STONY BROOK -- Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.) recorded eight catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns to propel the No. 20/22 University of New Hampshire football team to Saturday evening's 31-13 victory against Stony Brook University at LaValle Stadium.
UNH extended its winning streak to three games to improve to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the CAA. SBU, which entered the game with two consecutive wins, is now 3-4, 1-3.
For Mello, both the eight receptions and three TDs were career highs while the 110 yards was seven less than his personal best. Quarterback Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) completed 15 of 29 passes for 186 yards and the three scores to Mello; he also carried 15 times for 36 yards. Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) was the Wildcats' top rusher with 19 carries for 69 yards.
The defense limited SBU to 286 yards (157 rushing, 129 passing), forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and recorded three sacks. Lamar Edmonds (Worcester, Mass.) and Shane McNeely (Whitehall, Pa.) tied for the team lead with eight tackles apiece. Edmonds also recorded his first career interception, and McNeely scooped up a fumble recovery. DeVaughn Chollette (Scranton, Pa.) tallied a career-high seven tackles.
SBU was led offensively by James Kenner (26 carries, 113 yards), Lyle Negron (9-for-24, 129 yds) and Adrian Coxson (three catches, 68 yds).
After falling behind 3-0, UNH scored 16 consecutive points to build a 16-3 lead midway through the second quarter. The 'Cats led 16-6 at halftime and inched further ahead, 19-6, at 7:03 of the third quarter. The Seawolves pulled within 19-13 at 3:33 of the third quarter, but New Hampshire scored a TD on the last play of the quarter -- a 15-yard pass from Goldrich to Mello -- to establish a 25-13 lead. Mello's 36-yard TD catch capped the scoring, 31-13, at 11:20 of the fourth quarter.
On the opening drive of the game, SBU marched 71 yards on 15 plays in 6:47 to take a 3-0 lead on Graham Ball's 21-yard field goal at 8:13. After converting their initial 3rd-and-6 from the SBU 30 with a 17-yard pass, the Seawolves ran the ball eight consecutive plays to set up 1st-and-goal at the UNH 4. Following Kenner's one-yard rush, a pair of incompletions led to the field goal.
A 47-yard punt by Brad Prasky (Groton, Mass.) pinned SBU at its 11-yard line. The Wildcats' defense forced a 3-and-out, then the long snap to the punter sailed out of the end zone for a safety to lift the 'Cats within 3-2 at 5:13.
On the ensuing New Hampshire drive, Goldrich ran for 23 yards on 3rd-and-21 to extend the drive, and one play later he connected with Steriti on a 23-yard pass play to set up 1st-and-10 at the SBU 26. Two plays later, Mello hauled in Goldrich's over-the-shoulder pass at the left pylon for a 23-yard TD catch. The Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) PAT gave UNH a 9-3 lead at 2:39.
Early in the second quarter, Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) blocked a punt to give the visitors 1st-and-10 at its 49 at 12:10 of the second quarter, and UNH subsequently extended its lead to 16-3 on a seven-play, 51-yard drive. Steriti opened with a 19-yard run and Dalton Crossan (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) had a 22-yard ground gain to make it 1st-and-goal at the SBU 9. On 4th-and-1 from the shotgun formation, Setian took the inside handoff and ran up the middle untouched for the touchdown. MacArthur's PAT gave UNH a 13-point lead at 9:37.
UNH's defense immediately got the ball back for the Wildcats when Nick Cefalo (Basking Ridge, N.J.) tipped the ball in the air, intercepted it at the SBU 46 and returned it 15 yards to the SU 31. The Wildcats were forced to punt, however, and the Seawolves marched 48 yards on 11 plays to trim the deficit to 16-6 on Ball's 39-yard field goal at 2:41 of the second quarter.
UNH responded with a possession in which the 'Cats faced 4th-and-7 at the SBU 32, but Goldrich's short pass to Setian fell incomplete to end the 12-play drive with 14 seconds left in the half. Instead of taking a knee to end the half, Kenner carried the ball up the middle for 21 yards to set up 1st-and-10 at the UNH 47, but Negron's Hail Mary pass was batted down in the end zone by Steven Thames (Fort Washington, Md.) to end the half.
Edmonds' interception on the right sideline gave UNH possession at the SBU 35 with 8:27 remaining in the third quarter. Five plays later, MacArthur's 33-yard field goal extended the lead to 19-6 at 7;03.
Stony Brook answered with a seven-play, 62-yard TD drive that culminated with Negron's 8-yard play-action pass to Will Tye at 3:33. Ball's PAT made it 19-13.
UNH immediately reestablished a double-digit lead, 25-13, on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. On the second play, Goldrich's 24-yard carry advanced the ball to the SBU 46. The Wildcats called time out facing 3rd-and-6 at the SBU 15 with four seconds left in the third quarter. On an out pattern to the left pylon, Mello caught the ball at the goal line for a 15-yard TD with no time remaining in the third quarter.
After the defensive force a 3-and-out, New Hampshire put together a 70-yard TD drive -- with the assistance of two SBU pass interference penalties -- on just three plays to build a 31-13 lead at 11:20 of the fourth quarter. On a 2nd-and-18 play, Goldrich found Mello along the right sideline at the SBU 5, and the wide receiver eluded a pair of defenders to get into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown.
New Hampshire returns to action Nov. 2 (1:30 p.m.) at the College of William & Mary. The Wildcats' next home game is Nov. 9 (12:30 p.m.) against James Madison University; tickets are available online at www.unhwildcats.com or by calling (603) 862-4000 ext. 5.