TOLEDO, Ohio – Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) completed 21-of-28 passes for 162 yards, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another, but it wasn't enough to prevent the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team from suffering a 58-22 loss in its season opener at the University of Toledo on Thursday night at the Glass Bowl.
Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J./three carries-63 yards), in his collegiate debut, raced for an 87-yard touchdown run, the longest by a Wildcat since Chad Kackert's 73-yard run against Northeastern on Oct. 31, 2009. Even after Steriti's dazzling run with 8:14 left in the contest, Toledo's lead was a comfortable 58-22.
The Rockets (1-0, 0-0 MAC) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) dominated the contest, outscoring the Wildcats (0-1, 0-0 CAA) 30-8 in the first half and scoring 35 points off five New Hampshire turnovers. The 58 points were the most allowed by UNH in the Sean McDonnell era.
UNH scored its first points late in the first half when Decker hit Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass./seven rushes-35 yards) for a three-yard touchdown to conclude a nine-play, 61-yard drive with 28 seconds remaining in the first half. It was Setian's first career reception. Decker called his own number to convert the two-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 27-8.
Decker scored the second Wildcat touchdown with 4:08 left in the third quarter, breaking the plane for a one-yard score on 4th-and-goal. The extra point from Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) trimmed Toledo's lead to 44-15.
All told, Toledo totaled 591 yards of offense and posted three scoring plays of 45 yards or more in the contest, the first meeting between the two schools in 62 years.
Leading 3-0 late in the first quarter, the Rockets' defense forced its first turnover when Decker's pass intended for tight end Sean Cullen (Naples, Fla.) was knocked away by cornerback Taikwon Paige into the hands of safety Diauntae Morrow for an interception, giving the Rockets possession at UNH's 30. Three plays later, Eric Page was on the receiving end of a 24-yard touchdown pass from Austin Dantin. Ryan Casano's extra point lifted Toledo's advantage to 10-0 with 2:24 left in the opening stanza.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats had six points taken off the board when an apparent 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md./seven rushes-20 yards) was negated by a personal foul penalty. The Rockets capitalized on the good fortune when defensive tackle Johnathan Lamb forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Charles Rancifer at UNH's 45-yard line.
Backup quarterback Terrance Owens entered the game and threw his first pass, a 45-yard post pattern to Bernard Reedy for a touchdown with 1:05 left in the first quarter. Casano's PAT made it 17-0.
The lead ballooned to 24-0 with 9:35 left in the second quarter courtesy of a 46-yard touchdown run by tailback Adonis Thomas that put the finishing touches on a seven-play, 82-yard drive. The drive was preceded by UNH's third turnover of the half, a forced fumble by Robert Bell that was picked up by defensive end Malcolm Riley at Toledo's 18.
Casano tacked on two more field goals in the half, a 33-yarder with 3:23 left for a 27-0 lead and a 38-yarder on the final play of the half for a 30-8 lead.
Toledo seized a 3-0 lead with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter when Casano capped an 11-play, 54-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal.
The Rockets scored on their opening possession of the second half, going 75 yards on nine plays before Danton found Morgan Williams on a catch-and-run 15-yard scoring pass play for a 37-8 lead with 12:01 left in the third quarter.
Toledo forced its fourth turnover of the game when linebacker Dan Molls sacked Decker, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Robert Bell at Toledo's 37. One play later, Dantin spotted a wide open Reedy for a 63-yard touchdown, lifting the lead to 44-8 with 8:58 remaining in the third period.
Owens threw his second touchdown strike of the night to Danny Noble on an eight-yard rollout with 14:55 remaining in the game, allowing the Rockets to build a 51-15 lead.
It was the most points allowed by a New Hampshire team since a 64-42 loss to Massachusetts on Nov. 19, 1988.
The Wildcats return to action at Lehigh University next Saturday, Sept. 10, for a 12:30 p.m. game at Goodman Stadium. UNH's home opener is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at 12 p.m. against Holy Cross at Cowell Stadium. For tickets, visit www.unhwildcats.com or call (603) 862-4000, x 5.