DURHAM, N.H.—Senior running back Chad Kackert (Simi Valley, Calif.) ran for a 5 yard touchdown with 2:26 remaining in the contest to lead the No. 9/11 University of New Hampshire football team to a 27-24 victory over Maine, keeping the Brice-Cowell Musket in Durham, and winning the CAA North Division title for the second consecutive season on Saturday afternoon at Cowell Stadium.
The Wiildcats, at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the CAA, are just about a lock to make the 16-team, NCAA FCS Playoff field which will be announced on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. on ESPNEWS.
UNH, which was trailing 24-17 with 45 seconds to go in the third quarter, shut out Maine (5-6, 4-4 CAA) for the entire fourth stanza and outscored the visitors 10-0. The Wildcats closed the gap to 24-20 on a huge 52 yard field goal by senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) with 13:46 to play in the game. The Wiildcats then took the lead for good on the run by Kackert with 2:26 to play.
The Wildcats tied the game 7-7 with 4:39 to play in the first quarter when junior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) kept the football and scored from 1 yard out to cap of a 14-play, 59 yard drive. UNH kept the drive alive with a key fourth down conversion.
The Black Bears regained the lead (10-7) at 3:15 of the second quarter when Josh Hesseltime booted a 34 yard field goal. Maine was forced to kick the field goal after a key sack by UNH senior linebacker Sean Ware (Bristol, Conn.) that gave Maine a fourth down and 17.
Maine struck again with 1:01 remaining before the half as Treister completed a 35 yard TD pass to Landis Williams as the visitors took a 17-7 lead.
However, after a tremendous 35 yard kick return by Kackert, Manning cut the Maine lead to 17-10 with a 42 yard field goal through the uprights with 00:00 on the clock at halftime.
With 7:53 to play in the third quarter junior corner Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.) intercepted a Chris Treister pass and returned it 24 yards to the Maine 33 yard line. Two plays later, one a 19 yard run by Kackert and the other a 14 yard TD run by redshirt freshman running back Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md.) to tie the game, 17-17, after the Manning PAT.
Maine regained the lead (24-17) on a 1 yard TD run by Pushaun Brown with 0:45 seconds left in the third quarter after the PAT. The TD run capped a very long 14-play 77 yard drive that chewed up 6:34 off the clock.
After an impressive 44 yard kickoff return by Kackert, Manning boomed a 52 yard field goal through the uprights to cut the Maine lead to 24-20 with 13:46 to play in the contest.
On UNH’s game-winning scoring drive, the key play to set up the Kackert 5 yard TD run was a perfect 41 yard pass from Toman to redshirt freshman wide receiver Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.).
Looking at the individual performances on the day for UNH, Kackert led the Wildcats in rushing with 19 carries for 85 yards. Senior tight end Scott Sicko (Stillwater, N.Y.) led all UNH receivers with four catches for 56 yards which moves him up to ninth on UNH’s all-time career receptions list with 151. Kackert finished the day with 168 all-purpose yards with 84 yards in kickoff return yardage.
Maine was led by Mike Brusko and his game-high 13 catches for 119 yards and 1 TD. ). Treister finished the day completing 29 of 48 passes for 303 yards and 2 TDs, while Toman completed 14 of 26 passes for 146 yards.
The UNH defense was led by senior safety Terrence Klein (Westwood, N.J.) and his team-high 14 tackles on the afternoon (11-3-14).
Should UNH be selected to play in the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Sunday afternoon as expected, the team will be making its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament over the last six seasons.