KINGSTON, R.I.—The University of New Hampshire football team led by junior quarterback Ricky Santos with three rushing TDs and two passing TDs, scored early and often and took advantage of key turnovers in the first half en route to an impressive, 63-21 Atlantic 10 victory that kept the Wildcat I-AA playoff hopes alive.
UNH, now 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Atlantic 10, must now record a victory at Maine on Nov. 18 in order to have a good chance of getting an at-large bid to the playoffs. Rhode Island falls to 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
Santos finished the day with 271 passing yards (32-23-1) and also ran the football 12 times.
In addition, senior wide receiver David Ball (Orange, Vt.) tied the NCAA I-AA record for 100 yard receiving performances in a career, a mark previously held by NFL legend Jerry Rice, who also had 23 from 1981-1984. Ball also broke the Atlantic 10 record for career pass receptions, a mark held by Rhode Island’s own Brian Forster, who finished his career with 284 catches from 1983-1987. Ball finished his record-breaking day with 10 catches for 112 yards
The Wildcats opened the scoring at of the first quarter as Ricky Santos dove into the endzone on a 4 yard run. UNH capitalized on a fake punt that lost three yards for the Rams and gave the Wildcats the football on the URI 36 yard line. The kick by redshirt freshman kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.) was good and UNH led 7-0.
On the next drive Rhode Island fumbled the ball and it was recovered by senior defensive end Cory Dix (Concord, N.H.) on the Ram’s 45 yard line. A pass play from Santos to freshman running back Chad Kackert (Simi Valley, Calif) put the football on the Rhode Island 6 yard line.That was followed by a 6 yard TD run by junior running back Chris Ward (Waltham, Mass.). The kick by sophomore Tom Bishop (Newfield, N.Y.) was good and the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead with to play in the first quarter.
Rhode Island capitalized on a big 56 yard run by Derek Cassidy with to play in the first quarter, the kick was good and URI cut the UNH lead to 14-7.
In the second quarter the Wildcats opened up a 21-7 advantage on an 18 yard TD pass from Santos to junior receiver Keith LeVan (Waltham, Mass.), who grabbed the ball in the front corner of the end zone for paydirt with remaining in the first half.
The Rams closed the lead to 21-14 on a 7 yd run by Joe Casey with left before the intermission. The score capped an impressive 11-play 77 yard drive.
Kackert put UNH in scoring position again with an impressive 63 yard run that put the Wildcats on the 5 yd line. Ward, once again capitalized on a long Kackert run to score with 7:30 to play in the second quarter to give UNH a 28-14 lead following the PAT by Bishop.
Senior linebacker Muji Karim (Burlington, Vt.) got the ball back for the UNH offense when a URI pass was tipped into the air and Karim grabbed it and returned the interception to the URI 48 yard line.
Santos and LeVan took advantage of the turnover and connected for the second time on the afternoon at of the second quarter on a 13 yard pass play. The kick by Manning was good and the Wildcat lead increased to 35-14.
Muji Karim did it again for the defense at before the half, recovering a fumble at the URI 14 yd line. Two runs later, both by Santos, the quarterback carried the football 8 yards and after the Bishop kick the Wildcats led by a 42-14 margin.
Santos scored his third rushing TD of the day on a 2 yard run to give the Wildcats a commanding 49-14 advantage with to play in the third quarter.
Leading the team in tackles was sophomore linebacker Matt Parent with 7-1-8 with a sack and a forced fumble. Muji Karim finished the afternoon with 2 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.