Santos compiles 417 total yards, four TDs
DURHAM, N.H. -- Led by Walter Payton Award candidates Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.), who compiled 417 total yards of offense and four touchdowns, and David Ball (Orange, Vt.), who caught nine passes for 173 yards and three TDs, the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded University of New Hampshire football team defeated 24th-ranked Colgate University, 55-21, in Saturday's first round of the NCAA I-AA playoffs at Cowell Stadium.
UNH, winners of seven consecutive games this season and nine straight at home, is now 11-1 - a school single-season record for victories - and advances to play the winner of Eastern Washington vs. Northern Iowa in a quarterfinal game next weekend at Cowell Stadium. Colgate ends the year at 8-4.
Santos - who finished 18 of 27 for 252 yards and three touchdowns - broke his own UNH single-season records for completions (274), passing yards (3,452) and total offense (3,851) during Saturday's game. He also increased his single-season passing touchdown record to 36 and his career TD passes record to 67. In addition, Santos rushed for a career-high 165 yards, including a career-long 51 yard carry and an 8-yard touchdown run, on 14 rushes.
Ball, already the school record holder for both single-season (21) and career touchdowns (42) as well as career receiving yards (3,353), became UNH's all-time leader in receptions with his second catch of the game, which went for 17 yards in the second quarter. Ball now has 201 receptions, which eclipses the previous mark of 193 set by Curtis Olds (1985-88).
John McCoy (Groton, Conn.) gave the Wildcats, who rushed for 353 yards, a balanced attack with 117 yards on 15 carries. He opened the game scoring with a 5-yard run at 8:46 of the first quarter and also had TD rushes of seven and 39 yards.
With UNH leading 7-0, Mike Boyle (Plymouth, N.H.) returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown to extend the Wildcats' advantage to 14-0 with 46 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
"Mike Boyle's punt return was a huge play for us," UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said. "It was 7-0 at that point and it was a huge lift for us. He made some great cuts and got some good blocks. It was a big catalyst for us going into the rest of the first half."
Following a Wildcat turnover, Colgate marched the ball to the UNH 25-yard line, which was the Raiders' deepest penetration in six possessions to that point. E.J. DeWitt (Newport, R.I.) tipped Mike Saraceno's pass attempt at the line of scrimmage and teammate Mark Rutberg (White Plains, N.Y.) came down with the ball at the UNH 24.
The Wildcats scored nine plays later on a Santos-to-Ball 27-yard strike to increase the advantage to 20-0 at 6:27 of the second quarter.
"If we could have scored at 14-0 I think that would have changed the complexion of the game," Colgate head coach Dick Biddle said. "We didn't score and you have to keep it close in a big game against a real good team like (UNH)."
New Hampshire scored a pair of touchdowns 11 seconds apart late in the half to extend the lead to 34-0 at the half. McCoy scored on a 7-yard run with 24 seconds on the clock, then Rutberg's second interception set up a 48-yard strike from Santos to Ball.
Rutberg finished with eight tackles and the two interceptions. Jeff Pammer (Northampton, Pa.) also recorded two interceptions as well as 10 tackles and three pass breakups. Corey Graham (Buffalo, N.Y.) led the 'Cats with 11 tackles.
For Colgate, Jordan Scott was the top offensive weapon with 205 yards on 33 rushes. He scored all three TDs on gains of 2, 11 and 80 yards. Saraceno was 17-for-40 for 155 yards.
The Wildcats scored on the opening possession of the third quarter on Santos' 8-yard scamper to build a 41-0 lead. Jordan scored at 8:10 and 4:07 to pull within 41-14 but the Red Raiders would get no closer. UNH pushed the lead to 55-14 on scores by McCoy (1:04 of 3rd) and Ball (13:51 of 4th) before Jordan capped the scoring at 9:23.
New Hampshire is advancing to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. UNH now has a 2-3 lifetime record, including 1-2 at Cowell Stadium, in the I-AA playoffs. The Wildcats also played host to first round games in 1994 (17-10 OT loss to Appalachian State) and 1991 (29-13 loss to Samford).