Story and photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics
WORCESTER, Mass. – The No. 14/12 University of New Hampshire football team scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives of 98 yards and 95 yards in the second half to pull away from Holy Cross for a 38-17 Thursday night victory in the season opener for both schools at Fitton Field.
The Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 CAA) outscored the Crusaders (0-1, 0-0 Patriot League) 19-7 after halftime and amassed 531 yards of offense (279 rushing, 252 passing) to improve to 11-3 all-time in season-opening games under head coach Sean McDonnell.
Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) shined in his collegiate debut, completing 21 of 31 passes for 193 yards and two TDs. The redshirt freshman added a team-high 71 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) hauled in seven receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns, while R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) collected 102 receiving yards and a score on a team-high and career-high-matching 12 catches to go along with a personal-high 57 rushing yards on four carries.
Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J./12 carries-76 yards, TD) and Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass./12 carries-56 yards, TD) both notched rushing scores.
Chris Beranger (Winthrop, Mass.) and Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) shared team-high honors with nine tackles apiece. Evans moved into a tie for fourth place on the University's all-time tackle list with 343 stops (Aaron Thomas, 2000-04).
Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md./five tackles), making his first career start at cornerback, snared one of the team's two interceptions on the night, with Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J./five tackles) securing the other pick. Jared Smith (Greencastle, Pa./two tackles, forced fumble) applied a QB pressure on Peters' INT and later forced a fumble that was recovered by Jimmy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.).
UNH claimed a 6-0 lead with eight minutes left in the first quarter on a three-yard touchdown run from Steriti. The sophomore carried four times for 19 yards during the eight-play, 54-yard drive that lasted nearly four minutes. Crusader freshman Mike Galantini blocked the PAT.
After holding New Hampshire on a fourth-and-1 from the 26-yard line, Holy Cross compiled a nine-play, 74-yard drive that concluded with quarterback Kevin Watson's four-yard keeper for a 7-6 lead with 11:59 remaining in the second.
UNH recaptured the lead on its next drive when backup quarterback Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H./4-for-4, 59 yards, TD) entered the game and orchestrated a six-play, 73-yard drive. Running the hurry-up offense, the sophomore went 4-for-4 for 59 yards, capping the drive with a 38-yard scoring strike to Orlando, who found himself wide open on the left sideline when a defender fell. The PAT from Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) staked the 'Cats to a 13-7 lead with 10:04 left in the half.
The Wildcat defense forced its first turnover of the season on the ensuing drive when Watson was jarred on a pass attempt by Smith, leading to an errant throw that was intercepted by Peters, who returned to the Holy Cross 41.
This time it was Goldrich's turn to spearhead a nine-play scoring drive. The signal caller completed 2 of 3 passes for 15 yards, including a tipped ball that was corralled by Harris for an eight-yard TD. Setian carried three times for 14 yards on the drive that built UNH's lead to 19-7 with 3:43 left in second following a failed two-point conversion.
The Crusaders scored the final points of the half on the final play of the half courtesy of a 32-yard field goal from John Macomber that sliced New Hampshire's lead to 19-10. The eight-play, 65-yard drive took only 66 seconds to complete.
The second half was all UNH. Pinned to its own 2-yard line, the Wildcats embarked on an eight-play, 98-yard drive that lasted more than three minutes before Jimmy Owens (West Deptford, N.J./eight rushes-26 yards, TD) found the end zone on a one-yard carry. Despite the missed PAT, the 'Cats owned a 25-10 lead with 7:34 left in the third. Goldrich's 40-yard strike to Orlando was the highlight of the drive.
New Hampshire's next drive began at its own 5. Thirteen plays, 95 yards and five-and-a-half minutes later, Goldrich found Orlando in the far right corner of the end zone for a five-yard strike and a 32-10 lead with 14:10 left in the game. The Wildcats moved the ball from their 20 to the Crusaders' 22 in three plays; Goldrich connected with Harris for 21 yards, and Steriti carried on back-to-back plays for 20 and 17 yards, respectively. Setian nabbed an eight-yard reception, and Goldrich picked up 14 yards on a pair of keepers to set up his TD pass to Orlando.
Asam's interception at the Holy Cross 44 set up the Wildcats' third TD drive of the second half. Five plays later, Setian carried in from two yards out for a 38-10 advantage.
The Crusaders managed a TD with 1:48 remaining on a two-yard run from Matt Bellomo.
No. 14/12 UNH (1-0, 0-0 CAA) visits the University of Minnesota of the Football Bowl Subdivision on Saturday, Sept. 8, for a 12 p.m. (EDT) kickoff at TCF Bank Stadium. The Wildcats open the home portion of their schedule at Cowell Stadium against Central Connecticut State on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 12 p.m. For tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000, extension 5.