College Football: Wildcats run roughshod over Rams
DURHAM - There's one.
The University of New Hampshire football, ranked No. 25 in the country and stuck in a 1-3 hole to start the season, got one back with a convincing 59-19 win over Rhode Island in front of a Homecoming crowd announced at 18,412 - a good portion of those folks never made it in to Cowell Stadium from the tailgating area.
The Wildcats evened the Colonial Athletic Association portion of their record at 1-1.
"There definitely was a sense of urgency," said junior linebacker Akil Anderson, who led the Wildcats with eight tackles and had one of their three quarterback sacks. "Throughout the season, we've shown signs of greatness, but we just haven't been able to put it together fully."
They did against the Rams, who fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the CAA.
"We knew it was just a matter of time before that team got things going," said Rhode Island coach Joe Trainer. "They were running on all cylinders today."
Sophomore Sean Goldrich took over at quarterback for Andy Vailas - the junior out of Bedford who hurt his knee in last week's loss at Towson - and led the team to its best offensive numbers of the season.
The Wildcats rushed for 333 yards and collected 574 yards of total offense.
Goldrich completed 18 of his 26 passes for 241 yards and a couple of scores and had one interception. He also ran 14 times for 94 yards, including a 24-yard TD that helped put the game out of reach early in the third period.
Junior running back Nico Steriti carried 15 times for 150 yards and a pair of scores. It was the second time this year and eighth time in his career he has gone over 100 yards on the ground.
"Sean went in and did a real good job," said head coach Sean McDonnell. "He's been good all year and practices like he's the starting quarterback. He executed very, very well. He distributed the ball well and Nico set a big tone early in the game the way he was running the football."
McDonnell was also happy with a defense that gave up 115 rushing yards and contributed a couple of late touchdowns, one on an 11-yard interception return by defensive back Steven Thames and the other on a 44-yard fumble recovery by Cam Shorey.
"I thought we did a very good job on the defensive side of the ball stopping the run," McDonnell said. "We flew to the football and we tackled better today."
For the first time this season, the Wildcats did not score first. But they did come out of the opening period with a 7-6 lead.
Rhode Island turned two UNH first-half turnovers into touchdowns.
Defensive end James Timmins intercepted a Goldrich pass midway through the first period and quarterback Bob Bentsen connected with Robbie Jackson for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Bentsen's conversion pass was incomplete and URI led 6-0.
Steriti broke through the line and raced 54 yards for UNH's first score with 35.6 seconds left in the period and Mike MacArthur's conversion kick gave his team the lead.
Senior Chris Setian scored on a 3-yard run for 14-6 with 9:50 left in the second period.
The UNH defense then forced a Rhode Island punt that was fumbled by returner Jared Allison.
Bentsen hit Jawaun Wynn for a 26- yard TD pass on Rhode Island's first play. Bentsen's conversion run failed and UNH led 14-12.
The Wildcats took only five plays to answer with a Goldrich to Mello 7-yard touchdown pass. Mello made a nice grab with a defender on him.
"I was happy with the way we responded after they scored that touchdown," McDonnell said. "To me, that's what we've needed to do the whole year. We gave up a score and came back on offense and executed and scored."
MacArthur, a senior from North Hampton, hit a 24-yard field goal with 31.2 seconds left in the half to put UNH up 24-12. It was his 40th career field goal, tying him for the UNH record with Connor McCormick.
The Wildcats scored on its first two possessions of the second half - on the 24-yard Goldrich keeper and a Steriti 10-yard run - to pull away to 38-12.
UNH had been outscored 46-15 in third quarters this year and turned that around to a 14-0 advantage and was on its way to its second win of the season.
"We knew we were going to have our hands full, honestly," Trainer said. "They were a 1-3 team, but they should have beaten Central Michigan and they lost a fluke game with Lehigh."
New Hampshire is 0-3 on the road and 2-0 at home and next week tries to get back to .500 overall when Villanova comes to town.
Villanova took a 3-2 overall record and 2-0 CAA mark into Saturday night's game at Towson, 6-0 and 2-0.