For the first time in 40 years, the UNH football team lost to intrastate rival Dartmouth College on Saturday night.
The Wildcats held a 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold on as Dartmouth stormed back to claim the 22-21 victory. UNH falls to 1-2, a disappointingly slow start to the year.
“I think we took their best shot early. [We] came back, played well throughout the 2nd and 3rd quarter and then the 4th quarter we kind of fell apart,” senior captain Casey DeAndrade said after the game. “It’s back to the drawing board like coach said.”
DeAndrade had yet another big game, accumulating eight tackles, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles recovered by his teammates. UNH turned the pigskin over three times themselves, resulting in a touchdown late and a missed field goal for Dartmouth.
Momentum flipped with 7:33 remaining in the game when Dartmouth safety Colin Boit intercepted Wildcat quarterback Adam Riese and returned it 42 yards to the UNH 44 yard line. The turnover led to a Big Green touchdown that cut the UNH lead to five, 21-16. The Wildcats followed that up with a three play drive and a quick punt, allowing junior quarterback Jack Heneghan and his offense 3:35 to try and win the game.
A one-yard touchdown pass from Heneghan to Charles Mack gave the Big Green their first lead since they led 7-0 in the first half. Riese replaced a potentially injured, sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight late in the contest, throwing for 45 yards and the interception. Knight returned on the ‘Cats’ final possession but couldn’t move them into scoring range, finishing with 170 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Trailing by seven late in the second quarter, sophomore linebacker Jared Kuehl took a Heneghan pass the other way 61 yards to tie the game. Shortly after, Knight commandeered a 10-play, 86-yard drive that was capped off by sophomore wide receiver Kieran Presley’s first career catch for a 27-yard touchdown.
Knight found redshirt freshman tight end Justin Malone-Woods for an 8-yard touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter and it appeared the Wildcats were on their way to 21 straight games against Dartmouth without a loss. The Big Green defense dug in from there and along with Heneghan’s late touchdown passes defeated the Wildcats for the first time since Sept. 25, 1976.
Senior running back Dalton Crossan took a step back after his career night at Wildcat Stadium, finishing with 45 yards on 12 carries and 44 yards receiving on 10 receptions. Crossan also put the ball on the turf twice, losing one inside the Wildcat 20-yard line. Knight’s dual-threat abilities were kept in check as he ran for 24 yards on eight carries.
The sophomore quarterback’s favorite target throughout the game was redshirt freshman wide receiver Malik Love. Love had a team high in both receptions and yards with 13 and 108, respectively.
Entering Saturday, UNH had outscored Dartmouth by over 20 in eight straight meetings, their last close contest coming in 2002. The Wildcats had also scored over 40 points every game against their state rival since the 2002 meeting. This night was different, by virtue of a dominating 4th quarter from the Big Green.
“Just didn’t finish the game the way we need to finish the game,” head coach Sean McDonnell said, expressing his disappointment after the game about his team’s struggles in the final quarter.
The Wildcats look to bounce back on the road against the University of Rhode Island Rams next Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m.