Roger Brown's First & 10: Credit the defense for big Shrine win
THE 60th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl ended moments earlier, and New Hampshire coach Ray Kershaw was meeting with the media on the field at Dartmouth College.
Kershaw had just watched his team score six touchdowns against Vermont, but he wasn't fielding questions about New Hampshire's offensive performance. Defense fueled the Saturday's 43-0 victory.
"The defensive line did a great job," Kershaw said. "We didn't want to give (Vermont quarterback Jake Stalcup) time to throw, because we knew if he had time he would be dangerous. When he did throw all his decisions weren't the best. That was the key for our defense — getting pressure."
Vermont's fast-paced, air attack was ineffective for most of the contest. Vermont was held to 162 yards of total offense: 40 yards rushing (on 22 carries) and 122 yards passing.
"Their coach was saying stuff like they better have ball boys fast enough to keep up with our offense, they were going to be having touchdown celebrations in the end zone and that he thought it was going to be a high-scoring game," Portsmouth's defensive tackle Rick Holt said. "We did score 43, so he was right there, but he didn't give our defense enough credit.
"We got after the quarterback. He had no chance to throw the ball at all. They weren't running the ball enough to keep us honest."
New Hampshire also came up with six turnovers, five of which were interceptions.
"I think we handed a few things to them," Vermont quarterback Stalcup said. "I think our coaches knew from an early stage we couldn't really do drop back and read the field because they were coming with a couple of really good defensive linemen. They did throw us off our game a little bit."
ON THE RUN: New Hampshire spread the wealth on offense, but no one had a more productive game than Trinity of Manchester running back Romeo Masuku.
Masuku rushed for a game-high 113 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. His TDs came on a 5-yard run in the first quarter, and a 40-yard run in the third quarter.
New Hampshire scored 28 of its 43 points in the second half, when the Granite Staters used a Wildcat formation that they didn't show in the first two quarters.
"The first half we weren't getting the push that we needed to, but the offensive line stepped up, all the running backs got carries and we started to get first down after first down after first down," Masuku said. "The defense did a phenomenal job today."
Masuku was one of four New Hampshire running backs who gained more than 50 yards. Quarterback Connor Benjamin (Goffstown) ran for 81 yards on 11 carries, running back Tyler Grant (Exeter) gained 75 yards on 10 carries and running back Tolbert Nemo (Concord) picked up 52 yards on nine carries. Nemo, Grant and Benjamin each ran for a TD.
New Hampshire gained 405 yards on the ground, which was 16 yards shy of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl record for rushing yardage set by the 2011 New Hampshire team.
BAKER'S DOZEN: The victory made it 13 wins in a row for New Hampshire, and raised even more questions about the game's health. New Hampshire increased its advantage in the series to 45-13-2.
New Hampshire's last loss came in 2000, when Vermont quarterback Michael Keenan set records for touchdown passes (six), pass completions (30), pass attempts (49)and yards passing (352) in Vermont's 47-40 triumph. That type of air assault has been the game plan of choice for most Vermont coaches since then, but the results suggest it may be time for a different strategy.
Vermont has failed to score more than seven points seven times during its current 13-game losing streak. Saturday's game was the third time Vermont has been shut out since that 2000 victory. Perhaps next year's Vermont team should work the clock with a run-based offense and hope it can remain within striking distance entering the fourth quarter.
"I don't know if one offense is better than another," Vermont coach Jason Thomas said. "I don't know if you can match up toe to toe against them. They're bigger, so you have to figure out another way.
"(Running the ball) might be the right philosophy, but that's not me."