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NCAA Football: Knight has a career passing day for Wildcats

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 24. 2017 2:15AM
University of New Hampshire football hosted Rhode Island in Homecoming action Saturday afternoon. UNH quarterback Trevor Knight stepped up his performance for a win. Knight struts into the end zone on a quarterback carry for a touchdown in the first half. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)

DURHAM - The ground game wasn't efficient, but in the end that didn't matter.

On a day when the University of New Hampshire was held to 52 yards rushing, junior quarterback Trevor Knight passed for a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns Saturday to guide UNH to a 28-14 victory over Rhode Island during Homecoming weekend.

Knight, an Amherst resident, completed 23 of 34 passes and also ran for a TD. He was intercepted once. The 314 yards he passed for against James Madison last season was his previous career-high passing total.

"First off, the line did a much better job today protecting (than in last week's loss to Holy Cross)," Knight said. "They took the challenge in practice. We had a great game plan. There were guys open, so that kind of made my job easy."

UNH (3-1, 2-0 CAAA) had a one-point lead when Knight hooked up with wide receiver Neil O'Connor for a 76-yard TD pass with 11:21 remaining in the game. He then escaped what looked like a sure sack to toss a 24-yard TD pass to wide receiver Malik Love to make it 28-14 with 8:26 to play.

"We were concerned about Knight because he's like Houdini," URI coach Jim Fleming said. "He's a talented kid who can handle all the throws those coaches are giving him, and he was good enough to beat us today."

O'Connor caught 11 passes for a career-high 232 yards. The 11 receptions matched his career-high.

"On offense, we try to score, on defense we're trying to stop them," O'Connor said. "I don't think anyone thinks about stats too much, which is good."

UNH's 52 rushing yards came on 41 attempts (1.3 per carry). Evan Gray was the team's leading rusher with 29 yards on 10 carries.

URI cut into its 15-0 deficit when quarterback Tyler Harris connected with Aaron Parker for a 75-yard touchdown pass with 3:50 left in the third quarter. Things got even more uncomfortable for UNH when Harold Cooper scored on a 14-yard run with 12:40 to play. Although Cooper's TD left URI trailing by two, the Rams kicked the PAT to make it a 15-14 game.

"Definitely a sense of urgency once the game was within one point," Knight said.

UNH (1-3, 0-2) responded with O'Connor's TD catch on the ensuing possession and then the Wildcats put more distance between themselves and the Rams on Love's TD.

"We were unable to do things at critical times to allow us to win the football game," Fleming said.

The Wildcats scored in each of the first two quarters and led 15-0 at halftime. Rory Donovan caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Knight with 6:07 left in the first quarter, and Knight ran in the two-point conversion to give UNH an 8-0 lead.

UNH's second TD came on Knight's 6-yard run with 5:56 left in the half. Max Pedinoff's point-after kick capped the first-half scoring.

"Today I thought Trevor did a tremendous job," McDonnell said. "Couple of plays he made scrambling. Couple of plays he made to get out of trouble again, and then some of the throws.

"Good bounce-back win for this football team. After a tough loss on the road last week we came home, got back down to business and did some things in practice I thought we needed to do. I thought it snowballed into the way we played the game. Huge win."

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There are two New Hampshire residents on the URI roster: freshman offensive lineman Max Osgood (Nashua South) and freshman defensive back Henry Yianakopolos (Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton). Both traveled to Durham for Saturday's game. 

UNH intercepted Harris three times. Cornerback Isiah Perkins had two of the interceptions, and safety D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie had the other. 

Saturday's announced attendance was 22,135. It's the largest home crowd in the program's history.

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