HAMPTON, Va. – Junior quarterback Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.) passed for 315 yards and five touchdowns to lead the No. 9 ranked University of New Hampshire football team to a 41-38 win at No. 8 Hampton University on Saturday afternoon at Armstrong Stadium in NCAA Division I Championship first round playoff game.
The Wildcats improve to 9-3 overall with the victory, while Hampton ends its season at 10-2. UNH is the first team in Atlantic 10 history to advance to the quarterfinals for the third straight season.
The Wildcat defense stood up on the Pirates last full possession as Marvin Wright (Roxbury, Mass.) sacked Princeton Shepherd with 1:38 left to play.
With 6:55 remaining in the game, UNH came up with the biggest play of the contest as the Wildcats faked a punt on fourth down, snapped directly to Evan Loring (Chocorua, NH.), and then he pitched the ball left to Maurice Duper (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) who ran 19 yards for the first down to keep the drive alive for the Wildcats. UNH capitalized on the drive to take a 41-38 lead with 4:40 remaining on a 25-yard TD pass to Chad Kackert (Simi Valley, Calif.) from Santos. With that score Santos tied a career-high with five passing touchdowns in the game.
"We had looked at their return and a couple times we were going call it and I just didn’t feel it. If we were going to do it, we were doing it now. The play was supposed to go right and Loring audibled left. I said go green and he went in. We had this in place all year and we never used it," said UNH head coach Sean McDonell.
"These were two very good football teams, both offenses came into the game in high regard and they both played well. I have to give their defense lots of credit in the second half, we got lucky and executed a fake and made a play there.
UNH turned the ball over for the second time in the contest with 11 minutes left in the game when the offense fumbled and Derious Swinton recovered on the Wildcat 19 yard line. Andrew Paterni hit a 43-yard field goal with 8:59 left to give the Pirates a 38-34 lead.
Shepherd scored on a six-yard TD run with 8:12 left in the third quarter to get Hampton within six points at 34-28. Swinton intercepted a Santos pass with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter to give the Pirates the ball on the UNH 23-yard line. Hampton then regained the lead at 35-34 on a six-yard pass from Shepherd to Marquay Daniels. The Pirates only needed five plays to punch it in the end zone.
The ‘Cats went into the locker room with a 34-21 lead. UNH scored on five of nine possessions in the first half, including two of its first three to start the half. Bobby Simpson (Brockton, Mass.) scored his fifth touchdown on the season on a two-yard TD run to end the first half. Santos threw for 220 yards on 19 of 26 passing with four TD passes. He eclipsed the 10,000 yard mark with his passing total in the first half, while Ball went over 1,000 yards receiving for the third straight year. LeVan caught eight balls in the first half for an impressive 93 yards.
"They (offensive line) did an outstanding job of giving me time at the end of the game, especially after their defense had gotten to me a couple of times. Our receivers did a great job all day and I think they had their best game of the year. You have to threat the needle and we did what we needed to do as an offense to win this game. He (David Ball) is the best decoy in the nation, he was a key contributor into making that play happen," said Santos.
The ‘Cats regained the lead at 27-21 on another strike from Santos to Ball, a seven-yard TD with 6:44 left in the second frame. UNH outscored Hampton 21-0 in the second quarter. Ball has scored 13 TD’s in his senior season in 2006.
UNH got back on the board with 11:39 left in the second quarter on a 15-yard passing strike from Santos to Ball. The score cut Hampton’s lead to one point, 21-20.
The Pirates scored on a 65-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Coleman with 5:19 left in the opening quarter to take a 14-13 lead. Kevin Beverly then gave HU a 21-13 lead on a four-yard TD run with 12 seconds left in the opening quarter. The Pirates drove 10 plays for 8-0 yards in three minutes and 10 seconds.
J.E. Fredrickson (Palm Beach, Fla.) blocked a punt by Hampton to get the Wildcats back on offense at the Pirates’ 28 yard line. It took the ‘Cats three tries to give UNH a 13-7 lead on a 25-yard TD pass from Santos to Keith LeVan (Waltham, Mass.). Manning’s point after attempt was blocked by a Pirates defender.
Hampton tied the game, 7-7 with 10:03 remaining in the first quarter on a four-yard pass from Shepherd to Marquay Daniel. The Pirates started their first offensive series on UNH’s 22 yard line after a 69-yard kickoff return by Kevin Teel.
On the first series of the game, UNH marched down the field in eight plays and 75 yards consuming only 2:27 to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Santos completed three passes for 51 yards in the ‘Cats first offensive series. Aaron Brown (Central Square, N.Y.) caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Santos with 12:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
The UNH football team advances to the NCAA quarterfinals to face the University of Massachusetts on Saturday, Dec. 2nd at Warren McGuirk Stadium in Amherst, Mass at 2:30 p.m.