Ball, Graham, Santos and Peterson Named All-Conference
PHILADELPHIA - The University of New Hampshire football team was picked to finish No. 1 in the North Division of the Atlantic 10 Football Conference at the annual Atlantic 10 Media Day held at the Renaissance Philadelphia Hotel on Wednesday afternoon.
The Wildcats received 22 out of a possible 27 votes in the coaches poll, followed by Massachusetts (5), Maine, Hofstra, Rhode Island and Northeastern. In the South, James Madison received 17 first-place votes, followed by Richmond (9), Delaware (1), William & Mary, Villanova and Towson.
UNH's conference schedule is among the toughest in the nation as evidenced by the fact that UNH's three opponents from the South this season are the top three teams in the poll (JMU, Richmond and Delaware).
The Wildcats also had four players named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference squad in senior wide receiver David Ball (Orange, Vt.), senior defensive back Corey Graham (Buffalo, N.Y.), junior quarterback Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.) and senior offensive lineman Tucker Peterson (Clarendon, Vt.).
Ball, a team tri-captain, is chasing after numerous NCAA, Atlantic 10 and UNH records in his final season with the Wildcats, but the one record being watched most closely is the all-time NCAA record for career touchdowns. Presently holding that record is NFL legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who caught 50 touchdown passes while at Mississippi Valley State. Ball checks in with 45 TD catches at UNH and needs just five to tie and six to break the mark. Ball has already broken NFL star Randy Moss's record (Marshall 1996) with at least one TD in 11 different games, Ball has shattered nearly all of UNH's receiving records after making 87 catches for 1,551 yds and 24 TDs last season. Ball, named an All-American by several different media outlets last season, finished seventh in the voting for the Walter Payton Award. He has caught 211 career passes and has compiled a career mark of 3,541 career receiving yards while at UNH.
Graham is emerging as one of the top defensive backs in all of I-AA football and could be considered a strong candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award and All-America honors in 2006. Also a tri-captain for the Wildcats, he was a second-team All-Atlantic 10 performer as both a DB and as a kick returner. He was the Wildcats' second-leading tackler in 2005 (73-31-104) and he tied for second on the squad in interceptions with three for 75 yds. Graham was a key reason why UNH led the nation in turnover margin in 2005.
Santos is also on pace to shatter all of UNH's season and career passing marks after being named the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year in 2005, an All-American several times and finishing second in the voting for "The Sport Network" Walter Payton Award. Santos completed 301 of 429 pass attempts for 3,797 yards and 39 passing touchdowns in 2005 and posted an eye-popping completion percentage of 70.2. He already has 7,115 career passing yds and is on pace to break numerous NCAA marks. Santos also has 70 career touchdown passes and has run for nine TDs and caught one pass in his UNH career.
Last but certainly not least is Peterson, a very physical offensive lineman at 6-2, 310 pounds. A starter on the offensive line for the third consecutive season, he was one of the main reasons why the UNH offense produced over 42 ppg. and well over 493.9 yds. per contest. Named an honorable-mention All-American by "The Sports Network", he is a team tri-captain and was named third-team all-conference by the Atlantic 10 at the conclusion of the 2005 season.
The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 in all of I-AA at the end of the regular season, advanced to the NCAA I-AA quarterfinals for the second consecutive year and earned a share of the Atlantic 10 title. The Wildcats have been been selected No. 1 this season by many media outlets including "Street & Smith's" and Lindy's.
The football team will open the 2006 campaign on Sept. 9 at Division I Northwestern and the squad's home-opener is set for Sept. 16 vs. Stony Brook. Game time is 12 p.m. at Cowell Stadium. Tickets can be purchased online at www.unhwildcats.com.