HANOVER, N.H. - Redshirt freshman Ricky Santos (Bellingham Mass. threw for four touchdowns and 374 yards to lead the University of New Hampshire football team to a decisive 45-24 victory at Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, UNH once again took home the bragging rights as the top I-AA football team in the state of New Hampshire and again held the coveted Granite Bowl Trophy in the air to celebrate the win.
Santos was in tune with his favorite target, sophomore wide receiver David Ball (Orange, Vt.) who recorded a career-high 10 catches for a career-best 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His previous best marks were nine catches for 132 yards in UNH's upset victory over I-A Rutgers. Ball now has a team-best five touchdown catches in 2004.
Saturday's match up was the fifth for the two schools since resuming their annual rivalry, dubbed the Granite Bowl, in 2000. The loss spoiled the home opener for Dartmouth, now 0-2, while UNH improved to 3-1 on the season.
UNH's offense was explosive, compiling over 500 yards of offense, 28 first downs and running no less than 95 plays in the contest.
The Wildcats scored the first 10 points of the game late in the first quarter. Santos tossed his first touchdown pass to Ball and junior Connor McCormick (Forty Fort, Pa.) booted a 36-yard field goal, but the Big Green answered. On the first play of the second quarter, Rittgers threw a 73 yard touchdown strike to make it 10-7, and Rittgers hit Hall on the Big Green's next drive with 7:54 left in the period for a 14-10 lead.
From there, the Wildcats took charge and reeled off 35 of the game's last 45 points. Santos found junior tight end Jon Williams (Rochester, N.Y.) for a 15-yard score at 5:58 to put New Hampshire in the lead for good, and junior defensive back Baron Flenory (Pittsburgh, Pa.) returned an interception 87 yards to make the lead 24-14 in favor of New Hampshire. It was the longest interception return for UNH since junior defensive back Giovanni Benson returned one 100 yards last season vs. the Big Green.
Junior Erik Hinterbichler (Albuquerque, N.M.) gave the Big Green life early in the second half by knocking home a 20-yard field goal to make it 24-17. New Hampshire countered before the end of the period with one-yard plunge by senior R.J. Harvey (Albany, N.Y.) and a 42-yard score from Santos to Ball to increase the lead to 38-17.
Murphy scored on a 10-yard pass from Rittgers with 10 minutes left in the game to make it a two-touchdown gap, but senior receiver David Bailey (Bronx, N.Y.) hauled in Santos' fourth touchdown pass from 22 yards out with seven minutes left to produce the final score.
While New Hampshire held slim edges in time of possession, 30:09 to 29:51, and passing yards, 383 to 349, the Wildcats picked up 11 more first downs and 87 more rushing yards than the Big Green and converted on 60.9 percent (14 of 23) of its third-down opportunities.
Junior linebacker E.J. DeWitt (Newport, R.I.) led the New Hampshire defense with 12 tackles while Flenory and sophomore defensive back Corey Graham (Buffalo, N.Y.) each picked off a pass.
The Wildcats will return to action on Sat., Oct. 2 when UNH travels to play at Villanova.