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INDIANAPOLIS – The 11th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team will begin its quest for the 2012 Division I Football Championship Subdivision title with a Dec. 3 second-round game at Montana State University (Bozeman, Montana).
UNH, which received one of 10 at-large berths to the tournament following an 8-3 overall record that included 6-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association, has earned a bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship for the eighth consecutive season, the longest current streak in the nation.
New Hampshire has won its opening postseason game six of the past seven years, including last year's 45-20 second-round victory at Bethune-Cookman University. The Wildcats had won five of six first-round games prior to receiving a first-round bye in 2010, and all but the 2005 victory against Colgate University was on the road.
UNH closed the regular season Nov. 19 with a 30-27 victory against then-No. 11 University of Maine at Cowell Stadium to reclaim the Brice-Cowell Musket. It marked the team's fifth victory against a nationally-ranked team this season. The 'Cats previously defeated Lehigh University (48-41, overtime), University of Richmond (45-43), UMass (27-21) and James Madison University (28-10).
The 'Cats went 3-1 against the tournament field with wins against Maine, James Madison and Lehigh and a loss to Towson University.
Montana State (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) entered the last week of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the national polls as well as atop the Big Sky leaderboard in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The Bobcats are currently ranked 13th in rushing offense (222.73 yards per game), 10th in total offense (440.36 yds/game) and 16th in scoring offense (34.18 points/game). MSU lost its regular-season finale, 36-10, at home to Montana to end a nine-game winning streak.
UNH's offense is ranked No. 8 in the nation at 444.09 yards per game as well as 21st in scoring at 33.55 points per game. Senior quarterback and co-captain Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) is ranked sixth nationally in pass efficiency (154.30) and fifth in total offense (317.18 yds/game) – he leads the CAA in both of those statistics – while Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md.) is 11th in all-purpose yardage (149.30). Decker's 3,072 passing yards is fifth on New Hampshire's single-season list and his 244 completions ranks sixth.
The Wildcats' defense is anchored by junior linebacker Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) and senior defensive end Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.). Evans leads the team, CAA and nation in tackles at 14.00 per game; his 154 stops this season ranks third on the program's list of single-season superlatives behind himself (156 last season) and Steve Doig (195 in 1981). McNally, a co-captain, is the team's top pass rusher with 7.5 sacks as part of his 11 tackles for a loss.
UNH is one of five CAA representatives in the FCS playoffs. The other conference teams to advance to postseason play are James Madison, Maine, Old Dominion and Towson.