Story and photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics
DURHAM, N.H.- A Homecoming crowd of 12,834 saw the No. 12/13 University of New Hampshire football team squander a 17-point second-half lead only to rally for 10 late points to pull out Saturday afternoon’s 44-40 come-from-behind victory against Richmond in a CAA showdown Saturday at Cowell Stadium.
Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.), who completed 15 of 26 passes for 188 yards, threw for three first-half touchdowns, added a 38-yard rushing TD in the third quarter and converted a crucial fourth-down conversion on UNH’s go-ahead drive in the final quarter to lead the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 CAA) to their third straight victory.
A pair of essential special teams plays helped New Hampshire mount its comeback after Richmond (4-3, 2-2 CAA) fought back from a 34-17 deficit to grab a 40-34 lead with 10:21 remaining. First, Lamar Edmonds (Worcester, Mass./one tackle) blocked the PAT that followed a 48-yard touchdown run from Kendall Gaskins (16 rushes-97 yards, 3 TDs) that put the visitors in front. Then Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) pinned the Spiders down to their 1-yard line with a 51-yard punt at the 7:55 mark.
On the subsequent drive, Randi Vines (Roanoke, Va./three tackles) stuffed Gaskins for a one-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 at the Richmond 10. That forced a punt that staked UNH to field position at its 49 with 5:58 left.
Sean Goldich (West Haven, Conn.) then entered the game for the first time and, on 2nd-and-10, handed off to Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) for a 35-yard pickup down to the Spiders’ 16. Goldrich completed a three-yard pass to Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) and called his own number for a six-yard gain, setting the stage for a 4th-and-2 at UR’s 8. Following a timeout, Vailas (12 carries-83 yards, TD) returned to action and converted a QB draw for three yards before Setian (five rushes-44 yards, TD) plowed in for a five-yard TD and a 41-40 lead with 2:57 remaining.
On its next drive, Richmond turned the ball over on downs at its 16, and MacArthur provided the game’s final points with a 27-yard field goal with 1:08 left.
The Spiders drove to the UNH 34 with two seconds remaining, but Michael Strauss’s Hail Mary pass fell incomplete to preserve the Wildcats’ third straight victory
Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) tallied a season-high 16 tackles -15 solo- to headline UNH’s defensive effort.
CAA leading rusher Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) produced his fourth 100-yard rushing game in five weeks by carrying 15 times for 122 yards. The sophomore notched a 21-yard TD scamper with 13:10 left in the second quarter to stake the ‘Cats to a 20-10 lead.
R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) spearheaded the receiving game with five catches for 94 yards, highlighted by a 14-yard scoring reception in the first quarter and a nine-yard TD catch in the second period. Orlando (four catches-49 yards, TD), who was the recipient on a Vailas 16-yard TD throw with 2:01 left in the first, moved into 10th place in school history in all-time receptions (151) and receiving yards (1,909).
The Wildcats took control on the Vailas scoring run with 8:54 left in the third to open their biggest lead.
The Spiders retaliated with 23 consecutive points. John Laub (27-for-44, 269 yards, TD) threw a two-yard touchdown to Seth Fisher, which trimmed UNH’s lead to 34-24 with 6:22 left in the third.
With 59 seconds remaining in the third, Remington Hinshaw booted a 41-yard field goal to make it 34-27.
After Laub (team-high 17 rushes-103 yards) departed with an injury, Strauss (5-for-12, 42 yards, TD) threw a four-yard TD pass to Stephen Barnette (seven catches, 73 yards, TD) on his first attempt of the day, as Richmond knotted the score, 34-34, with 11:19 left in the fourth.
But the Spiders, who outgained the Wildcats (544 to 454) and had a decided advantage in time of possession (34:47-25:13) dropped their third straight game to UNH and remained winless at Cowell Stadium since 2000.
UNH recorded its ninth straight home victory and improved to 21-1 in is last 22 contests at “The Dungeon.”
The Wildcats turn their attention to their 100th all-time matchup against the rival Maine Black Bears at Alfond Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 12 p.m. The Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet New England. For more information, visit www.unhwildcats.com.