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Wildcats’ FCS playoff streak stays alive

The legacy continues.
After dominating Maine in a 22-6 win on Senior Day, the UNH football team was selected to host Colgate University in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 3:30 p.m. in Cowell Stadium. The selection marks the 12th straight season in which the Wildcats will compete in the postseason.
UNH beat Colgate 26-8 on the road when the teams met in Hamilton, New York on Sept. 12. The Raiders finished the regular season 7-4 overall and 6-0 in the Patriot League.
New Hampshire (7-4, 5-3 CAA) has silenced its critics after many showered the team with question marks after starting the season with only three wins in seven games. The Wildcats turned their season around with a clutch four-game winning streak that earned them yet another playoff bid.
“We really are blessed as a program to be a part of this,” senior quarterback Sean Goldrich said. “We fought back through a lot of adversity this year and the feeling going through your body as soon as you see your name on that screen, you really can’t explain it.”
UNH head coach Sean McDonnell addressed members of the media following the announcement Sunday morning.
“These kids’ work of the season and especially the last 4 or 5 weeks paid off,” McDonnell said. “They all have a chance to play one more game. Now we have to go do something.”
New Hampshire helped secure the postseason spot after beating Maine for the Brice-Cowell Musket in the annual rivalry game between the two teams.
McDonnell said following the game that he was pleased with his team’s energy and desperation.
“I thought we did just what we needed to do to win a football game and to give us an opportunity to get the musket back in the locker room,” McDonnell said. “These kids have had it in the locker room and they’ve seen it for four years. They didn’t want to be the guys to let it go.”
The Wildcats shot out to a 19-0 lead in the third quarter on quarterback Sean Goldrich’s 11-yard touchdown run. Maine quarterback Dan Collins countered early in the fourth with a six-yard scoring toss to receiver John Hardy to close to within 19-6.
After Maine’s answer, the Wildcats put their foot down and put the game out of reach on their next possession. UNH marched 55 yards in 13 plays to set up Morgan Ellman’s 25-yard field goal with 9:32 left in the game, which lifted the lead to 22-6.
New Hampshire’s defense clamped down for the remainder of the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
“I thought for the whole game, we had control of it,” McDonnell said. “I think it started on the defensive side of the ball. I thought we made some plays over there. I never felt uncomfortable about the defense.”
The Wildcats took control by forcing early turnovers. They finished with three takeaways on the afternoon. On Maine’s first possession of the game, Wildcats defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton forced a fumble on Maine quarterback Drew Belcher. Cyrus Boone recovered the loose ball and UNH took over in Maine territory at the 32.
Four plays later, Wildcats’ quarterback Sean Goldrich rolled out of the pocket and hit a wide-open Dalton Crossan for a two-yard touchdown to give UNH a 7-0 lead.
Goldrich finished the day 29 of 47 for 286 yards with two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing, along with an interception.
After Goldrich’s successful first quarter spreading the ball around to five different receivers, Crossan took over.  The dynamic running back torched Maine on a 43-yard touchdown run, giving UNH a 13-0 lead while powering through arm tackles on his way for the score.
Crossan collected 85 yards on 16 carries on the day. Following the win, he credited his teammates for opening running lanes for him against what he called a “very, very good” Maine defense.
“I’ve been saying it all year, the linemen have been doing an unbelievable job,” he said. “I think we did a great job in all aspects on offense.”
Still down 13-0 in the third quarter, Maine drove into New Hampshire territory on its first drive of the second half. But the Wildcats defense halted the drive when cornerback Patrick Mensah picked off Collins on a third-down pass. Collins finished 18 of 34 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We knew that there was a lot riding on this and it was just one of those games,” UNH linebacker Akil Anderson said. “It might be the last one so we had cut it loose and we’ve been talking about that all week and that’s what we did.”
Maine coughed it up again after a Mex Pedinoff punt in the third quarter bounced off Maine’s Micah Wright and was recovered by Wildcats’ linebacker Ryan Farrell at the Maine 40.
That play set the table for Goldrich’s 11-yard score and 19-0 UNH lead.
UNH’s receivers made plays for their quarterback all day. Kyon Taylor had four catches for 74 yards. Jared Allison led the Wildcats in receiving with 81 yards on 10 catches.
“Offensively, I thought we did a great job of mixing a lot of different plays against a really good defense,” McDonnell said. “[Maine’s] really good on defense, but we cracked some runs against them.”
Even after Maine trimmed the lead to 19-6, Anderson said his team did not lose any confidence after the Black Bears broke through in the third quarter.
“We stayed up, we played for each other,” the senior captain said. “We didn’t let them get the momentum, we just kept playing our game. We stuck with it and we just had fun doing it.”
On the Wildcats’ next possession, UNH marched 55 yards in 13 plays on a 4-minute, 44-second drive before Morgan Ellman’s 25-yard field goal extended New Hampshire’s edge to 22-6.
UNH put the game away with a lengthy drive that lasted 6:14 and knocked the clock all the way down to 54 seconds when the team was finally stopped at the Maine 41. The Wildcats began the drive with 7:08 to play.

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