DURHAM — Villanova took it to New Hampshire pretty good in the first half of Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association matchup. Villanova led by 13 points at halftime, and even the most fervent UNH fan probably wouldn’t have predicted what happened after that.
UNH scored three second-half touchdowns and kept No. 11 Villanova off the scoreboard in the final two quarters to earn a 28-20 victory that moved the team a little closer to earning an FCS playoff berth.
UNH quarterback Max Brosmer had his final pass of the first half intercepted, but went 10-for -10 for 132 yards and two touchdowns after halftime. His 31-yard TD pass to running back Dylan Laube plus Jason Hughes’ point-after kick put UNH (5-3, 4-1) in front 21-20 with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. Brosmer also completed a 21-yard TD pass to Laube with 8:49 left.
“The kids just played really, really inspired football in the second half,” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said. “Just so proud of the fact we’re always going to play until the last whistle blows. That’s something we believe is who we are and it’s in our DNA and there was no quit in our guys tonight. Found a way to get a win against a really, really good opponent.”
Brosmer completed 25 of 31 passes for 276 yards in the game. He also tossed a 15-yard TD pass to Brian Espanet on the game’s opening drive.
“I made a bad throw (the interception), but I didn’t want to sulk on it and have it affect my second half,” Brosmer said. “I knew my team needed me. I buckled up and energized my offense, and they did a great job the rest of the second half.”
Villanova (6-3, 3-3 CAA) was limited to 162 yards in the second half — 48 of which came on the team’s final drive — and turned the ball over twice after halftime.
“Tale of two halves once again,” Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. “We did well in the first half. Moved the ball. Defense played pretty well, and then we come out and put up zero in the second half and they have some chunk plays and put the ball in the end zone. To their credit, they made plays in the second half and we didn’t.”
Villanova had a chance to force overtime after quarterback Daniel Smith scrambled for 20 yards on a fourth-and-17 play that moved the ball to the New Hampshire 32 with 20 seconds remaining, but UNH safety Evan Horn made his second interception of the game on the next play. Smith completed 21 of 40 passes for 313 yards in the loss, but was intercepted three times.
UNH also received a 31-yard TD run from Carlos Washington on its first second-half possession.
It was 7-7 after one quarter, but Villanova appeared to take control by outscoring New Hampshire 13-0 in the second. Smith found the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play to help Villanova take a 14-7 lead, and then Smith connected with senior wide receiver Zac Kerxton for a 24-yard pass that increased the lead to 20-7 with 3:10 remaining in the half.
After UNH went up 7-0 on Espanet’s TD catch, Villanova tied the game on TD Ayo-Durojaiye’s 5-yard touchdown run plus Drew Kesge’s PAT with 1:21 left in the first quarter.
“They were hitting us with a lot of things in the first half that we really didn’t prepare for — a lot of empties and different formations where we didn’t know how to react and call a play,” Horn said. “At halftime we saw what they were doing, make adjustments and it obviously showed.”