|Senior Wide Receiver
EVANSTON, Illinois.- Walter Payton Award candidates junior quarterback Ricky Santos (Bellingham, Mass.) and senior wide receiver David Ball (Orange, Vt.) led the University of New Hampshire football team to a 34-17 win over Northwestern University at Ryan Field on Saturday afternoon.
Santos finished the day with five touchdowns, two passing and three rushing and threw for 206 yards leading the Wildcat air attack on 18 of 24 passing. Ball caught two touchdowns with seven receptions and 72 total receiving yards. Ball (47 touchdowns) needs only three touchdowns to tie Jerry Rice’s all-time I-AA touchdown record (50).
"All 90 guys in our program felt we could win if we played our game," Santos said Saturday after leading a convincing 34-17 victory over Northwestern. "And that's what we did. We played our game," said Santos.
With 14:15 to play in the fourth quarter, Santos rushed one yard for this third rushing TD of the day to give UNH at 34-17 advantage after the PAT. With 1:26 left in the third quarter sophomore linebacker Matt Parent (Long Beach, Calif.) recovered a fumble on the NU 17 yd line after senior defensive back Corey Graham (Buffalo, N.Y.) stripped the ball from a Northwestern player, which led to Santos’ third rushing touchdown of the day. UNH held the home team scoreless in the third quarter.
"The kids at this level want to prove they can play Division I guys," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm still in shock a little," said Ball, on the verge of breaking some of Jerry Rice's I-AA records when he played at Mississippi Valley State.
Graham also made a huge play with 5:07 remaining as he intercepted a pass by NU quarterback Mike Kafka. Graham totaled eight tackles on the day for the ‘Cats
UNH drew first blood in the contest at 11:39 of the first quarter when a tremendous first drive went eight plays for 80 yards and was capped with 20 yd pass by Santos to Ball. It was the first TD given up by the Northwestern defense this season.
"We always talk about fast starts," Santos said. "When they deferred, we talked and said, `We have got to get a score and that will be big for us.' It kind of put them on the back of their heels for the rest of the game."
On the ensuing kick off Northwestern muffed the kick and UNH got the ball on NU’s 14 yd line. Four plays later, Santos then scored to make it 13-0 UNH at 10:12 of the first quarter.
Northwestern responded with a long run by Tyrell Sutton that set up a 7yd TD by Terrell Jordan and the UNH lead was cut to 13-7. Northwestern took the lead with 3:21 remaining in the first quarter, utilizing a 7-play 57 yard drive capped off by a six-yard touchdown run by Sutton.
Santos struck again at 13:50 of the second quarter when he dove one-yard to make the score 20-14 in favor of UNH. Santos engineered another exciting drive that included a fourth-down pass to junior Keith LeVan (Waltham, Mass.) that kept the 14-play/77-yd drive alive. LeVan made seven catches for 77 yards in UNH’s opening game of the season, as he made several key catches in third down situations.
A 35-yd field goal by NU’s Joel Howells closed the gap to 20-17 with 7:50 remaining before the half.
UNH opened the lead to 10 points with just 1:07 left before the half as Santos completed a pass to Ball, who was heavily covered and was interfered with, but Ball made the catch anyway, as the ‘Cats led 27-17. It was another long drive for UNH, who drove for 81 yards on seven plays, including another big third-down catch by LeVan to keep the drive moving.
At halftime, Santos had completed 17 of 21 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, both to Ball, while also rushing for two scores.
Junior running back Chris Ward (Waltham, Mass.) gained 62 yards on the ground on 21 rushing attempts.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior free safety Jeff Pammer (Northampton, Pa.) led the UNH team with 10 tackles, while senior defensive tackle Brendan St. Peter (Marshfield, Mass.) and junior linebacker Husain Karim (Burlington, Vt.) all total eight tackles in the victory.
The Wildcats will return to action next week in their home opener vs. Stony Brook on Saturday, Sept. 16. Game time is 12 p.m. at Cowell Stadium. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at www.unhwildcats.com.