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October 06. 2012 8:04PM

College Football: UNH's McDonnell wins 100th

The University of New Hampshire football team rolled to a 44-21 victory at Georgia State in Atlanta Saturday and in the process gave head coach Sean McDonnell his 100th career coaching victory with the Wildcats.

“I’m really pleased with how hard we played again,” he said. “If we continue to do that, we’re going to win games.”

Bedford’s Andy Vailas, named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts in last Saturday’s game against Delaware, stayed red hot at his quarterback position, firing four touchdown passes.

“We’ve got some kids who are pretty good in open spaces,” McDonnell said. “What we do offensively by spreading people out, and our quarterback getting the ball to the right people, makes us tough to defend.”

UNH broke a 7-7 tie by turning good defense into good offense. Jared Smith forced GSU quarterback Ronnie Bell to fumble the ball on his own 21. UNH recovered and Nico Steriti sprinted for a 13-yard gain before catching an eight yard td pass from Vailas for a 14-7 Wildcat advantage.

After holding Georgia State to negative yards on its next possession, Hayden Knudson got a hand on Matt Hubbard’s punt and gave UNH great field position on the Panthers’ 40. Steriti eventually scored from seven yards out but most of the movement came from a 25-yard pass from Vailas to Harold Spears. UNH’s first touchdown of the game came from the same pair when Vailas connected with Spears for a 26-yard touchdown. It was 21-7 UNH at the break.

Alan Buzbee intercepted a Bell pass on the GSU 17 early in the second half and Vailas made the turnover hurt when he found Justin Mello in the endzone from five yards out.

Vailas’ final touchdown pass made it 35-7 when he and Chris Setian hooked up on a 25-yard screen score with 3:17 left to play in the third.

North Hampton’s Mike MacArthur nailed a 43-yard field goal for UNH with 40 second to play in the third.

After a passing touchdown for Georgia Southern cut the lead to 38-14, Jared Allison returned the kickoff 63 yards to set up Steriti’s third touchdown of the game — a 34-yard score that made it 44-14.

“We talked about doing something with the special teams this week, and we did that,” McDonnell said. “The blocked punt and the big kickoff return after they scored were huge plays for us.”

McDonnell is in his 14th season at the helm of the Wildcat program and now owns a 100-64 all-time record. His teams have posted winning seasons in 10 of those campaigns (including this year at 4-2) and have made the NCAA playoffs for the past eight straight years. UNH has advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAAs six times.

The best record that UNH had collected under McDonnell’s guidance came in 2005 when the Wildcats went 11-2.

The trip to Georgia is only the second in program history for the Wildcats.

UNH hasn’t been down to the Peach State since its 2004 27-23 playoff win at Georgia Southern.

McDonnell replaced long time UNH coach Bill Bowes who recorded 175 wins in 27 seasons with the Wildcats.

UNH hosts Richmond at Cowell Stadium during Homecoming on Saturday at noon.

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