FOXBORO, Mass. – Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md.) rushed for a pair of touchdowns and amassed 208 all-purpose yards to lead the 13th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team to a 27-21 victory over No. 22 Massachusetts in the second edition of the Colonial Clash, the 74th and final scheduled meeting between the longtime rivals, before a crowd of 24,022 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
UNH improved to 5-2 with the victory and 3-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. UMass tumbled to 4-3 overall.
Peters carried the ball 13 times for 92 yards, compiling 98 yards on three kick returns while collecting a team-leading three receptions for 18 yards to win the Bill Knight Trophy as the game's most outstanding player.
Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) completed 11 of 15 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) spearheaded the defensive attack with 13 tackles, all solo, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup. Chris Beranger (Winthrop, Mass.) posted a game-high 14 tackles, and Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J.) chipped in with 13 stops for a New Hampshire defense that forced two fumbles and notched an interception.
Peters returned the game's opening kickoff 44 yards to the UMass 42-yard line. The junior running back then capped an eight-play drive by taking a sweep around the left side for a five-yard touchdown. The Wildcats' captains combined on the successful two-point conversion when Decker avoided the pass rush just long enough to find Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y., two tackles, fumble recovery), lined up as a tight end, in the end zone for an 8-0 lead with 12:01 left in the first quarter.
The Minutemen threatened on their initial drive, marching from their 49 to the Wildcats' 10, but Kellen Pagel's 3rd-and 8 pass in the end zone was intercepted by Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J., seven tackles), for his team-leading third pick of the year.
UNH seized an 11-0 advantage on the ensuing drive when Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.J.) matched his career high with a 47-yard field goal with 6:14 left in the first.
UMass coughed up the ball on the first play of its next possession when Evans stripped the ball from Jonathan Hernandez (29 rushes-89 yards, TD), and McNally recovered the fumble on the UMass 26. New Hampshire failed to capitalize, as MacArthur's 37-yard field try went wide left with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
UMass got on the board with 7:26 left in the opening half. Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the UNH 23, wide receiver Julian Talley (two rushes-31 yards, TD) took an end around, bounced off a tackle attempt at the 15 and spun his way into the end zone for his second rushing score of the season. The two-point try failed, however, allowing UNH to hold an 11-6 lead.
The Wildcats went right back to work, going on a seven-play, 62-yard drive culminating in the second rushing TD of the game for Peters, who barreled in from a yard out. MacArthur's PAT staked New Hampshire to an 18-6 lead with 5:18 left in the half.
UMass scored the final points of the half on a four-yard TD rush from Hernandez with 19 seconds remaining in the second. Brendon Levongood's point-after was no good, so the 'Cats brought an 18-12 lead to the locker room.
Massachusetts appeared to take its first lead of the contest on a 45-yard rushing touchdown by Hernandez early in the third quarter, but a holding penalty took the points off the board. The Minutemen then up came up completely empty handed when Pagel's 4th-and-9 pass from the UNH 32 was broken up by Buzbee, preserving UNH's six-point cushion.
The Wildcats upped the lead to 24-12 with 4:42 left in the third quarter when Decker connected with tight end Sean Cullen (Naples, Fla./one catch-23 yards, TD) for a 23-yard TD strike on 3rd-and-11. That capped a six-play, 87-yard drive highlighted by a season-high 48-yard rush by Peters and a 17-yard run from Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J./eight rushes-56 yards/one catch-34 yards). The two-point try failed.
The Minutemen reduced the Wildcats' lead to 24-18 with 10:43 left in the game by going on a 19-play, 80-yard drive that chewed eight minutes and 59 seconds off the clock. Pagel kept for a five-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-4, meeting Beranger head-on at the 1-yard line before lunging into the end zone. Levengood again missed the PAT.
MacArthur's 35-yard field goal with 5:09 left increased the lead to 27-18.
Brandon Yelovich hit a 22-yard field goal with 1:45 left to bring UMass within 27-21, but Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass./one catch-six yards) recovered the subsequent onside kick and the Wildcats ran out the clock to ice the victory.
UNH welcomes Rhode Island to Durham for Homecoming next Saturday, Oct. 29, with a 12 p.m. kickoff at Cowell Stadium. For tickets, call (603) 862-4000, x 5, or visit www.unhwildcats.com.