Cross possession at the New Hampshire 49-yard line. Eight plays later, Taggart ran 13 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 32-32 with 2:30 to play. But the Wildcats came right back with the winning touchdown pass from Decker to Mello. The Crusaders drove to the New Hampshire 33-yard line in the closing seconds, but Taggart's pass into the end zone fell incomplete on the final play.

Mannix Stands Out In Secondary
Senior strong safety Tom Mannix (Kenilworth, N.J.) is coming off a strong season in the Holy Cross secondary, which saw him earn second team All-Patriot League honors. Mannix ranked second on the team with 87 total tackles last year, to go along with three forced fumbles, an interception, a fumble recovery and 10 pass breakups. During the Lehigh game, he recorded a career-high 12 total tackles with a forced fumble. In other games last season, Mannix had eight total tackles and an interception against Dartmouth; made 11 tackles with a forced fumble and a pass breakup against Massachusetts; and totaled 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup at New Hampshire. During his career with the Crusaders, he has now totaled 138 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and 16 pass breakups.

Offensive Line Returns Three Starters
Holy Cross returns three starters to an offensive line which looks to be one of the most dominating units in the Patriot League this year. In 2011, the line paved the way for the Crusaders to average 400.9 yards of total offense per game. Returning starters for the Crusaders include fifth-year senior Sean Whited (Canton, Ohio) at center, senior Casey Bessemer (Jacksonville Beach, Fla.) at left guard and senior Kyle Pedretty (Dunedin, Fla.) at left tackle. Whited was named second team All-Patriot League last season, and has played in 23 career games with 19 starts. Bessemer has started 11 times with 22 career games played, and Pedretty has played in 17 career games with 17 starts. Those three are expected to be joined in the starting lineup by junior Jay Knighton (Pottstown, Pa.) at right guard and junior Blake Berresford (Montoursville, Pa.) at right tackle.

Crusaders In The Patriot League
Heading into its 27th season of play in the Patriot League, Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 81-63 (.563) in conference action. The Crusaders won their last conference championship in 2009, clinching the title with a 28-26 victory over Lafayette to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Holy Cross' six Patriot League championships (all of them outright) have come in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 2009. The Crusaders are tied for the second-most championships in conference history, behind only Lehigh with 10 titles. In 2009, Holy Cross won five Patriot League games for just the fourth time in school history. The Crusaders previously went 5-1 in 2008, while posting 5-0 conference records in 1990 and 1991.

Schneider Shines At Tight End
Senior tight end Alex Schneider (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) will once again be a key part of the Holy Cross passing game in 2012. In 11 games played last season, he ranked sixth on the team in receiving with 15 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Schneider previously earned first team All-Patriot League honors in 2010, when he stood fourth on the team with 30 receptions for 217 yards and a score. He was also named second team All-Patriot League in 2009, after ranking fourth on the team with 33 receptions for 275 yards, while his six touchdown catches were the second-most on the squad. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, Schneider has now totaled 78 catches for 654 yards and nine touchdowns.

Maliska & Tucker Lead Defensive Front
Senior defensive tackle Jack Maliska (Winchendon, Mass.) and junior linebacker Mike Tucker (Chester Springs, Pa.) both earned second team All-Patriot League honors last season, and will look to continue their outstanding play in 2012. Maliska totaled 35 tackles a year ago, with 27 solo stops, two sacks and four tackles for loss. His top games in 2011 came against Dartmouth and Lehigh, recording five tackles and a sack in each contest. Over the course of his collegiate career, Maliska now has 48 tackles, two sacks and six tackles for loss. Tucker recorded 27 tackles and a pass breakup last season, in addition to leading the team with nine sacks. He posted a career-high three sacks at Bucknell, while making a career-best seven tackles with two sacks in the victory over Harvard. During his Holy Cross career, Tucker has now totaled 31 tackles and nine sacks.

Head Coach Tom Gilmore
A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year (in 2006 and 2009), Tom Gilmore is now in his ninth season as the head football coach at Holy Cross in 2012. He has guided the Crusaders to an overall record of 51-38 during his time at Holy Cross, including a 48-30 mark since the beginning of the 2005 campaign. In 2009, Gilmore led the Crusaders to an overall record of 9-3, the Patriot League championship and a trip to the NCAA playoffs. A finalist for the 2009 Eddie Robinson Award, Gilmore has led the Crusaders to winning records in seven straight seasons, including 7-4 marks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, along with winning streaks of six games (in 2008) and five games (in 2006 and 2009). Two of Gilmore's players, Dominic Randolph (2007, 2008 and 2009) and Steve Silva (2005), have been named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, with Silva earning first team All-America honors. Gilmore has also led the Crusaders to four victories over ranked opponents, three of which came in 2009. Prior to his time at Holy Cross, Gilmore served as an assistant coach at Lehigh (2000-2003), Dartmouth (1992-1999), Pennsylvania (1986, 1990-1991) and Columbia (1987-1989). An Academic All-American at Pennsylvania, Gilmore graduated in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in computer mathematics. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior and helped lead the Quakers to four consecutive Ivy League titles.

Holy Cross Against The CAA
The Crusaders own an all-time record of 38-24-1 against the 11 schools which currently compete in the Colonial Athletic Association. Holy Cross' all-time record against the Colonial Athletic Association includes marks of 2-1 against Delaware, 5-0-1 vs. Maine, 6-6 vs. New Hampshire, 9-1 against Rhode Island, 1-0 vs. Richmond, 4-3 against Towson, 9-13 vs. Villanova and 2-0 against William & Mary. The Crusaders are also 23-11-5 all-time against Boston University, 19-8-1 vs. Connecticut, 0-1 against Hofstra, 21-24-5 vs. Massachusetts, 5-1 against Northeastern and 9-2 vs. Vermont (all former members of the Colonial Athletic Association, which began as the Yankee Conference in 1947).

Holy Cross Picked Second In Patriot League Preseason Poll
The 2012 Crusaders have been picked to finish in second place in a preseason poll of the Patriot League's head coaches and sports information directors. Holy Cross received a total of 46 points in the poll, to go along with one first place vote. The rankings:

Rank School (1st place votes) 2011 Record Points
1. Lehigh (11) 11-2 / 6-0 PL 60
2. Holy Cross (1) 6-5 / 4-2 PL 46
3. Colgate 5-6 / 2-4 PL 36
4. Georgetown (2) 8-3 / 4-2 PL 33
5. Lafayette 4-7 / 2-4 PL 32
6. Bucknell 6-5 / 3-3 PL 15

Crusaders Among League Leaders
Several Holy Cross players ranked at or near the top of the Patriot League standings in a number of statistical categories, at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Quarterback Ryan Taggart led the way by ranking second in the league in passing yards (268.0 yards/game) and total offense (313.1 yards/game), while standing fourth in pass efficiency (129.7 rating). Wide receiver Gerald Mistretta stood third in the conference in both receptions (5.5 catches/game) and receiving yards (65.7 yards/game), while placekicker John Macomber (Vienna, Va.) ranked third in field goals (1.2 made/game) and fifth in scoring (5.6 points/game). In addition, cornerback Andrew Zitnik (Warren, Ohio) stood third in kickoff returns (22.5 yards/return), punter Corey Page ranked third in punting (37.5 yards/punt), wide out Mike Fess was fourth in receptions (4.5 catches/game) and tailback Eddie Houghton (Toronto, Ontario) stood fifth in rushing (50.6 yards/game). As a team, Holy Cross led the league in passing defense (195.2 yards/game); while standing second in total offense (400.9 yards/game), passing offense (268.0 yards/game), pass efficiency (129.4 rating), pass efficiency defense (115.7 rating) and net punting (35.7 yards/punt); and ranking third in scoring defense (20.0 points/game), total defense (342.4 yards/game), rushing offense (132.9 yards/game) and kickoff returns (21.2 yards/return).

Holy Cross In The NCAA Statistics
Six Crusaders ranked among the NCAA leaders in various statistical categories, at the conclusion of the 2011 season. As a team, Holy Cross ranked fourth in the nation in punt return coverage, 10th in first downs and 19th in scoring defense. The rankings:

Category Rank Player / Team Avg. / Pct.
Punt Return Coverage 4 Holy Cross 2.8
Total Offense 7 Ryan Taggart 313.1
  29 Holy Cross 400.9
Passes Defended 7 Chandler Fenner 1.5
  34 Tom Mannix 1.0
First Downs 10 Holy Cross 22.2
Completions 12 Ryan Taggart 24.4
Fewest Penalties 14 Holy Cross 4.8
Fewest Penalty Yards 14 Holy Cross 40.4
Passing Yards 15 Ryan Taggart 268.0
  21 Holy Cross 268.0
Scoring Defense 19 Holy Cross 20.0
Field Goals 27 John Macomber 1.2
Pass Efficiency Defense 27 Holy Cross 115.6
Points Responsible For 27 Ryan Taggart 13.1
Forced Fumbles 28 Tom Mannix 0.3
Quarterback Sacks 28 Mike Tucker 0.8
Receptions 32 Gerald Mistretta 5.5

Mannix, Mistretta, SanDoval & Whited Named Team Captains
Holy Cross will have four captains during the 2012 football season. Senior strong safety Tom Mannix, senior wide receiver Gerald Mistretta, senior linebacker Roman SanDoval (Allison Park, Pa.) and senior center Sean Whited were named the team's captains by head coach Tom Gilmore following the conclusion of spring practice. These three players have taken over the leadership role from Mike McCabe, Ricky Otis and Mark Tolzien, who served as the Crusaders' captains during the 2011 season.

Defending The Home Turf
Holy Cross has enjoyed great success at Fitton Field over the years, and had a 4-2 mark at home in 2011. The Crusaders, who played their first game at Fitton Field in 1903, have posted an all-time home mark of 367-169-27 (.676). From Oct. 11, 2008-Oct. 9, 2010, Holy Cross had a streak of 13 straight victories at home. The Crusaders had a perfect 6-0 mark at Fitton Field in 2009, and finished the 2011 campaign with a winning record at home for the sixth straight season. Fitton Field is the second-oldest stadium still used for Division I college football, behind only Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania (opened in 1895).

Holy Cross Has Six Preseason All-Patriot League Selections
Six Crusaders were selected to the 2012 preseason All-Patriot League team, as selected by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. Junior placekicker John Macomber, senior defensive tackle Jack Maliska, senior strong safety Tom Mannix, senior wide receiver Gerald Mistretta, junior linebacker Mike Tucker and senior center Sean Whited were the Holy Cross players named to the team. The Crusaders' six selections were the second-most in the league, behind only Lehigh with seven.

Crusaders Bring In Preseason Honors
Several Holy Cross players have received preseason honors from various organizations heading into the 2012 campaign. Senior wide receiver Gerald Mistretta was selected as a third team All-American by the Beyond Sports Network. In addition, Mistretta, junior placekicker John Macomber, junior linebacker Mike Tucker and junior defensive back Andrew Zitnik were all selected to the College Football Performance Awards Watch Lists for the Football Championship Subdivision. Mistretta is a candidate for the Wide Receiver Award, Macomber is up for the Placekicker Award, Tucker is a candidate for the Linebacker Award and Zitnik is up for the Kick Returner Award.

Tradition Of Excellence
The 2012 campaign will mark the 117th season of Holy Cross football. The Crusaders currently own an overall record of 605-477-54, good for a .556 winning percentage. Prior to the start of the 2012 season, Holy Cross' 605 all-time victories ranked as the 14th most among all Division I-AA schools. Holy Cross has had 31 first team All-America selections, sent 69 players on to professional football, won five Lambert Cups, claimed six Patriot League championships, and was named the Division I-AA Team of the Year in 1987. The Crusaders also played in the 1946 Orange Bowl, losing to host Miami on the game's final play.

Crusaders On The Radio
All of Holy Cross' games in 2011 will air on WTAG 580 AM and 94.9 FM in Worcester. Holy Cross Hall of Famer Bob Fouracre is in his 42nd season calling the play-by-play for Holy Cross football, and his 26th year covering the Crusaders on the radio. Former Holy Cross standouts Tom Kelleher and Gordie Lockbaum will serve as the color commentators for selected games this season. All of the Crusaders' games will also be available free of charge over the internet at ''. In addition, WCHC 88.1 FM, the Holy Cross student station, will carry a number of games this year.

Holy Cross On Television
The Crusaders are scheduled to have four games shown on live television during the 2012 season. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2012 campaign:

Sept. 22 vs. Dartmouth: Charter TV3
Oct. 20 at Lafayette: Lafayette Sports Network
Oct. 27 vs. Fordham: Charter TV3
Nov. 3 vs. Lehigh: Service Electric

Crusader Vision
Live video streaming of all 2012 Holy Cross regular season home football games will be available over the internet through Crusader Vision. The package, done in association with Stretch Internet, is available for $8.95 per game. Season packages are also available for football only ($45.95) or all Holy Cross sports ($99.95). For details on how to view games through Crusader Vision, visit ''.

The Holy Cross Football Show
Every Tuesday during the season, head coach Tom Gilmore will be joined by Bob Fouracre for the Holy Cross Football Show. The show airs live from 1:00-1:30 p.m. exclusively on the internet, with archives of all the shows available to those who can not watch live. The show is carried through Crusader Vision at a cost of $1.95 per week, and is also included in season packages for the show only ($14.95), football only ($45.95) or all Holy Cross sports ($99.95). (Note: The show prior to the New Hampshire game will air on Monday, Aug. 27, from 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.).

Scouting The Wildcats
New Hampshire enters the 2012 campaign ranked 14th in the nation by the Sports Network. The Wildcats are coming off a 2011 season in which they posted an overall record of 8-4, finished in a tie for second place in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 6-2 mark in league games, and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Senior tailback Dontra Peters rushed for 595 yards and seven touchdowns on 117 carries and caught 27 passes for 174 yards last season, but could move to the defensive side of the ball in 2012. Senior wide receiver Joey Orlando will also be a key player for the Wildcats, and is coming off a 2011 campaign in which he caught 54 passes for 679 yards and three scores. The New Hampshire defense is led by senior linebacker Matt Evans, who totaled 165 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two quarterback sacks and three interceptions last year. Sean McDonnell is in his 14th season as New Hampshire's head coach, and owns a career record of 96-61.

Quick Hits
Four Holy Cross players will return to the team as fifth-year seniors in 2012: tailback Matt Bellomo, tight end Alex Schneider, quarterback Kevin Watson and center Sean Whited ... The Crusaders had 12 All-Patriot League selections in 2011. Six of those players return for Holy Cross in 2012.