RICHMOND, Va. — R.J. Harris hauled in 12 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns, including a 47-yard reception late in the fourth quarter, to help the 11th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team hold off No. 5/7 Richmond, 45-43, on Saturday at Robins Stadium in the CAA opener for both schools.
UNH improved its record to 2-1, 1-0 in the CAA, by earning its first victory in Richmond since 1994. The Spiders fell to 3-1, 0-1 in the league.
Kevin Decker threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, completing 22 of 32 passes for 239 yards and rushing for 48 yards on nine carries. Dontra Peters accumulated 261 all-purpose yards (64 rushing, 56 receiving, 141 kick return). Matt Evans and Randi Vines each returned an interception for a touchdown, and Chris Beranger amassed a career-high 17 tackles.
Decker hit Harris on a post pattern for a 47-yard TD — the longest pass play of the season — to stake the Wildcats to a 45-36 lead with 2:45 left in the contest.
Richmond running back Kendall Gaskins (16 rushes-81 yards-3 TD) scored on a one-yard rush for his third touchdown of the game with 28 seconds remaining, cutting the deficit to 45-43, but Chris Chandler successfully recovered the ensuing onside kick to preserve the victory.
Tre Gray collected 16 receptions for 194 yards, and Aaron Corp completed 35 of 50 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort. Corp was sacked four times and surrendered two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns.
The Wildcats, who fell behind 10-0 after one quarter, rallied back to seize their first lead with 11:03 left in the first half when Vines intercepted a deflected pass and jaunted 60 yards untouched for a TD, staking the Wildcats to a 14-10 advantage after the PAT from North Hampton’s Mike MacArthur. Despite being held on the play, Brian McNally pressured Spiders quarterback Aaron Corp, whose pass was batted out of the air by Alan Buzbee (nine tackles) to Vines. It marked Vines’ second career pick-six; he previously returned an INT 30 yards for a score against Central Connecticut State on Sept. 4, 2010.
UNH forced another turnover on the following kickoff when Chris Setian jarred the ball loose from return man Tremayne Graham and Chris Houston (four tackles) recovered the fumble on the Spiders’ 31. Three players later, Decker called his own number on a play-action fake and zipped inside left tackle for an 18-yard TD run, pushing UNH’s lead to 21-10 with 10:23 left in the half.
Richmond drew closer when Will Kamin matched a career high by drilling a 45-yard field goal with 7:31 remaining before the intermission, slicing UNH’s lead to 21-13.
The Wildcats registered their second pick-six of the afternoon when a rushing McNally forced an errant throw from Corp that was nabbed by Evans and returned 31 yards with 5:54 left in the second, allowing UNH to reclaim a 15-point lead, 28-13. It was the second career INT return for a score by Evans, who tallied a 25-yarder versus Towson on Nov. 20, 2010.
Richmond’s final scoring drive of the first half was ignited by a 76-yard kickoff return from Wayne Pettus to the UNH 13. Facing a 4th-and-3 from the 6 on the subsequent drive, the Spiders lined up for a field goal, only to direct snap to Gaskins, who sprinted around the right end for a TD. The PAT made the score 28-20 with 4:02 left in the half.
Peters took the opening kickoff of the second half 70 yards, a career high, to the Richmond 26. The Wildcats capitalized on the short field when Decker rushed for his second score of the contest, taking a keeper in from 12 yards out to build UNH’s advantage to 35-20 with 13:33 left in the third.
Kamin once again drew the home team closer by connecting for his third field goal of the game, a 37-yard kick with 6:42 to go in the third, trimming the Wildcats’ lead to 35-23.
UNH reclaimed a 15-point cushion, 38-23, after engineering a 14-play, 70-yard drive that chewed 6:45 off the clock before MacArthur hit a 23-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Richmond’s response was an 11-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by Gaskins’ second rushing TD of the game, a 13-yard carry with 10:45 left in the game that narrowed the gap to 38-29. The PAT failed.
The Spiders drew to within 38-36 with 6:20 remaining in the game when Corp found Ben Edwards on a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone to cap a six-play, 78-yard drive.
Trailing 10-0, UNH got on the board with 14:12 left in the second quarter when Decker lofted a 19-yard touchdown pass to Harris in the left corner of the end zone to conclude a nine-play, 90-yard drive. Decker accounted for all 90 yards, completing 6 of 7 passes for 79 yards and rushing once for 11 yards. MacArthur’s PAT trimmed Richmond’s advantage to 10-7.
Graham returned the opening kickoff 39 yards to give Richmond possession at its own 47. Corp then proceeded to go 5-for-5 for 53 yards, giving the Spiders the lead with a one-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Barnette. Kamin’s PAT gave Richmond a 7-0 lead with 12:47 remaining in the first.
Kamin would make it a 10-0 Spiders’ lead with 2:44 left in the opening period on a 36-yard field goal that wrapped up a 10-play, 48-yard drive.
UNH plays its home opener next Saturday against Holy Cross (Mass.) at noon.
(c)2011 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)
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