DURHAM, N.H. – Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) carried 19 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) registered a game-high 10 tackles to become the all-time tackle leader in school history as the 11th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team downed William & Mary, 28-25, at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats improved to 8-2 overall and upped their CAA-leading mark to 6-1, while the Tribe fell to 2-7, 1-5. With its 10th straight home victory, New Hampshire snapped a nine-game losing skid against William & Mary and gave head coach Sean McDonnell his first career victory against the College. The eighth victory also likely punched New Hampshire's ticket to the NCAA Football Championship tournament for a nation-leading ninth consecutive season.
Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) completed 21 of 30 passes for 215 yards, and R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) notched a team-leading 10 catches for 77 yards. Harris moved into a tie for fifth place in UNH single-season history with 71 receptions and seventh place in single-season history with 961 receiving yards.
Evans, who now has 437 career tackles, surpassed Steve Doig as the University's all-time tackles leader with just under 3:25 remaining in the third quarter and the game tied at 18-18. The senior co-captain combined with Nick Cefalo (Basking Ridge, N.J./six tackles) to wrap up Keith McBride (17 rushes-75 yards) on an eight-yard rush at UNH's 38. Five plays later, W&M kicker John Carpenter missed wide left on a 46-yard field-goal attempt, preserving the deadlock.
William & Mary third-string quarterback Michael Graham, who replaced injured starter Brent Caprio (5 of 5, 47 yards, TD) late in the first half, went 13-for-25 for 167 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Mikal Abdul-Saboor carried 16 times for 87 yards and added four catches for 47 yards to pace the Tribe's offense.
With UNH trailing 7-3, Steriti scored on an 18-yard run with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter to cap a nine-play, 92-yard drive. Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H./11 rushes-53 yards) connected with Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa./two catches-23 yards) on the two-point conversion to stake UNH to its first lead, 11-7.
New Hampshire increased the lead to 18-7 with 16 seconds left in the opening half when Goldrich (seven rushes-37 yards, TD) called his own number for a two-yard score.
Carpenter's 23-yard field goal sliced UNH's lead to 18-10 with 9:20 left in the third, and Tre McBride (four catches-72 yards, two TDs) hauled in a 19-yard pass for his second touchdown catch of the contest with 4:06 left in the period. He was then on the receiving end of Graham's two-point conversion pass to knot the score, 18-18.
Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) broke the tie on a 24-yard field goal with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats a 21-18 lead.
The Tribe answered with a go-ahead, 13-play, 78-yard drive that concluded with Graham's one-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal for a 25-21 lead with 6:00 to go.
Steriti's second scoring run, a 19-yard rush, proved to be the game-winning score with 4:14 left to conclude a six-play, 84-yard drive and put the 'Cats on top, 28-25. One play earlier, Goldrich hit Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa./eight catches-94 yards) on a 32-yard pass –the longest pass of the game- down the left sideline.
Keith Parkinson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) snuffed out the College's next drive when he recorded his first career interception on Graham's second-and-5 pass at the Wildcats' 22 with 1:52 remaining in the contest.
The Tribe's final drive ended on Graham's Hail Mary incompletion from midfield as time expired.
Caprio's 30-yard TD pass to Tre McBride allowed William & Mary to take a 7-0 lead at 4:12 of the first quarter.
MacArthur got UNH on the board with a 23-yard field goal with 13:45 left in the first to make the score 7-3.
New Hampshire will have a bye week before taking on No. 19 Towson (5-4, 4-2) on Saturday, Nov. 17, in the regular-season finale (12 p.m.) live on Comcast SportsNet New England. A victory in that game will give the Wildcats at least a share of the CAA championship. For tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000, extension 5.