By Patrick Wareham
Following last week’s shutout win on the road over Patriot League rival Bucknell, the Crusaders (2-1) dazzled in their home opener on Saturday, upsetting ninth-ranked New Hampshire in a convincing manner, 51-26. Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals and wide receiver Martin Dorsey led a dominant offensive attack which took the lead early in the second quarter after a slow start, and never looked back. Pujals commandingly overpowered the UNH defense, throwing for 367 yards and five touchdowns. He added to his highlight reel with a huge block, sending a Wildcat linebacker to the turf as Andre Harton scampered for a 20-yard touchdown run. Dorsey exploded for 165 yards on five receptions, including a second quarter diving one-handed grab in the end zone to go along with an 85-yard touchdown reception.
Although the win looks like a huge upset on paper, the Crusaders have shown strong signs in their first two performances following last year’s 4-7 season. The Week One contest with FBS Connecticut came down to the wire in an impressive showing in East Hartford, giving Holy Cross fans a glimpse of what was to come in the next two weeks. The following week’s shutout win over Bucknell avenged last year’s tight home loss to the Bison, sending a message to the rest of the Patriot League with a stellar performance on both sides of the football.
The win over UNH will almost certainly vault the Crusaders into the FCS top 25, something that many would not have thought possible at the start of the season. Picked to finish fourth in the Patriot League behind the likes of Lehigh, Fordham, and Colgate, Holy Cross has the looks of team that is playing with a chip on its shoulder. Any win over a top 10 team has the potential to vault a program to the next level, but the manner in which the Crusaders easily dismantled an excellent Wildcat team on Saturday is nothing short of an exciting display of what is to come.
Going forward, the Crusaders must be wary of falling victim to next week’s “trap game” at Dartmouth, who will prove to be a tough opponent. The Big Green commandingly beat HC in last year’s Homecoming Game, which may provide the fuel needed for a big road win. The Dartmouth contest will test the Crusaders’ ability to focus on playing one week at a time, as they return back home for the highly anticipated Homecoming Game on Sept. 30 for a huge showdown with defending champion Lehigh.
The Crusaders’ win over UNH exhibited that they have something special happening this year on the field, but there remains a lot of work to be done. Then again, scoring 51 points against a top 10 team shows that Pujals and the electric Crusader offense have what it takes to bring back a Patriot League championship to Mount St. James for the first time since 2009.