DURHAM, N.H.— Chad Kackert (Simi Valley, Calif.) ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns – and compiled 267 all-purpose yards – to lead the No. 8-ranked University of New Hampshire football team to a 55-42 victory against the University of Rhode Island in Saturday afternoon’s CAA North division action at Cowell StadiuM.

New Hampshire utilized a balanced offense of 262 rushing yards and 234 passing yards to improve to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the CAA. URI, which compiled 535 total yards (424 passing), fell to 1-8, 0-6.

Kackert, who recorded a career high of 176 rushing yards last week vs. Northeastern, carried the ball just 15 times to compile 166 yards vs. the Rams; he had rushing TDs of 57 and 47 yards. Sean Jellison (Amherst, N.H.) had a pair of two-yard touchdown runs and also scored on a four-yard scamper; he finished the day with nine rushes for 22 yards.

R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) completed 15 of 27 passes for 234 yards, with TD passes to Scott Sicko (Stillwater, N.Y.) and Chris Jeannot (Moon Township, Pa.); Toman also carried the ball 16 times for 56 yards. Sicko had three catches for 41 yards, including the 27-yard scoring play, to move into the top 10 on UNH’s list for career receptions; the senior tight end now has 142. J.T. Wright (Agoura Hills, Calif.) was the Wildcats’ top receiver with 65 yards on five catches.

URI quarterback Chris Paul-Etienne completed 24 of 45 passes for 424 yards and four TDs. His top target was Shawn Leonard, who had 10 receptions for 275 yards, including scoring plays of 30, 72 and 13 yards. Ayo Isijola was the Rams’ top ground gainer with 66 yards on 13 carries.

Rhode Island opened the game with a long, effective drive of nine plays for 71 yards and took 3:56 off the clock as the Rams took the early 7-0 lead with 11:04 to play in the first quarter after the made PAT by Louis Feinstein.

However, the Wildcats responded 90 seconds later on their very first drive at 9:25 of the opening stanza when Kackert, a senior running back, ripped off a 53-yard TD run to tie things up at 7-7 after the PAT by senior kicker Tom Manning (Rome, N.Y.).

Rhode Island took the lead again at 4:11 of the first quarter when Feinstein booted a 39-yard field goal through the uprights to give the visitors a 10-7 lead.

A huge 46-yard pass play from Toman to junior wide receiver Kevon Mason (Quincy, Mass.) set up Jellison’s first score of the game at 2:30 of the first quarter, and the Wildcats took the lead for the first time, 14-10.

UNH built its lead to 21-10 on a beautiful 24-yard touchdownl pass by Toman to Sicko at 13:08 of the second quarter to cap a 10-play, 76 yard drive.

UNH jumped out to a 28-10 lead with 5:47 left before the intermission when Jellison scored his second TD of the game from 2 yards out. The long drive lasted 13 plays for 81 yards and took 4:21 off the clock.

The Rams cut UNH’s lead to 28-16 with just 27 seconds remaining before the half, as Anthony Ferrer dove in for the 1-yard score. However, the two-point conversion pass failed in the back of the end zone and the Wildcats took a 12-point lead into the locker room.

The Wildcats picked up the scoring in the second half with a 47-yard touchdown run by Kackert, his second long one of the day, with 14:04 remaining in the third quarter and the Wildcats led by 19 points, 35-16, after the PAT by Manning.

However, Rhode Island scored again on the next drive on a 30-yard TD pass by Paul-Etienne to Leonard and the UNH lead was cut to 35-23 with 9:55 to play in the third quarter.

Rhode Island’s Paul-Etienne threw another TD strike with 3:02 to play in the third quarter, this time for 20 yards to wide receiver Joe Bellini, and the Wildcats led by just five (35-30).

However, UNH got the ball on the URI 31 yard line after a 60 yard kick return by Kackert. Three plays later, Manning was forced to attempt a 42 yard field goal with 1:13 to play in the third and he put it through the uprights to give the Wildcats a 38-30 lead.

Junior linebacker Hugo Souza (Marshfield, Mass.) came up with a key interception to stop a driving URI offense and give the Wildcats the football on the URI 22 yard line. However, Rhode Island got the ball back with an interception by Victor Adesanya.

On the ensuing drive, Rhode Island’s Leonard caught a pass from Paul-Etienne on a wide receiver screen and ran 72 yards for a touchdown to cut UNH’s lead to 38-36 with 12:41 to play in the contest after the 2-point pass conversion failed.

On UNH’s next drive, Jeannot was tightly covered but somehow battled the football away from a URI defender and completed a 53-yard touchdown reception from Toman to give the Wildcats a 45-36 lead with 11:38 remaining in the game after the PAT by Manning.

On URI’s next drive, senior defensive end Kyle Maroney (Brockport, N.Y.) forced a fumble and senior linebacker Sean Ware (Bristol, Conn.) scooped it up and returned it to the URI 4 yard line with 10:43 to play in the contest. On the first play of the UNH drive, Jellison scored his third rushing touchdown of the afternoon to give the Wildcats a 52-36 lead with 10:39 to play in the fourth quarter.

Paul-Etienne and Leonard connected again, this time for a 13-yard touchdown play with 8:40 to play in the game, and once again the 2-point conversion failed and the lead decreased to just 10 points, 52-42 in favor of the ‘Cats.

With 5:58 to play in the game, Manning kicked his second field goal of the game, this time a 47 yarder, that put the Wildcats up 55-42 and secured the victory for UNH. Junior corner Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.) and junior linebacker Devon Jackson (Williamstown, N.J.) each led the Wildcats with 10 tackles on the afternoon.

The Wildcats will play a huge game next week when they travel to battle No. 5 William & Mary on Nov. 14, a contest that will have major implications for the conference standings and the NCAA FCS Championship tournament.

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