HUNTINGTON, W.V.— For the third time since the 2004 season, the University of New Hampshire football team defeated an FBS opponent, posting an impressive and hard-fought 48-35 victory vs. Marshall on Saturday at Joan Edwards Stadium.
The FCS Wildcats are getting a reputation as giant slayers, after posting a victory at Northwestern in 2006 (34-17) and winning at Rutgers in 2004 (35-24).
The Wildcats were led by senior Walter Payton Award winning quarterback Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.), who connected on 23 of 33 pass attempts for 289 yds and three passing TDs. He also ran the football 13 times for 45 yds and a 3 yd TD run.
Marshall had cut the UNH lead to just six points (41-35) on a 25 yd pass by Bernard Morris to wide receiver Darius Passmore leaving just 6:30 to play on the clock. However, UNH was able to burn 5:38 off the clock on a 13-play 70-yd. drive..
UNH’s running game and clock management down the stretch was the key to the victory, and was led by senior running back Chris Ward (Waltham, Mass.) who carried 19 times for 99 yds including the key final TD with 1:01 remaining in the contest to clinch the victory for the ‘Cats. In that drive Ward carried the flootball nine times for 50 yds.
The Wildcats drew first blood for the second time in two games as junior running back Robert Simpson (Brockton, Mass.) carried the football 10 yds for the TD at 8:05 of the first quarter. The drive lasted eight plays and covered 72 yds. The PAT by sophomore kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) was good and UNH led 7-0.
Simpson struck again at 2:32 of the first quarter on a 27 yd pass play from Santos. Simpson streaked down the field to cap a 9-play, 80 yd drive to give UNH a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter following another PAT by Manning.
Marshall attempted a 42 yd field goal by Anthony Binswanger at 14:55 of the second quarter but the kick went wide and was no good.
UNH earned a key turnover as Marshall was driving down the field. A ball tipped by junior DB John Clements (Hammonton, N.J.) was caught in the end zone by redshirt freshman corner Dino Vasso (Crum Lynn, Pa.) at 10:18 of the second half and UNH got the ball on the Marshall 30 yd line, killing the long scoring drive.
Santos engineered another long drive that was capped by a long 47 yd field goal by Manning that gave the Wildcats a 17-0 advantage with 8:03 remaining before the half. The field goal was 1 yd shy of Manning’s career high of 48 yds vs. Richmond in 2006 and the drive was 9 plays for 40 yds.
UNH opened up an impressive 24-0 lead as Santos connected with junior wide receiver Mike Boyle (Plymouth, N.H. ) with 3:13 before the half on a 39-yd pass play to cap a10-play 77 yd drive.
Marshall drove to the UNH 6 yd line and took a shot at the end zone but the pass was deflected by senior linebacker Husain Karim (Burlington, Vt.) and UNH headed to the lockerroom with a 24-0 advantage. At the half, Santos had completed 14 of 23 passes for 170 yds and two TDs.
Marshall came out on a mission to start the second half and quickly drove downfield on its opening drive, scoring on a 1 yd TD by Calvin Turner with 12:54 to go in the third quarter. The PAT was good and the UNH lead was cut to 24-7.
However, UNH quickly answered with a drive of its own as Santos carried the ball twice in a row, capped off with a 3 yd run to open the lead back to 24 points (31-7) with 10:12 remaining in the third quarter after the PAT by Manning.
Marshall’s Kelvin Turner cut UNH’s lead to 31-14 with 6:19 to play in the third quarter with a 1 yd drive.
Marshall then made it a close game on an 80 yd TD pass by Bernard Morris to tight end Cody Slate and the score was 31-21 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats drove down the field again to the Marshall 4 yd line but UNH was forced to attempt a 21 yd Manning field goal, which was good at 13:01 of the fourth quarter and the ‘Cats held a 34-21 advantage.
Marshall scored again on a 7yd TD pass by Morris to Turner with 10:43 to play in the contest cutting UNH’s lead to six points, 34-28.
UNH got a huge 80 yd kickoff return from Keith Levan to put the ball on the Marshall 9 yd line. There was a fumble on the play but it was recovered by junior Kaysonne Anderson (Belmar N.J.) The play set up a 4 yd TD pass from Santos to the returner, LeVan, to put the ‘Cats up by a 41-28 margin with 9:47 left in the contest after the Manning PAT. That led to the heroics of the UNH offensive line, Santos and Ward.
Leading UNH in tackes was Karim with a total of 13 on the afternoon, while redhsirt freshman safety Terrance Klein had 11.
The Wildcats will play their home-opener vs. Dartmouth this Saturday (Sept. 22). Game time is 12 p.m. and the contest will be carried live on the UNH Sports Radio Network and on WMUR-TV Channel 9. Tickets are still available at www.unhwildcats.com.