By GREG LAUDANI
The UNH football team could not keep up with the University of Delaware’s vaunted rushing attack, as the Wildcats fell 31-14 on the road Saturday afternoon.
New Hampshire’s playoff hopes may now be in jeopardy after suffering its third loss in four games against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, falling to 1-3 in CAA play and 3-4 overall.
UNH led 14-6 at halftime after quarterback Sean Goldrich tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jared Allison with only 5 seconds left in the half.
But the tides turned in the final two quarters, as the Blue Hens scored 17 unanswered points on their strength of dominant performances by running backs Kareem Williams and Thomas Jefferson. Williams recorded 140 yards and a touchdown while Jefferson notched three touchdowns and 98 yards on the ground.
Delaware totaled a commanding 284 rushing yards on the afternoon. The Blue Hens had their run game working well enough that they really did not bother to pass the ball very much, as quarterback Joe Walker completed seven of 11 passes for 71 yards.
The Wildcats defense has allowed an average of 223 rushing yards per game this season.
“Our game plan was pretty solid and we knew what they wanted to do before the game,” UNH defensive tackle Jullian Turner said. “It came down to the execution and we made some mistakes like missed tackles that we couldn’t have.”
Williams gained the majority of his yardage on one backbreaking carry in the third quarter. With UNH up 14-9, Williams dashed 84 yards down the field to set up a Jefferson scoring run that gave Delaware its first lead at 17-14.
“We didn’t fit the play up very well,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said of Williams’ 84-yard run. “We knew what they were going to do with their running game and I thought we played pretty well except from that one long run.”
The Blue Hens swept up even more momentum on the ensuing kickoff when Delaware’s Eric Patton recovered a Dalton Crossan fumble on the UNH 23-yard line.
Five plays later, Jefferson scored on a 1-yard run to escalate Delaware’s lead to 24-14. The Blue Hens’ quick two touchdowns in the third proved to be too much for UNH to overcome.
While Delaware’s running game was successful throughout the day, New Hampshire managed only 50 total rushing yards of its own. UNH’s go-to running back Dalton Crossan was limited to 24 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.
“I think they (Delaware) did a good job of blitzing us a lot and we had a hard time executing our plays,” Goldrich said. “We had trouble executing. We had plays where we missed opportunities when I missed some throws. We had some trouble blocking up front and we couldn’t run the ball.”
Goldrich, in his second start back after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, completed 18 of 33 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Following the loss, Goldrich said he could not call his ankle “100 percent.”
“(My ankle’s) good enough to get me through and it’s stable enough,” he said. “Here and there I am aware of it and thinking about what I can and can’t do. At some points I definitely noticed it’s not where it used to be.”
The Wildcats return home next weekend to take on CAA rival University of Rhode Island on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. After losing two straight on the road, Turner said it means a lot to the team to get back to Cowell Stadium.
“We’ve had a lot of stress taking buses and planes, so being home and being in familiar surroundings will be huge for us,” he said. “That game is over now and we have a whole new task ahead of us.”
Looking ahead, Goldrich said his team is far from playing its best football and it is not executing as well as it needs to. The quarterback, however, said UNH remains a confident bunch heading into the final four games of the regular season.
“We plan on winning all four of these games,” he said. “Even when we have been losing the last couple of weeks, guys on the sideline have been rallying around each other and believed we were going to come back in each of those games.”
Follow Greg on Twitter @GregLaudani for more about the UNH football team and about UNH sports.