Story and photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics
DURHAM, N.H.- Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) rushed for a team-leading 104 yards, and four other University of New Hampshire running backs scored touchdowns as the 18th-ranked Wildcats knocked off Central Connecticut State, 43-10, in Saturday afternoon’s home opener at Cowell Stadium.
UNH, which claimed its eighth consecutive victory in a home opener, upped its record to 2-1 on the season by defeating CCSU (0-3) for the seventh time in seven all-time meetings.
Steriti (12 rushes-104 yards) paced a Wildcats’ rushing attack that accumulated 331 yards and averaged 6.4 yards/rush. Jimmy Owens (West Deptford, N.J.) carried 11 times for a career-high 91 yards and two touchdowns, and Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) tallied a rushing score as part of his 11-carry, 81-yard effort. It was the most rushing yards by a UNH team since Sept. 16, 2006, when the ‘Cats ran for 417 yards in a win over Stony Brook. The five rushing TDs are the most since Nov. 12, 2011, at Towson.
Making his first career start, quarterback Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) went 14-for-20 for 122 yards and a TD. R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) pulled down six catches for 67 yards to lead all UNH receivers.
New Hampshire had four interceptions and limited the Blue Devils to 234 yards of total offense. Nick Cefalo (Basking Ridge, N.J.) grabbed the first two interceptions of his career, while Chris Houston (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Steven Thames (Fort Washington, Md.) added picks. Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) notched a team-high nine tackles, and Matt Kaplan (Franklin, Mass.) added four tackles, one sack and two fumble recoveries.
The Wildcats built a 6-0 lead with 3:48 left in the opening quarter on a five-yard touchdown run from Vailas. The signal caller concluded an 11-play, 79-yard drive by running off right tackle and breaking a tackle at the goal line.
The Blue Devils drew within, 6-3, when Juan Duque booted a 33-yard field goal with 3:43 left in the first to punctuate a 17-play, 53-yard drive that lasted over seven minutes.
UNH’s lead increased to 13-3 on a 30-yard TD run from Jared Allison (Cliffwood, N.J./two rushes-22 yards, TD) with 1:58 left in the opening quarter. Allison, on his first collegiate touch, took an end around to the left side, switched directions when he was hemmed in and dashed around the right corner to the end zone.
The ‘Cats bumped their advantage to 20-3 with 11:58 left in the first half when Vailas completed a third-and-one pass to tight end Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa./three catches-14 yards, TD) in the back of the end zone. It was Spears’ first career scoring reception and put a ribbon on a nine-play, 80-yard drive.
Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) drilled his first field-goal attempt of the season, a 28-yarder on the final play of the half, to give New Hampshire a 23-3 halftime lead.
CCSU opened the second half with the ball, but its drive ended on a Cefalo interception, his second of the game. Owens scored six plays later on a 5-yard run at 10:29 of the third to make it 30-3.
The teams traded possessions throughout the remainder of the third quarter. Just 38 seconds into the fourth, Setian found a hole off right tackle and raced 30 yards for a TD with 14:22 left in the contest to stake UNH to a 37-3 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Thames picked off pass to give the ‘Cats good field position at the CCSU 9-yard line. Owens scored his second TD of the day on a 6-yard run just two plays later to extend it to 43-3.
The Blue Devils would conclude scoring as David Rose recovered a UNH fumble and returned it 38 yards with 1:08 left.
Andrew Clements completed 10 of 21 passes for 98 yards and three INTs for CCSU. Rob Hollomon led the Devils’ rushing attack with 47 yards on 18 carries.
New Hampshire hits the road to square off with No. 6/4 Old Dominion at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Va., next Saturday, Sept. 22, at 12 p.m. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet New England. For more information, visit www.unhwildcats.com.