New Hampshire Football Report

UNH extends season

DURHAM — It was 18th-ranked Lehigh that entered Saturday’s FCS playoff game against the University of New Hampshire with a high-powered offense, but you wouldn’t know it by the final score.

UNH piled up 637 yards of offense — 364 on the ground — and extended its season with a 64-21 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

It was the first time Lehigh (9-3) has surrendered more than 60 points in a game since a 61-28 loss to Colgate in 1997.

“We have a good football team,” Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. “I wish we could have shown it off a little better. New Hampshire did a great job. They were clearly a better football team that we were today.”

No. 22 UNH will play a second-round game at James Madison (10-1) on Saturday (2 p.m.). James Madison beat UNH 42-39 in Durham on Oct. 15.

The Mountain Hawks were without linebacker Colton Caslow, who did not play because of a leg injury, and the Wildcats took full advantage. Senior running back Dalton Crossan ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, and also caught a touchdown pass. Junior running back Trevon Bryant added career-high 113 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

“I thought we’d be able to handle it (UNH’s running game), but we didn’t handle it obviously,” Coen said. “Crossan’s a heckuva back. He really is. The team we played today looked a lot better than any of the tape I watched of them. They just beat us up front. They really did.

“We had people there, and they were breaking tackles. We were horrible making tackles. The weeks prior we did a really good job in run defense. They had a good plan.”

Each team started its backup quarterback.  Lehigh (9-3) went with sophomore Brad Mayes instead of senior Nick Shafnisky (illness), although Shafnisky did see limited playing time. Shafnisky was named the Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Year earlier this week.

“Nick’s deal was in flux,” Coen said. “How much he would be playing or not be playing. He was sick. That’s really what was going on.”

UNH (8-4) started senior Adam Riese because sophomore Trevor Knight hasn’t fully recovered from a foot injury he suffered in last weekend’s victory at Maine. Riese was intercepted three times, but matched a career-high with three touchdown passes and also ran for a touchdown. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 273 yards. His TD passes went to Neil O’Connor (35 yards), Crossan (9 yards) and Kieren Pressley (4 yards).  

The Wildcats scored on six of their seven red zone possessions, and had two players rush for more than 100 yards in a game for the first time since 2012.

Mayes completed 24 of 43 passes for 273 yards, and tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Deerfield resident Troy Pelletier, who had a game-high eight receptions for 138 yards. Mayes entered the game with a 4-0 record as a starter. He passed for 14 touchdowns and was not intercepted in those four starts.

“We just didn’t execute,” Mayes said. “We didn’t do what we were coached to do. Coaches put us in the best possible position every week. They do their job. We just have to go out there and execute. They’re not the ones playing for us. We just couldn’t get anything going.”

Pelletier, who played high school football at Manchester Central, caught a game-high eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 96 receptions — three shy of tying Lehigh’s record for receptions in a season — for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. He entered the game ranked seventh in receiving yards among FCS players.

His 20-yard TD catch helped cut UNH’s lead to 36-14 with 1:43 left in the first half.

“It was exciting to come back home,” Pelletier said. “Usually it’s a pretty far drive for my family, but it was good them to have a close game for once. It’s a tough way to go out.”

Lehigh’s other touchdowns came on a 37-yard run from tailback Dom Bragalone, and a 3-yard run from Shafnisky. Shafnisky completed 5 of 13 passes for 41 yards, and was intercepted twice.

“We established the run early, which opened up the pass,” Crossan said. “The offensive line played unbelievable. Opened up holes, protecting the quarterback. Once we got rolling we didn’t stop.”

Lehigh entered the game with eight turnovers this season — the fewest of any FCS team — but turned the ball over four times (three interceptions) in the loss. The Wildcats turned those four turnovers into 21 points.

“Really good effort today obviously by the score,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “We fired on a lot of cylinders today. Running the football today. (Crossan) has been running like that for the last four weeks. He’s been unbelievable. Our offensive line, tight ends — they blocked terrific. It was a great effort by our team.”

UNH, which scored on its first two possessions, led 15-0 after one quarter and 36-14 at halftime.

“We were beaten,” Coen said. “Bad day.”

UNH 64, Lehigh 21: Box Score

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