By Josh Sullivan
Andy Vailas ran for a 69-yard touchdown in the game’s opening drive and never looked back on Saturday en route to a 52-19 victory over Dartmouth College on New Hampshire Day. Vailas stepped in for the injured Sean Goldrich and threw for 219 yards and rushed for 11.
A bad punt leading to a safety and a Jimmy Owens 1-yard touchdown run later, the Wildcats found themselves up on top of Dartmouth 17-0 just over five minutes into the first quarter. Dartmouth fought back, though, and after wide receiver Stephen Williams caught his first ever reception for a touchdown and junior tailback Kyle Bramble blew past UNH coverage to catch a lob pass from quarterback Dalyn Williams, the Big Green found themselves down only four points in a 17-13 game.
The Wildcats started the scoring off again at the 8:00 mark. After a drive filled with Vailas completions to wide receivers Jimmy Giansante and R.J. Harris, Owens punched the ball in for a 2-yard touchdown run. A little under seven minutes later, Vailas took the ball to the end zone himself making it a 31-13 game.
The most pivotal moment of the game came in the final minute of the first half, when Dartmouth kick returner Kirby Schoenthaler returned Christian Breda’s kick for 92 yards inside the 5-yard line, setting up what should have been an easy touchdown. Thanks largely to a clutch pass breakup by cornerback Casey DeAndrade and a sack by captain Cody Muller, the Big Green had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from sophomore Alex Gakenheimer.
“I thought a key thing was that stop at the end of the half,” said head coach Sean McDonnell. “It gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. We were on our heels a little bit defensively, then we went in and got them to kick the field goal.”
Dartmouth would only get one more field goal on the day, a 41-yarder from Gakenheimer brought its point total to 19 on the night.
Harris had eight catches for 113 yards including two touchdown receptions in the third quarter. The first came on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Vailas and the second just inside the two-minute mark for two yards to make the final score 52-19.
The win puts the ‘Cats at 3-1 on the season, a very different start compared to this time last year when the team began 1-3.
Despite the drastic reversal, McDonnell isn’t letting it change his outlook on the season.
“We’re gonna enjoy this until about three in the afternoon tomorrow,” he said. “Then we’re going to sit down and figure out how to try and beat Elon.”
Josh Sullivan can be reached at TNHsports@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSully27.