New Hampshire Football Report

UNH pulls off upset


CONWAY, Ark.  – Rick Holt recorded nine tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and the University of New Hampshire’s defense forced four turnovers to lead the Wildcats to a 21-15 victory against No. 3 University of Central Arkansas in Saturday afternoon’s NCAA FCS second-round game at Estes Stadium.

UNH’s defense recorded two fumble recoveries and two interceptions – including Evan Horn’s 56-yard interception return for a TD – against a Bears’ team that ranked No. 5 in the nation with 10 turnovers in 11 games. The Wildcats also made nine tackles for loss, including five sacks. UCA’s offense had allowed an average of 0.55 sacks per game, which ranked fourth in the nation.

Jae’Wuan Horton strip-sacked Hayden Hildebrand and Jared Kuehl recovered the fumble with 76 seconds remaining in the game to secure the victory. Alonzo Addae recorded seven tackles and recovered a fumble that he forced and Steven Harper had UNH’s other intercetion.

Horton finished with five tackles, including two sacks.

UNH, which improved to 9-4 overall, advances to play fifth-seeded South Dakota State in next weekend’s quarterfinals. UCA, which entered the game with a 10-game win streak, ends the year at 10-2.

Christian Lupoli, who entered the game for injured starting quarterback Trevor Knight midway through the second quarter, completed 8 of 10 passes for 63 yards and a 9-yard touchdown to Malik Love. Love led the ‘Cats with five catches for 27 yards.

Knight was put in concussion protocol after he collided with offensive lineman Will McInerny.

Evan Gray was UNH’s top rusher with 24 carries for 85 yards. He also had two catches for 27 yards, including a 10-yard TD pass from Knight.



Central Arkansas started its second drive of the game on its 15-yard line following a career-long 60-yard punt by Max Pedinoff, but the Bears needed just three plays – Hayden Hildebrand connected on a 74-yard TD pass to Cedric Battle when a pair of Wildcat defenders collided —  to take a 7-0 lead at 10:37.

UNH answered with a balanced 16-play, 74-yard TD drive that consumed 6:31 off the clock. Knight completed 7 of 8 passes on the drive for 44 yards, including the last 10 yards when he rolled to the left and found Gray behind the defense in the end zone. The ensuing PAT by Morgan Ellman tied the score, 7-7, at 4:01.


UCA’s 15-play drive, which immediately followed UNH’s touchdown, ended with Matt Cummins’ 32-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left at 13:29.

The Bears got the first turnover of the game when Knight’s pass was deflected in the air and intercepted by Juan Jackson at the UCA 40 and returned 15 yards to set up first and 10 at the UNH 45 with 9:06 on the clock.

UNH’s defense got the ball back five plays later, however, when Holt tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage and Franklin came down with the ball at the UNH 36.

With Lupoli at QB in place of an injured Knight, the Wildcats advanced into the red zone (the UCA 16) on back-to-back completions of 19 and 11 yards to Love. Three rushes advanced the ball to the UCA 11, and then Ellman’s 28-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to keep the score 7-7 at 1:56.

UNH’s defense forced a second three-and-out and the Wildcats called timeout prior to fourth down 70 seconds before halftime. Patrick Ponder punted the ball 71 yards to the UNH 10, prompting the Wildcats to take a pair of knees to end the half.


Central Arkansas advanced into UNH territory on its opening drive of the second half, but Addae created a turnover when he forced and recovered a fumble at the UNH 25.

UNH’s defense forced its second turnover of the quarter and third of the game to give the Wildcats a 14-7 lead at 7:31Brian Carter forced Hildebrand to throw off his back foot, the pass was deflected into the air by Kuehl, Horn intercepted the pass at the UNH 44 and raced down the left sideline into the end zone.


The fourth quarter opened with UNH facing second-and-11 from its 1-yard line, and an errant snap to Lupoli in the shotgun formation put the ball on the turf and it was covered by the UNH quarterback for a safety that moved the score to 14-9 at 14:55.

The Wildcats’ defense forced the Bears to punt on their next possession and started the drive on the UNH 37.

Lupoli engineered an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped by a nine-yard TD pass to Love, who was cutting toward the right sideline. Ellman’s PAT kick gave the ‘Cats a 21-9 lead at 7:19.

It didn’t take long for UCA to respond, however, as Hildebrand found Battle down the middle of the field for a 78-yard touchdown. The ensuing PAT kick was blocked by Ryan Sosnak – his third blocked kick of the year. Pop Lacey picked up the ball and was tackled at the UCA 30 to keep the score 21-15 in favor of UNH.

The Wildcats moved the ball to the Bears’ 40 and took three minutes off the clock before punting the ball and UCA gaining possession at its 18-yard line with 3:24 on the clock.

Central Arkansas called time out facing second-and-9 at the UNH 36. Hildebrand dropped back to pass but was strip-sacked by Horton and Kuehl recovered the fumble to give the Wildcats possession with 1:16 to play.

Lupoli took three knees to run out the clock and send New Hampshire into the Division I quarterfinals for the ninth time (seventh since the 2006 season).


·      The victory was the 150th career win for 19th-year UNH head coach Sean McDonnell, who has a 14-13 postseason record.

·      Horn’s pick-six was UNH’s second defensive touchdown this season. Rick Ellison had a 50-yard INT return against Bryant University.

·      UCA amassed 434 total yards of offense, including 361 passing yards, 152 of which came on the two TD passes.

·      Knight completed 8 of 14 passes for 47 yards.

·      In addition to the blocked PAT kick, Sosnak recorded seven tackles with one tackle-for-loss and a half-sack.

·      UNH is now 3-0 in postseason play against the Southland Conference.

·      UCA entered the game No. 6 in the nation in scoring offense at 37.6 points per game.

·      The Wildcats became the second FCS team this season to score 20+ points against the Bears.

·      Neil O’Connor had two catches for 17 yards. He moved into a tie for No. 2 on the program’s list of single-season superlatives at 93 (with David Ball). He also climbed into a tie at No. 9 in career receptions at 160 (with Scott Sicko).

·      This marked the second consecutive week UNH’s defense recorded four takeaways. It tied the season high established against the University of Rhode Island.

·      UNH ended Central Arkansas’ 10-game win streak. Last week, the Wildcats put an end to Central Connecticut State’s eight-game win streak. The ‘Cats also stopped Elon University’s eight-game win streak in the second-to-last week of the regular season.

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