College Football: UNH wins, sets up Maine showdown
ALBANY, N.Y. - They'll play for the Brice-Cowell Musket. And much more.
The University of New Hampshire football team took care of business on Saturday and knocked off the University at Albany, 37-20, on the road to set up a big-time clash against Maine next weekend.
UNH improved to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association and plays Maine on Saturday at home at Cowell Stadium for a shot at the FCS playoffs. The Wildcats have been to the tournament nine straight years and need to get their record to 7-4 and then hope an FCS selection committee awards them an at-large bid into this year's playoffs.
The Wildcats and Black Bears battle for possession of the coveted Brice-Cowell Musket each season.
Maine clinched the CAA championship outright on Saturday with a 41-0 win over Rhode Island at home. The Black Bears are 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the league.
Albany fell to 1-10 and 0-7 in the CAA with the loss, but gave UNH all sorts of problems.
Andy Vailas, a junior out of Bedford, split time with sophomore Sean Goldrich at quarterback and completed seven of his 14 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns to senior wide receiver Justin Mello.
Senior kicker Mike MacArthur of North Hampton kicked three field goals for the Wildcats.
Redshirt freshman running back Dalton Crossan scored on a 52-yard run for UNH in the second quarter and then added a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to help seal the game midway through the fourth period.
Crossan's first score put the Wildcats up 17-0 early in the second period and they led 20-7 at the half.
Then Albany started to chip away at the lead.
Omar Osbourne scored the only TD of the third period on a 1-yard run and it was 20-14 with one period left to play.
An Albany field goal made it 20-17 in the opening seconds of the fourth period.
A Vailas to Mello 3-yard scoring pass pushed it out to 27-17.
Tom O'Riordan's second field goal of the period cut the lead back to 27-20 with 8:17 to play.
Crossan took care of that.
He took off with the ensuing kickoff and scored to boost the lead back to 34-20.
MacArthur tacked on a 34-yard field goal with 2:55 left for good measure.
And now the Wildcats can think about Maine.
It was difficult to not think about the impending rivalry game that would carry mega-stakes if UNH got past Albany.
"It's tough," said Matt Kaplan, the junior defensive tackle from Franklin, last week. "We don't like Maine and they don't like us."
The Brice-Cowell Musket has been in UNH's locker room the last couple of years. The Wildcats won last year's game against Maine, 28-21, in Orono and the year before triumphed, 30-27, in Durham. Maine's last win in the series was in 2010 when the Black Bears won, 16-13 in overtime, in Orono.