DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –Making his first start of the season in place of injured starter R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.), junior quarterback Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) threw for three second-half touchdowns to lead the 10th-ranked UNH Wildcats to a 45-20 victory over 13th-ranked Bethune-Cookman University in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday afternoon at Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium.
New Hampshire, which improves to 8-4 with the win, advances to meet No. 3 seed Delaware next weekend in the national quarterfinals. The Blue Hens dispatched Lehigh, 42-20, in their second-round game Saturday.
The Wildcats earn the first December win in school history in eight tries and win a postseason game for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Bethune-Cookman, the MEAC champion making its first postseason appearance since 2003, sees its season end with a record of 10-2.
Decker completed a career-high 23 passes in 35 attempts for 289 yards and three touchdowns.
With the game tied 14-14 entering the third period, UNH exploded for 21 third-quarter points. Decker, making only his second career start, found sophomore Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) for a five-yard touchdown; Chris Chandler (Wakefield, Mass.) hauled in his first career scoring grab, a 63-yard catch-and-run score; and Terrance Fox (Piscataway, N.J.) was on the receiving end of a 14-yard score that put the game effectively out of reach, 35-14.
Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) put the exclamation point on the triumph by carrying for a five-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his first career score, and A.J. DeLago (Menands, N.Y.) kicked a 30-yard field goal with 2:10 left to cap the scoring for New Hampshire. Setian led the Wildcats' rushing attack with 65 yards on 13 carries.
Senior captain Sean Jellison (Amherst, N.H.) carried seven times for 29 yards and two touchdowns, his first two scoring rushes of the season, in the first half before being sidelined in the second half.
Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.) set a career best by recording 2.5 sacks, giving him a share of the UNH single-season record of 11.5 sacks with former NFL player Dwayne Sabb.
Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) led the way with 10 tackles, upping his CAA-leading total to 145 tackles on the season, good for second-best in UNH single-season history.
UNH took a 7-0 lead with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter on a five-yard touchdown run from Jellison. The drive began on the Bethune-Cookman 44-yard line when senior captain Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.) hauled in his CAA-leading sixth interception of the season on a deep fade along the left sideline, giving the 'Cats possession at the B-CU 44-yard line. Vasso's 18th career interception moved him two away from the school record.
Advantageous field position played a helpful role in Jellison's second scoring run of the first quarter, a nine-yard scamper off right tackle that capped a four-play, 40-yard drive for a 14-0 lead with 6:20 remaining.
Bethune-Cookman used a big play to get on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Courtney Keith took a swing pass and outran the defense for a 53-yard touchdown. That sliced New Hampshire's lead to 14-7 with 13:50 left in the first half.
The home-standing Wildcats knotted the score at 14-14 by virtue of a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jackie Wilson to Isidore Jackson with 3:51 remaining before halftime.
BC-U scored on the last play of the game when Wilson (16-for-32, 192 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT) found Eddie Poole on an eight-yard pass.
The Wildcats will visit No. 3 seed and CAA rival Delaware in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA D-I Football Championship on Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.ncaa.com