AMHERST, MASS.— Jon Hernandez rushed 42 yards for a touchdown with 5:23 to play in the game and carried the football 29 times for 166 yards to lead No. 18 Massachusetts to a 23-17 vcitory over the No. 4 University of New Hampshire on Saturday evening at McGuirk Stadium in a key Colonial Athletic Association matchup. He was also the winner of Bill Knight Trophy as the MVP of the contest.
An interception by senior linebacker Terrance Klein (Westwood, N.J.) gave UNH (5-1, 2-1 CAA) the football on the UMass 40 yard line with 6:18 to play in the third quarter for good field position. Seven plays and 22 yards later, senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) lined up for a 35 yard field goal with 4:00 left to play in the third quarter and the game was tied 10-10 after it went through the uprights.
Klein made his second interception of the game and fourth of the season, giving UNH the football on the UNH 44 yard line with 1:03 left in the third quarter. UNH drove to the UMass 11 yard line on a 31 yard pass play from junior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) to a wide open senior running back Chad Kackert (Simi Valley, Calif.) on the right sideline to get into the red zone. A few plays later Toman connected with Sicko again in the endzone for their second TD of the day, this time for 6 yards at 12:48 of the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats a narrow 17-10 lead.
With 7:21 left in the game, UMass kicker Armando Cuko booted a 36 yard field goal, his second of the day, to cut the UNH lead to 17-13 as the UNH defense held UMass (4-2, 2-1 CAA) out of the endzone.
However, that’s when UMass’s Hernandez broke a huge 42 yard touchdown run with 5:23 to play in the game and with the PAT the Minutemen grabbed the 20-17 lead it would never relinquish.
With 1:31 left n the fourth quarter Cuko added his third field goal of the day from 41 yards and UMass led 23-17 with 1:26 left on the clock.
UNH had one final drive but that ended with an interception in the end zone as time ran out.
After the UNH defense held and forced a UMass punt on the opening drive to start the game, the Wildcat offense put points on the board quickly with a beautiful pass and catch by Toman to senior tight end Scott Sicko (Stillwater, N.Y.) for a 58 yard TD strike and after the PAT the Wildcats led 7-0 with 8:26 to play in the first quarter. The drive went 91 yards on seven plays, taking 3:08 off of the clock.
UMass kicker Armando Cuko connected on a 31-yard field goal at 11:42 of the second quarter cutting the Wildcat lead to 7-3 with 11:42 remaining before the intermission.
UMass took the lead with 1:17 to play in the first half after a 10 yard pass by quarterback Kyle Havens to wide receiver Julian Talley to give the home team a 10-7 advantage after the PAT by Cuko and that was the score at the half. UMass outgained the Wildcats by a 154-142 margin in the first half. Neither team was able to run with the ball against stingy defenses, as UNH had only 29 yards on 13 carries and the Minutemen had 40 yards on 21 carries through two quarters.
Looking at the final stats for the Wildcats, UNH was led by Toman who completed 23 of 45 passes for 284 yards and 2 TDs and by Sicko with his 10 catches for 145 yards and two TD catches. The UNH defense was led by junior corner Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.) and by senior linebacker Sean Ware (Bristol, Conn.), each with 14 tackles.
The Wildcats will return to action on Sat., Oct. 24 at Hofstra. Game time is 3 p.m.. The squad will play its next home contest on Sat., Oct. 31 vs. Northeastern. Game time is 12 p.m. and tickets are still available online at www.unhwildcats.com.