September 10, 2011

No. 13/16 Football Outlasts No. 14/14 Lehigh, 48-41, in Overtime

10 catches-166 yards-2 TDS
56-yard punt return for TD

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Playing in front of his hometown fans, Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) scored a career-high three touchdowns, including the 25-yard game-winning reception in overtime, to lift the No. 13/16 University of New Hampshire football team to a 48-41 triumph over No. 14/14 Lehigh on Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium.

Orlando notched a career-best 166 receiving yards on 10 catches, matching a personal best. The junior wide receiver also recorded a 17-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter that put him over 1,000 career receiving yards and returned a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter.

UNH (1-1, 0-0 CAA) evened its record by winning its first overtime game since Nov. 18, 2006, at Maine. Lehigh (1-1, 0-0 Patriot League) suffered its first defeat despite rallying from an 18-point, second-half deficit to grab a 41-38 lead with 4:35 remaining in regulation.

The Wildcats forced overtime when Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) booted a 35-yard field goal with 3:23 left in regulation.

Kevin Decker (Armonk N.Y.) registered the first 300-yard passing game of his career, completing 23 passes (career-high matching) in 34 attempts for 330 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a pair of two-yard touchdowns.

Decker's final throw of the day came on the first play of OT, when he found Orlando in the front left corner of the end zone. Orlando, who was bumped out of bounds on the play, was able to come back into the field of play to make the tumbling reception.

Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.) tallied a career-high 24 tackles for a defense that recorded three interceptions, including the game-ending interception by Kyle Flemings (Forty Fort, Pa.) at the UNH 2-yard line on the final play of OT.

Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum went 36 of 54 for 401 yards and six touchdowns in the losing effort. Jake Drwal led the Mountain Hawks with 11 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns; Zach Barket added 10 receptions for 84 yards and two touchdown catches.

Orlando's career-high 56-yard punt return for a TD with 12:29 left in the third quarter increased New Hampshire's lead to 31-20 following MacArthur's PAT. It was UNH's first punt return for a score since now-Chicago Bear Corey Graham's 51-yarder versus Stony Brook on Sept. 16, 2006.

The Wildcats then parlayed their first forced turnover of the season into points when safety Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) picked off Lum at the Mountain Hawks' 29, returning it three yards to the 26. Two plays later, following a 14-yard run by Dontra Peters (Annapolis, Md./ 11 carries-44 yards), Decker hit R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md./eight catches-107 yards-TD) for a 12-yard touchdown, the first of Harris' career, with 11:51 left in the third quarter for a 38-20 lead.

The Wildcat defense snuffed out Lehigh's next drive when Chris Beranger (Winthrop, Mass.) intercepted Lum's 3rd-and-10 pass from the UNH 14 in the end zone with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter.

The Mountain Hawks turned the tables when Sam Laughery stripped Orlando on a punt return, with Tyler Ward recovering at the UNH 11. Three players later, Lum zipped in a 10-yard scoring strike to Drwal that reduced New Hampshire's lead to 38-27 with 2:10 left in the third quarter.  

Lehigh forced a UNH punt and then strung together its longest drive of the game. Lum's fifth touchdown pass of the day, a four-yard hookup with Keith Sherman, ended a nine-play, 80-yard drive that milked 4:25 off the clock. The PAT failed, keeping UNH's lead at 38-33 with 11:03 left in the game.

The Hawks seized their final lead of the contest when Lum found Drwal for an 11-yard TD on a 4th-and-3 with 4:35 left in the fourth. Ryan Spadola (five catches-70 yards-TD) was on the receiving end of the successful two-point conversion, staking Lehigh to a short-lived 41-38 lead.

After receiving the game's opening kickoff, UNH marched 65 yards on nine plays and scored the game's first touchdown when Decker bootlegged for a scoring run on 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Orlando made two catches for 46 yards on the drive, including a 38-yard reception that put the ball at Lehigh's 2. MacArthur's point-after staked the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead with 12:13 remaining in the first quarter.

Lehigh answered right back, orchestrating a seven-play, 64-yard scoring drive on its initial possession. Facing a 4th-and-5, Barket took a short pass from Lum and raced 26 yards to the end zone for his first TD of the game. The PAT tied the game, 7-7, with 9:32 left in the first quarter.

The Lum-to-Barket connection would gave the Mountain Hawks their first lead of the contest with 4:06 left in the first when the backpedaling signal caller lofted a fade to the running back along the right sideline for a 10-yard touchdown. The six-play drive was preceded by cornerback Bryan Andrews' interception of a Decker pass, which was returned 15 yards to the UNH 45. Wildcat defensive tackle Jared Smith (Greencastle, Pa.) blocked the extra point attempt, holding Lehigh's lead at 13-6.

The Wildcats went back on top, 14-13, by engineering a 14-play, 75-yard drive on their next possession. Decker accounted for 65 of those yards, throwing for 50 yards on 6-of-6 passing and carrying four times for an additional 15 yards. He finished off the drive with his second score of the day, spinning away from a tackle on a two-yard touchdown rush. MacArthur's PAT snapped the tie with 14:05 left in the second quarter.

Once again, though, the Mountain Hawks moved back in front by putting together a seven-play, 78-yard drive. Lum threw his third touchdown pass of the day, a 12-yard strike to Spadola, giving Lehigh a 20-14 lead with 10:18 left in the first half.  

The fourth lead change of the first half came with 7:16 left before the intermission. The Wildcats went 70 yards on eight plays, culminating with Decker, rolling to his left, finding Orlando in the end zone for a 17-yard scoring pass that permitted UNH to recapture the lead, 21-20. Orlando, who had earlier kept the drive alive by leaping for a six-yard, 4th-and-2 reception at the Lehigh 23, went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career with the touchdown grab.

UNH increased its lead to 24-20 on MacArthur's first field goal of the season, a 25-yarder with 44 seconds remaining in the half. Decker was 4-of-5 for 73 yards on the drive, with Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.) making a career-high 31-yard reception and Harris hauling in a pair of passes for 31 yards on the 10-play, 80-yard excursion.

The Wildcats have a bye next weekend followed by their CAA opener against the University of Richmond at Robins Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24, beginning at 3:30 p.m.  UNH's first home game 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.

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