HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - University of New Hampshire quarterback Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.) threw four touchdown passes, including the decisive score to Aaron Brown (Central Square, N.Y.) with 6:40 left in regulation, as the second-ranked Wildcats escaped with a 29-26 win over the Hofstra Pride in Atlantic 10 action Saturday afternoon at Shuart Stadium.
Hofstra (5-4, 3-3 Atlantic 10) had a golden opportunity to retake the lead with two minutes left in regulation, but on a first-and-goal play from the UNH two-yard line, Pride running back Kareem Huggins fumbled the ball before reaching the end zone, and the Wildcats recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. UNH proceeded to spend all but one second of the remaining time, and a hail mary pass by Hofstra quarterback Anton Clarkson was intercepted as time expired.
Santos finished the game 23-of-35 for 285 yards and the four touchdowns, two of them to junior David Ball (Orange, Vt.), who caught eight passes for 123 yards. Senior running back John McCoy (Groton, Conn.) had a solid all-around game, carrying the ball 21 times for 91 yards and adding six catches for 70 yards.
The UNH defense gave up 533 yards of offense, but made plays when they were needed, causing eight Hofstra turnovers. Clarkson, who threw only five interceptions coming into the contest, was picked off four times, twice by Etienne Boulay (Montreal, Quebec), who also recovered one of Hofstra's four fumbles.
Corey Graham (Buffalo, N.Y.) earned 12 solo tackles and an interception, while Jeff Pammer (Northampton, Pa.) finished with 15 tackles and E.J. DeWitt (Newport, R.I.) contributed 11 total tackles, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
Neither defense gave up much in the first half of the fourth quarter, forcing two exchanges of punts. The Wildcats started the eventual game-winning drive from their own 45-yard line with 8:10 left in the quarter, marching 50 yards in three plays before the five-yard pass from Santos to Brown that put UNH up 27-26. With the Wildcats deciding to go for two, Santos ran a similar play, finding Ball at the front of the end zone for a successful conversion and the three-point lead.
After the Pride scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, the Wildcats came right back down the field, driving 77 yards and scoring on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Santos to Ball to tie the game. Hofstra went back on top with a field goal, but Santos found Jonathan Williams (Rochester, N.Y.) on a 14-yard pass to give the Wildcats a 14-10 lead with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
The game evolved from a shootout to a defensive struggle, as the two teams combined for only three points in the second quarter after scoring 24 in the first period. Hofstra kicker Rob Zarrilli made his second field goal of the game after Justyn Davis blocked a kick from UNH punter Matt Henry (Cresskill, N.J.) and the Pride recovered it on the UNH seven-yard line.
At the start of the third quarter, the UNH punting game played an important role in a Wildcat score, as Henry's punt hit a Hofstra player and was recovered by Sean Lynch (Salem, N.H.) at the Pride 14-yard line. Santos found Ball in the end zone on the very next play to give the Wildcats a 21-13 lead.
Hofstra took the momentum for the rest of the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns to take the lead. Clarkson found Terry Crenshaw on a shovel pass that turned into a 22-yard touchdown, then on the next possession the Hofstra quarterback sent a ten-yard pass over the middle to Brandon Seabald for the go-ahead score with three seconds left in the third quarter.
New Hampshire (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic 10) returns home for the final two games of the regular season, beginning next Saturday, Nov. 12, against the Iona College Gaels at noon at Cowell Stadium.