Story and photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics
KINGSTON, R.I. – Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md.) forced a fumble and notched an interception that sparked scoring drives, Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown and the 12th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team spoiled Saturday’s Homecoming game at Rhode Island by posting a 40-20 CAA victory.
UNH, which recorded its fifth straight victory, improved to 7-2 overall and maintained at least a share of first place in the CAA with a league mark of 5-1. URI dropped to 0-8, 0-5.
Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) completed 17 of 27 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown while rushing six times for 24 yards and a TD.
R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) registered his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season by snaring a team-leading eight catches for 131 yards. Jimmy Giansante (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) collected 55 receiving yards on a career-high-tying four receptions.
Setian was UNH’s leading rusher with four carries for 55 yards, while Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) added 52 yards on seven rushes.
Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) totaled 12 tackles, eight of the solo variety, for team-high honors. The senior co-captain, with 427 career stops, moved to within seven tackles of UNH all-time leader Steve Doig (434, 1978-81).
New Hampshire’s defense turned three Rhode Island turnovers into 21 points.
Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) staked UNH to a 3-0 lead by kicking a 28-yard field goal that capped the game’s opening drive with 13:15 remaining in the first quarter. Setian began the game with a career-long 44-yard rush to the URI 28. Two completions from Goldrich to Harris placed the ball on the Rams’ 11. Vailas, who split time at quarterback with Goldrich, ran for an apparent 11-yard TD, but the play was negated by a personal foul penalty and the ‘Cats had to settle for three.
Rhody’s initial drive was thwarted when Jared Smith (Greencastle, Pa./two tackles) blocked a 29-yard field goal try by Dylan Smith, but the Rams alertly recovered the ensuing fumbled return by Peters at the UNH 16-yard line.
Rhode Island capitalized on that turnover to take a 6-3 lead two plays later on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bob Bentsen (24-for-38, 266 yards, two INT, TD) to Brandon-Johnson Farrell (nine catches-92 yards, TD) with 10:59 left in the first. Bentsen’s two-point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete.
The Wildcats came right back with a 10-play, 72-yard drive which culminated in Setian’s two-yard scoring rush with 7:53 remaining in the opening stanza. The failed PAT left UNH’s advantage at 9-6.
Peters atoned for his earlier fumble when he intercepted Bentsen’s pass in the UNH end zone to snuff out Rhode Island’s 13-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up nearly seven minutes. The pick was Peters’ fourth of the season, which is tied for the most in the CAA.
New Hampshire then covered 80 yards on seven plays, culminating in an 11-yard rushing touchdown from Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J./five rushes-19 yards, TD) for 16-6 lead with 14:36 left in the second quarter.
Peters caused a second Rhode Island turnover deep in UNH territory to halt the Rams’ following possession when he ripped the ball loose from URI running back Assani Mudimbi on a rushing play. Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J./six tackles) recovered the fumble on the Wildcats’ 21.
UNH parlayed that turnover into more points courtesy of MacArthur’s 31-yard field goal with 8:08 left in the half that staked the Wildcats to a 19-6 advantage.
New Hampshire seized a commanding 26-6 lead on Goldrich’s nine-yard TD pass to Setian (two catches-25 yards, TD) with seven seconds left in the half. That put a bow on a seven-play, 71-yard scoring drive that took only 44 seconds to materialize.
URI scored on its initial possession of the second half when Bentsen scored on a six-yard keeper to trim the deficit to 26-13 at 9:10 of the third.
Vailas got into the scoring action with a 19-yard TD pass to Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass./two catches-27 yards, TD) with 7:22 left in the third for a 33-13 lead. Mello made a full-extension grab in the far left corner of the end zone for his second scoring reception of the year. Jared Allison (Cliffwood, N.J./55 kick-return yards; 103 all-purpose yards) set the stage for the four-play, 52-yard drive by virtue of his 40-yard kickoff return to the UNH 48.
The Wildcats took advantage of favorable field position on their next scoring drive, which began when Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J./four tackles) picked off Bentsen’s fourth-down pass and brought it back 12 yards to the URI 35. It was Buzbee’s third interception in the last four games.
It took all of five plays, 33 yards and 53 seconds to score the fifth TD of the day. Goldrich called his own number for a nine-yard score to push the lead to 40-13 with 2:46 left in the third.
The Rams made it 40-20 with 11:05 left on a five-yard keeper by Bentsen.
The Wildcats will bid for their sixth straight win when they play host to William & Mary on Saturday, Nov. 3. Opening kickoff at Cowell Stadium is scheduled for 12 p.m. For tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000, extension 5.