DURHAM, N.H. – Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) rushed 18 times for 139 yards, highlighted by a 68-yard touchdown run, and the 21st-ranked University of New Hampshire football handed No. 4 Maine its first CAA loss of the season, 24-3, before a crowd of 10,333 at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
UNH, which defeated Maine for the 10th time in 11 seasons, won for the sixth time in seven games to finish the regular season at 7-4, 6-2 in the CAA. The Black Bears, the regular-season CAA champions, fell to 10-2, 7-1.
The Wildcats' defense stifled the Black Bears, holding the visitors to 315 yards of total offense. That included just 134 yards after halftime, when UNH outscored Maine 14-0.
Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) tallied eight tackles –all solo- to match Akil Anderson (Morristown, N.J.) for team-high honors. Casey DeAndrade (East Bridgewater, Mass.) notched seven tackles and his second interception of the season. Sean McCann (Avon Lake, Ohio) amassed a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery.
New Hampshire seized a 7-0 lead with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter when Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H./8-for-15, 76 yards, TD) rolled right and connected with tight end Jordan Powell (Forked River, N.J.) on a 5-yard throwback to the left side of the end zone. Vailas' ninth TD pass of the season was Powell's first career scoring grab.
The lead increased to 10-0 with 9:52 left in the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal from Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.). MacArthur's 48th career field goal moved him into a tie for a fifth place in CAA history.
Maine tallied its only points on a 27-yard field goal from Sean Decloux with nine seconds left in the first half to trim UNH's lead to 10-3.
New Hampshire parlayed a turnover into a 14-point lead late in the third. Shane McNeely (Whitehall, Pa./five tackles, sack, forced fumble) sacked Marcus Wasilewski (27-for-43, 220 yards, INT), which forced a fumble that was recovered by McCann at Maine's 20. Four plays later, Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn./5-for-8, 38 yards, TD) hit Jimmy Giansante (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) for a 6-yard TD and a 17-3 advantage with 3:13 left in the third. Giansante's lone catch was his first TD of the season and Goldrich's ninth scoring toss of the year.
Steriti's 68-yard dash down the right sideline –New Hampshire's longest play from scrimmage this season-- put a bow on a six-play, 92-yard drive with 13:01 remaining to give the 'Cats a 24-3 lead and made the junior RB the ninth player in school history to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards (2,117).
UNH will learn if it will it will qualify for the NCAA Division I playoffs for a nation-leading 10th straight season during the 2013 NCAA D-I Football Championship Selection Show on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 11:30 a.m. (ESPNU).
For more information on the UNH football program, visit www.unhwildcats.com.