MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- Ron Coluzzi's 27-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Central Michigan University football team to Saturday afternoon's 24-21 victory against No. 11/8 University of New Hampshire at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
UNH is 0-1 while CMU of the Football Bowl Subdivision improved to 1-1.
The Wildcats were led offensively by junior quarterback Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.), who completed 15 of 22 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown; he also carried the ball 17 times for 50 yards. Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.) was his top target with five catches for 117 yards, including a 17-yard TD reception. Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) was the team's top ground gainer with 56 yards on 16 carries.
The UNH defense, which shut out Central Michigan in the first half with just 98 yards allowed, was led by senior captain Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) with 11 tackles (8 solo, 3 assisted) and Shane McNeely (Whitehall, Pa.) with 10 (4-6). Akil Anderson (Morristown, N.J.) contributed seven tackles (4-3) while Casey DeAndrade (East Bridgewater, Mass.) was credited with six tackles (3-3) and three pass breakups, and Cody Muller (Telford, Pa.) finished with six tackles, including three for a loss of 14 yards.
CMU quarterback Cooper Rush was 19-for-32 for 326 yards and three TDs. Titus Davis hauled in six catches for 184 yards and two TDs, including a 97-yard score that tied the score, 21-21, at 9:08. Saylor Lavillii had 93 rushing yards on 20 carries.
The Chippewas, who trailed 21-7 with 14:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, began their game-winning drive on the CMU 29 yard line. On 2nd-and-6, Saylor Lavallii had a 37-yard rush to set up first down at the UNH 30. Muller's sack set up 3rd-and-15 and the Wildcats called time out with 2:00 on the clock. Cooper found Davis for a 17-yard gain to extend the drive. Lavallii carried the ball three consecutive downs to set up 4th-and-2 at the UNH 10. CMU called a timeout with three seconds left, and Coluzzi's kick sailed between the uprights to give the Chippewas the victory.
UNH drove 51 yards to the CMU 24 yard line on the game's opening drive, but on the 12th play Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) struck a 41-yard field goal attempt wide left to keep the game scoreless at 10:16.
The Wildcats' defense forced a 3-and-out and UNH began its next drive on its 29 at 8:13 and proceeded to march 71 yards on 13 plays to take a 6-0 lead at 3:18 of the first quarter. Vailas completed 5 of 7 passes for 35 yards and rushed three times for eight yards on the drive, which was capped by Harris' end-around to the left side. Video replay overturned the two-point conversion run by Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) to keep the score 6-0.
Following a Keith Parkinson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) interception, New Hampshire extended the advantage to 13-0 at 8:01 of the second quarter on a 13-play, 53-yard drive that consumed 7:52. Following six consecutive running plays – three by Vailas for 19 yards – Vailas found Mello behind the defense in the end zone for a 17-yard scoring play. MacArthur's PAT gave the 'Cats a 13-point lead.
Through 23 minutes, UNH's offense gained 181 yards on 37 plays in comparison to CMU's 14 yards on 12 plays.
The Chippewas then recorded their initial first down of the game – with a 24-yard pass play on 3rd-and-10 -- and advanced the ball to UNH's 25 yard line, but on 4th-and-9 Sean McCann (Avon Lake, Ohio) pressured Rush into a high throw that DeAndrade knocked down at the 20-yard line to give possession back to the 'Cats.
CMU marched the ball to the UNH 3 on the opening possession of the second half, but Anderson stopped Lavallii at the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1 to give the ball back to New Hampshire.
UNH escaped from the shadows of its own goal line on its longest play of the game, a 41-yard completion from Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.; 2-5, 71 yds) to Mello to advance the ball to the CMU 49. On 3rd-and-15, however, Goldrich was intercepted by Kavon Frazier to give CMU the ball on its 39 yard line.
Central Michigan advanced the ball to the UNH 21 in just three plays, then on 1st-and-goal from the 9, Rush drilled a pass to Davis in the middle of the end zone to lift the home team within 13-7 at 3:13 of the third quarter.
The Wildcats responded with a TD drive to establish its largest lead of the game – 14 points – of 21-7 at 14:22 of the fourth quarter. Vailas started the drive and moved the 'Cats from their 25 to the 41, then Goldrich's career-long 28-yard run set up 1st-and-10 at the CMU 31. On the next play, Mello hauled in Goldrich's pass along the left sideline and was stopped at the 1 yard line. After a false start pushed UNH back to the 6, Steriti carried for a gain of four and then punched it in from the 2. On the 2-point conversion, Vailas easily won the race to the left pylon.
CMU engineered a five-play, 65-yard drive to trim the deficit to 21-14 when Rush connected with Andrew Flory on a 20-yard scoring play at 12:16.
On the ensuing possession, UNH took five plays to advance the ball 35 yards to the CMU 48 but Vailas was sacked for a seven-yard loss on 3rd-and-7, which forced the Wildcats to punt. Brad Prasky (Groton, Mass.) pinned the Chippewas deep with a 52-yard punt to the three yard line.
Following an incomplete pass on a deep post pattern, Rush found Titus behind the defense on another deep post and the wide receiver outraced the defenders to the end zone to tie the score, 21-21, at 9:08.
With 7:10 remaining, UNH started a drive 1st-and-10 at the CMU 49. One play later, a wide receiver screen pass from Vailas to Mello on the right side went for 20 yards to give the 'Cats a first down on the 30. Following a false start, Vailas gained eight yards on a QB draw and then he completed a six- yard pass to Jimmy Giansante (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) to make it 3rd-and-1 from the 21. Vailas faked the dive handoff to Steriti, but he lost the ball and Frazier once again recovered the loose ball to set up the game-winning drive.
New Hampshire returns to action Sept. 14 for its home opener against Colgate University. Game time at Cowell Stadium is 12 p.m. Tickets for the game, which features Kids' Day and Welcome Back 'Cat Pack, are available online at www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000, extension 5.