By GREG LAUDANI
UNH running back Dalton Crossan is officially the king of homecoming.
The dynamic junior rushed for 140 yards and four touchdowns to guide the Wildcats to a 37-14 victory over Elon University on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out homecoming crowd at Cowell Stadium.
New Hampshire (3-2, 1-1 CAA) got its running game going early and never looked back. Crossan led the team in yardage and became the first member of the current UNH roster to rush for 100 yards or more in a single game.
“We ran the ball very well and our offensive linemen blocked unbelievably,” Crossan said. “They really opened up some holes for us to get going.”
UNH demonstrated command right from its opening possession. The Wildcats marched 77 yards in four plays and Crossan finished the drive with a 36-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Crossan scored on a 1-yard run later in the quarter to push New Hampshire’s lead to 20-0.
The Wildcats’ largest lead was 34-0 after Crossan scored his fourth touchdown of the game, a 2-yard run with 4:49 left in the second quarter. UNH built a 34-7 halftime lead behind its commanding running game.
At the half, Crossan had already gained 93 yards and four scores on 12 carries.
“He’s a productive kid in all phases, not only running with the football but he can catch it and return kicks,” McDonnell said. “The thing I liked about today was that he ran downhill.”
Elon could never manage to make it a game even though it held UNH to just three points in the second half. The Phoenix cut the lead to 34-14 in the third quarter on a 2-yard scoring run by B.J. Bennett but could not gain enough traction to get any closer.
“I always felt we were in control of the game,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said. “I thought it was a good victory and I was very pleased with the way we got out of the gate and played in the first half.”
When asked postgame about his success running the ball, Crossan deflected the attention to his teammates.
“It’s not me, it’s a team effort,” he said. “Our wide receivers and offensive linemen blocked great. Everybody blocked great and that makes my job very easy to find the holes and just run.”
Along with Crossan’s production on the ground, the Wildcats also received another strong start from quarterback Adam Riese, who played in place of injured starter Sean Goldrich for the second straight game.
Riese completed 22 of 32 passes for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His touchdown came on a 4-yard pass to Jordan Powell in the first quarter. The junior quarterback commanded an efficient Wildcats’ offense that produced 398 total yards.
New Hampshire’s defense was inspired by its thriving offense. UNH had five interceptions against Elon after coming into the game with zero picks on the season. The Wildcats had five players who each recorded an interception. On the list were defensive backs Casey DeAndrade, D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie and Lamar Edmonds, along with linebackers Akil Anderson and Ryan Farrell.
Anderson said UNH’s offensive production gave the defense energy and confidence to take the ball away from Elon.
“When the offense is having a lot of success, we feed off of that,” Anderson said. “That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on: playing with energy. When we play with energy, we play pretty well.”
The Wildcats defense limited Elon to just 84 total yards in the first half thanks in large part to their pressure on quarterbacks Daniel Thompson and Connor Christiansen. UNH recorded two sacks and consistently disrupted Elon’s passing game.
“I think we played downhill early and I think that helped us out,” Anderson said. “We stopped the run so they had to be more one-dimensional and we started picking up on some of their routes.”
Elon picked up 229 yards in the second half to finish with 313 total on the afternoon. McDonnell said he would have liked to see his team play the entire game as well as it started it.
“We’ll have to watch the tape to figure out what happened in the latter part of it,” he said. “It didn’t taste good going through the middle of it.”
New Hampshire does not play next weekend and next travels to the College of William & Mary on Saturday, Oct. 17 for another CAA matchup at 12 p.m.
McDonnell said the bye week is coming at a good time for the Wildcats.
“When you’re looking at where we are, obviously we’d all like to be a little better than this but like I told the guys, the good thing is that we have two weeks to get better and two weeks to get healthy, which is a really good thing.”
Crossan’s career day leads ‘Cats: The running back’s 4 touchdown day sealed homecoming win
By GREG LAUDANI