DURHAM, N.H.- Senior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) passed for a career-high 348 yards and threw four touchdown passes as the 16th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team defeated Lehigh, 31-10, in front of a sun-drenched crowd of 8,144 at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The 'Cats matched a school record by earning their 11th straight home victory.
Toman went 26 of 37, adding 19 yards rushing on eight carries. Senior Terrance Fox (Piscataway, N.J.) went over the 100-yard receiving mark for the second consecutive game, catching nine passes for a career-high 134 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) set new career benchmarks with 10 receptions, 81 yards and two touchdowns against his hometown team.
The UNH defense turned in a stirring performance, holding Lehigh to just 129 total yards (60-rushing, 69-passing) and tallying three interceptions. Making his second straight start at middle linebacker in place of injured captain Devon Jackson (Williamstown, N.J.), sophomore Alan Buzbee (Chester, N.J.) recorded a game-high and career-best 13 tackles, including six solo stops and a forced fumble.
Sophomore running back Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md.) rushed 19 times for 93 yards (4.9 yards per carry), pacing a Wildcats' ground attack that compiled 165 yards on 51 carries.
UNH (2-2, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Association) scored first on a 37-yard field goal from redshirt freshman Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) with 9:36 remaining in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead. MacArthur's field goal capped a 13-play, 44-yard drive, including a 26-yard pass play from Toman to senior wide receiver Kevon Mason (Quincy, Mass./two catches-77 yards) on a 3rd-and-10 play, extending the drive and putting the ball at the Mountain Hawks' 28-yard line.
Lehigh (2-2, 0-0 Patriot League) evened the score, 3-3, on a 42-yard field goal from Jake Peery with 5:34 to go in the first quarter.
UNH recaptured the lead, taking a 10-3 advantage courtesy of a three-play, 67-yard drive culminating in a one-yard scoring toss from Toman to Orlando, who caught a fade over his right shoulder in the back right corner of the end zone. Toman began the drive by finding Mason deep along the left sideline for a 51-yard pass play to the Lehigh 16. It was the 'Cats longest pass play of the season. Peters carried for 15 yards on the next play, setting up Orlando's first scoring reception with 4:13 remaining in the first.
The Mountain Hawks returned the Wildcats' ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the UNH 23-yard line, but the New Hampshire defense negated the great field position by holding Lehigh to minus-five yards on the subsequent three-play drive. Senior cornerback Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa./four tackles) broke up quarterback Mike Colvin's 3rd-and-15 pass attempt, and the possession came up empty when Peery missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt.
Lehigh would bounce back to tie the game, getting a fortuitous bounce on a 3rd-and-11 play when Buzbee forced a fumble from Colvin (10 of 28, 69 yards, three interceptions), only to see Hawks' tight end Alex Wojdowski fall on the loose ball at the New Hampshire 11 for a first down. Lehigh capitalized on the break, with tailback Jay Campbell (nine carries-31 yards, TD) racing into the end zone on the next play. The PAT knotted the score at 10 with 14:04 to go in the first half.
The seesaw swung back in UNH's direction four minutes later when Toman hooked up with Fox on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Fox snared Toman's throw on a crossing route inside the Lehigh five-yard line and fought his way the final few yards for the touchdown. MacArthur's PAT made it a 17-10 lead with 10:04 remaining in the half.
The Wildcats' defense once again flexed its collective muscle on Lehigh's next drive, with junior defensive end Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.) sacking Colvin for a 10-yard loss, one of McNally's seven tackles (four solo) on the afternoon. Two plays later, sophomore linebacker Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass./10 tackles) applied pressure on Colvin, forcing an errant pass that was intercepted by Vasso at Lehigh's 35-yard line.
New Hampshire would fail to cash in, however, after Lehigh cornerback Bryan Andrews (five tackles) intercepted a Toman pass that deflected off Fox's hands, returning it 46 yards to the UNH 40.
The Wildcats took a 24-10 lead into the locker room after amassing a methodical 10-play, 80-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock. Toman went 5-for-5 on the drive for 50 yards, completing passes to five different receivers –Orlando; Fox; senior Chris Chandler (Wakefield, Mass./two catches-27 yards); senior Sean Jellison (Amherst, N.H./one catch-4 yards/15 carries-35 yards) and Peters, who took a swing pass and followed key downfield blocks from senior tight end Kyle Auffray (Cornwall, N.Y.), Fox and Mason for a 14-yard score with 1:04 remaining in the half. One play earlier, Toman scrambled for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-9, keeping the drive alive.
UNH added to its lead on the opening possession of the second half when Toman threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, finding a leaping Orlando in the left corner of the end zone with a 14-yard, back-shoulder fade, bumping the lead to 31-10 with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter. The highlight of the drive was Fox's 33-yard reception at the Lehigh 19.
After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Wildcats hit the road to tangle with the Maine Black Bears on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 6 p.m. in the annual battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket at Alfond Stadium. The next UNH home game is Saturday, Oct. 9, at 12 p.m. when Richmond invades Cowell Stadium for homecoming. For ticket information, call 1-800-745-3000, visit the Whittemore Center box office weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or log on to UNHWildcats.com.