Senior captain linebacker Ryan Farrell leaped up and intercepted a William & Mary pass attempt early in the fourth quarter, springing the Wildcats to a 21-12 victory. The pass was intended for Tribe tight end Andrew Caskin, who had nobody between him and the end zone had the pass made it to him.
Starting from the William & Mary 23-yard line on the following drive, sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight found senior wide receiver Anthony Pante for his first career touchdown catch, extending the Wildcats’ fourth quarter lead to 21-6.
“We kind of just buckled up and said ‘Let’s go. It’s our time now. Go make a play and get [the offense] the ball back,’” Farrell said about his defense’s mindset during the game.
In front of a UNH record crowd of 21,943, the Wildcats’ defense protected its home turf while holding William & Mary’s offense to 235 total yards and 61-yards passing for senior quarterback Steve Cluley. Cluley threw two interceptions but also found junior wide receiver Daniel Kuzjak for a touchdown on fourth and goal in the final quarter. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, keeping the ‘Cats two scores ahead.
On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, senior running back Dalton Crossan took the handoff from the one-yard line to score his third touchdown on the season. The score made it 14-6 UNH and was Crossan’s twentieth career rushing touchdown. The senior back led the ‘Cats with 98 rushing yards on 27 carries, while junior running back Trevon Bryant added 52 yards of his own out of the backfield.
Both teams relied heavily on the running game, the Wildcats ran for 252 yards, while the Tribe ran for 174 on the ground. With a constant downpour of rain throughout the game both teams kept the ball out of the air as much as they could, rushing a combined 93 times compared to 43 pass attempts.
“We knew we had to be able to run the ball. [The] conditions didn’t give us a great opportunity to do anything else,” head coach Sean McDonnell said after the game.
The UNH defense kept the ‘Cats in it while the offense took time finding its rhythm. The secondary stepped up in the first half, holding Cluley to 20 yards passing, including an interception from senior captain Casey DeAndrade. The interception was DeAndrade’s eighth of his Wildcat career and his second on the season.
The Wildcats struggled to hold onto the football early in the contest, turning the ball over on each of their first three drives. Bryant and sophomore wide receiver Neil O’Connor both fumbled on their first touches, while a Knight pass slipped through redshirt freshman Malik Love’s fingers and into the arms of William & Mary cornerback Trey Reed.
Two plays following the Reed interception, William & Mary senior tailback Kendell Anderson broke multiple tackles as he went 36 yards to the house for the first score of the game. The extra point was missed wide right by the backup place kicker, Kris Hooper. Hooper, who was thrust into action due to injuries to both the Tribe’s starting kicker and punter, struggled in the rain; missing a 32-yard field goal and an extra point in the opening quarter, keeping the Wildcats within six points of the Tribe. A 35-yard field goal also went wide left for Hooper in the third quarter.
Knight’s 28-yard touchdown run finally got UNH on the board with 4:37 remaining in the first half. On fourth down and long, Knight scrambled to his left, cut back at the sideline to the middle of the field and, thanks to two big blocks from redshirt freshman tight end Justin Malone-Woods, found the end zone. The sophomore quarterback ran often, gaining 95 yards on 16 carries.
The Wildcats are back on the road next week against the Elon University Phoenix. The Phoenix defeated the Tribe on Sept. 24, 27-10, and are 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the CAA after falling big to Villanova at home on Saturday, 42-7. UNH (3-2) heads into the conference meeting with Elon undefeated in the CAA, at 2-0.