ORONO, Maine – Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) threw for a career-high 291 yards and three touchdowns to propel the 15th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team to Saturday's 41-27 victory over No. 8 Maine in the second round of the NCAA Division I FCS Championship at Alfond Stadium.
The Wildcats, who won for the eighth time in nine games and second time against the Black Bears (10-3) in three weeks, improved to 9-4 overall and will advance to meet the winner of Saturday night's matchup between Sam Houston State and No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana in the national quarterfinals either Friday, Dec. 13, or Saturday, Dec. 14.
Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.) tallied five receptions, including two TDs, for 90 yards. R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) snared six catches for 85 yards, and Jimmy Giansante (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) recorded two grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown. UNH totaled 315 passing yards.
Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as part of a 10-rush, 54-yard effort. Setian capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive with a 12-yard power run with 6:47 remaining in the fourth to give the Wildcats a 34-20 lead. His 7-yard carry with 2:42 left made it 41-20 and effectively iced the game.
Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) spearheaded New Hampshire's 180 rushing yards with 14 carries for 74 yards. He added a 24-yard pass play to Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa./two catches, 53 yards) that set up a third-quarter TD, made two catches for 26 yards and returned a kickoff 31 yards to compile a game-high 131 all-purpose yards.
Akil Anderson (Morristown, N.J.) set a career high with 13 tackles, including a half-sack, while Casey DeAndrade (East Bridgewater, Mass.) and Steven Thames (Fort Washington, Md.) each notched an interception.
Marcus Wasilewski completed 21 of 39 passes for 229 yards and two TDs for Maine, which won the CAA regular season championship, but lost its final two games to New Hampshire, including its first-ever home NCAA playoff game before a crowd of 7,992.
Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) kicked a season-long 43-yard field goal with 6:40 left in the first quarter to give UNH a 3-0 lead.
Damarr Aultman (game-high 182 all-purpose yards) returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to put the Black Bears in front, 7-3, with 6:26 left in the opening quarter.
The 'Cats responded on their next drive with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Goldrich to Mello. Goldrich rolled right and found Mello on a comeback route; the senior receiver did most of his damage after the catch by outracing the Maine secondary down the right sideline for his longest reception of the season and a 10-7 UNH lead with 5:02 left in the first.
Maine leveled the score at 10-10 on a 21-yard field goal from Sean Decloux with 9:13 left in the second quarter.
New Hampshire moved back on top, 17-10, with 7:40 left in the second when Goldrich connected with Giansante for a 48-yard TD strike on a seam pattern down the right hash marks.
UNH owned a 20-10 lead on MacArthur's second FG of the game, a 22-yard kick with 3:25 left in the half. With his 51st career field goal, MacArthur took over sole possession of third place all-time in CAA history. The scoring drive started at Maine's 42 after Thames intercepted Wasilewski at midfield.
The Black Bears notched the final score of the first half with 47 seconds remaining on Wasilewski's 9-yard touchdown pass to John Ebeling. That trimmed the Wildcats' lead to 20-17 at the intermission.
UNH scored on its opening possession of the third quarter when the Goldrich-to-Mello combination struck for a 3-yard hookup. Mello's second TD of the day and 10th of the season came on an over-the-shoulder grab in the deep left-hand corner of the end zone for a 27-17 lead with 11:30 left in the third.
Decloux booted a 28-yard field goal with 7:42 left in third quarter to cut New Hampshire's lead to 27-20.
Maine scored the game's final TD on an 18-yard pass from Wasilewski to Justin Perillo with 18 seconds left.
The Wildcats, who beat a league opponent in the NCAAs for the first time in school history, won their fifth straight game, improved to 2-10 all-time in the month of December and reached the NCAA quarterfinal round for the first time since 2010. For all the latest information, visit www.unhwildcats.com.