College Football: UNH outlasts Tribe, boosts postseason bid chances
DURHAM --- Linebacker Matt Evans got his record and coach Sean McDonnell got his win over William & Mary.
Most importantly, by responding to a late score with one of its own, the University of New Hampshire collected its eighth win of the season by toppling the Tribe, 28-25, in front of 5,521 fans at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 11-ranked Wildcats won their sixth straight game for the first time since late in the 2005 season and improved to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. William & Mary fell to 2-7 and 1-5.
It's not official, but win No. 8 all but assures UNH of a spot in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision tournament for a best-in-the-nation ninth straight season.
The Wildcats want more.
';There are definitely many more games for us if we continue to play well,'; said senior captain and offensive lineman Chris Zarkoskie. ';Eight wins is great, but nine wins is even better, setting us up for the playoffs.';
UNH gets next weekend off and then closes out the regular season with a home game against Towson on Nov. 17.
Victory No. 8, the first over William & Mary since 1998, was rewarding but did not come easily.
';It was a good feeling,'; said Evans, who became UNH's all-time leading tackler with a third period stop. ';We want to win every single game this season and we're looking at Towson next. But it's definitely a good feeling to get that monkey off our backs.';
The Tribe had rallied from 18-7 down at the half and then 21-18 down after three periods to grab a 25-21 lead on a 1-yard run by quarterback Michael Graham with exactly six minutes left in the game.
';I don't think anyone one the team was worried, to be honest with you,'; said McDonnell, who had been 0-9 against William & Mary. ';But they knew what we had to do.';
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Goldrich quickly marched UNH 70 yards down the field. A nice throw and catch to senior Joey Orlando covered 32 yards to the William & Mary 19.
On the next play, sophomore Nico Steriti hit a hole opened on the right side of the line by lineman Mickey DiLima and Rob Bowman, broke a couple of tackles and was on his way to his second touchdown of the day.
';You've got to give it to the offensive line,'; Goldrich said. ';They played great all day.';
UNH had its 28-25 lead on a conversion kick by Mike MacArthur, the junior out of No. Hampton and Winnacunnet Regional in Hampton.
But there was still 4:14 left to play.
The Tribe earned a couple of first downs and there were nearly two minutes left when Graham, who had replaced the injured Brent Caprio, went back to pass on 2nd and 5 from the UNH 42.
He threw to the left side and UNH redshirt freshman Keith Parkinson went up and intercepted the pass.
The Tribe defense forced a punt to give the offense the ball again. But UNH held and a desperation pass at the end was short and incomplete.
The Wildcats, down 7-0 after the first period on a Caprio-to-Tre McBride 30-yard TD pass, seemed to take control in the second.
MacArthur got it started with a 23-yard field goal 1:15 into the quarter.
Steriti added an 18-yard touchdown run. Andy Vailas passed to Harold Spears for a two-point conversion and UNH led 11-7 with 5:20 left in the half.
The UNH defense held again.
The Wildcats efficiently went down the field covering 70 yards in just under a minute to a Goldrich 2-yard run for another score. MacArthur's kick left it 18-7 at the break.
The Tribe needed 11 minutes in the third period to wipe that lead out.
John Carpenter kicked a 23-yard field goal with 9:20 left in the period to cut to it to 18-10.
William & Mary got the ball back and Graham connected with McBride for his second score, this one from 19 yards out. The two teamed up on a conversion pass, too, and it was all tied up at 18-18 with 4:06 left in the period.
MacArthur put UNH back on top, 21-18, with a 24-yard field goal with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter.
There were a couple of more lead changes to go.
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NOTES: Evans had 10 tackles and is up to 437 in his career. He passed the all-time best of 434 of Steve Doig (1978-81) who was in attendance. . . . Steriti rushed 19 times for 106 yards and the two scores. . . . Goldrich completed 21 of his 30 passes and also ran 7 times for 37 yards and the score. . . . Vailas, the sophomore from Bedford and Bishop Guertin of Nashua, ran 11 times for 53 yards. . . . Senior Jared Smith and junior Jay Colbert had quarterback sacks for the Wildcats.