SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The 11th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team forced three turnovers, highlighted by a 14-yard TD on a fumble recovery by Cody Muller (Telford, Pa.), but No. 9 Wofford College defeated the Wildcats, 23-7, in Saturday's NCAA second-round playoff game at Gibbs Stadium.
UNH, the co-CAA Champions, lost in the NCAA second round for the second straight season and dropped its third consecutive postseason contest to finish its season with a record of 8-4. Wofford, the co-Southern Conference champions, improved to 9-3 and will take on No. 1 North Dakota State in the national quarterfinals next weekend.
Junior fullback Eric Breitenstein gashed UNH for 247 rushing yards and all three Wofford touchdowns on 22 carries. The Terriers, who only attempted six passes, accumulated 454 rushing yards on 77 carries.
Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) went 17 of 29 for 113 yards; the redshirt freshman was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and was sacked four times.
Mike McCrimon posted two of those sacks spread among his team-high nine tackles.
Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) racked up a game-high 12 tackles and forced a fumble. Playing in his final collegiate game, Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) totaled 11 tackles and also forced a fumble. Hayden Knudson (Alexandria, Va.) established a career high with 10 tackles and recovered a fumble. Muller added seven stops, five solo, and Jared Smith (Greencastle, Pa.) capped his UNH career with four tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior co-captain Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J.) collected six tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and forced a fumble.
R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) notched 11 receptions for 78 yards; the All-CAA wide receiver ended his campaign with 84 catches (No. 4 in school single-season history) and 1,059 receiving yards (No. 6 in school single-season history).
An early gamble paid huge dividends for Wofford when Breitenstein took a fourth-and-one handoff through the middle of the line and scampered 54 yards for a touchdown at 11:51 of the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
The Terriers threatened on their second possession until Evans forced a turnover by stripping quarterback James Lawson; Smith recovered the fumble at UNH's 23.
UNH's first substantial drive, which reached Wofford's 27, was snuffed out early in the second when nose tackle E.J. Speller (three tackles) sacked Goldrich, forced a fumble and recovered the fumble at the 35.
The Wildcats' defense responded once again by stopping the Terriers on downs at the UNH 39 to preserve the 7-0 deficit with 11:41 left in the half. Evans stuffed Breitenstein on a fourth-and-one carry.
Wofford's first pass attempt of the day backfired with 7:49 remaining in the second quarter when Asam forced a fumble on wide receiver Rob Greene following the reception. Knudson pounced on the loose ball before it could get out of bounds on UNH's 34.
The Wildcats' subsequent drive reached the Terriers' 30, but Goldrich's second-and-7 pass was tipped and intercepted by Alvin Scioneaux (six tackles).
Wofford capitalized on the drive by compiling a 10-play, 67-yard drive that lasted more than four minutes before culminating in Breitenstein's six-yard TD rush with 1:13 left in the half. Kasey Redfern's PAT clanked off the left upright, so the Terriers settled for a 13-0 lead.
Goldrich was picked off by Mike Niam at WC's 45 with 36 seconds left in the half, setting up the Terriers in good field position. But Redfern was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half, so Wofford went to the intermission with a 13-0 lead.
UNH's defense produced the first Wildcat points of the game. Buzbee forced a Donovan Johnson (14 rushes-45 yards) fumble that was scooped up by Muller and returned 14 yards for a TD that sliced Wofford's lead to 13-7 at 12:15 of the third quarter.
Breitenstein powered the Terriers right back down the field and scored his third touchdown of the contest. After plowing his way for a 46-yard gain to the UNH 26, the Walter Payton Award finalist rumbled 26 yards to the end zone on the very next play to restore Wofford's 13-point lead, 20-7, with 9:58 left in the third.
The lead increased to 23-7 courtesy of Redfern's 33-yard field goal at 2:57 of the third quarter.
The 454 rushing yards were the most surrendered by a UNH team since allowing 430 yards on the ground in a 49-36 victory against Rhode Island on Oct. 27, 2007. It also marked the second straight game an opponent eclipsed 400 yards rushing (Towson, 415, Nov. 17) and was five yards shy of the most rushing yards ever yielded by a New Hampshire team (459, vs Massachusetts, Nov. 13, 1965).