Santos leads 'Cats with school-record seven TDs
DURHAM, N.H.-- Led by Walter Payton Award candidates Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.), who threw for four touchdowns and ran for three more, and David Ball (Orange, Vt.), who had eight receptions for 76 yards and three TDs, the No. 1-ranked University of New Hampshire football team recorded a 59-47 Atlantic 10 victory against the University of Maine in Saturday afternoon's regular-season finale at Cowell Stadium. UNH won the Brice-Cowell Muskett, which is presented annually to the victor of this rivalry, for the third consecutive year.
UNH won its sixth consecutive game to improve to 10-1 overall and earn a share of the Atlantic 10 title -- the Wildcats' first conference title since 1994 -- as well as the league automatic berth into the NCAA I-AA playoffs, with a 7-1 conference record. The Wildcats' first-round opponent will be announced Sunday, Nov. 20 in a 1 p.m. selection show that will be broadcast on ESPN News. New Hampshire, which tied the program record for single-season victories for the second consecutive year, will watch the selection show from its locker room.
Maine, which entered the game on a three-game winning streak, ends the season at 5-6, 3-5.
Santos, whose seven touchdowns is a UNH single-game record, completed 30 of 46 attempts for 354 yards. He was also the game's leading rusher with a career-high 116 yards on 18 carries.
With the Wildcats leading 31-28 at the half, Sanos and Ball combined for scoring plays of 20, 6 and 27 yards in the third quarter to extend the advantage to 52-28. Ball broke UNH's single-season receiving touchdown mark, which he established last season (17), with 18 this year. He also extended his career receiving yards record to 3,180 and moved into No. 2 on the all-time receptions list with 192.
Santos and Michael Boyle (Plymouth, N.H.) connected on a 48-yard pass play to give the 'Cats a 59-28 lead at 12:35 of the fourth quarter. Santos now has 33 touchdown passes this season, which breaks his 2004 school record of 31.
Maine quarterback Ron Whitcomb threw touchdown passes to Kevin McMahan (11 yards), Ryan Waller (8 yards) and McMahan (17 yards) in the final 5:44 to close the scoring. Whitcomb finished 36-for-60 for 363 yards, five TDs and two interceptions. Arel Gordon was the leader in both rushing (eight carries, 90 yards) and receiving (14 catches, 85 yards). Montell Owens finished with 89 yards on seven receptions. Four of McMahan's five catches were for touchdowns, and he finished with 79 yards.
Jon Williams (Rochester, N.Y.) had eight receptions for 89 yards and moved into UNH's top 10 list -- tied for eighth -- for career receptions with 131.
UNH opened up a 10-0 first-quarter lead on a six-yard run by Aaron Brown (Central Square, N.Y.) and a 40-yard field goal by Connor McCormick (Forty Fort, Pa.). Owens scored at 4:55 to pull Maine within 10-7, then each team scored 21 points in the second quarter. Santos ran for scores of 2, 7 and 24 yards while the Black Bears' scores were produced by Owens (1-yard run) and McMahan (5- and 22-yard receptions).
This marked the 26th time that UNH went through the regular season undefeated at home. The Wildcats, 6-0 at Cowell Stadium this season, last went unbeaten at home in 1996 (5-0).