New Hampshire Football Report

UNH lands at-large bid

INDIANAPOLIS  – The 17th-ranked University of New Hampshire football team will play host to 21st-ranked Fordham University in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. (ESPN+). The 24-team bracket was announced Sunday on ESPNU during the NCAA Football Championship Selection Show.

“I’m excited for the Durham community, our fanbase, all our loyal supporters that we can have a home playoff game,” UNH first-year head coach Rick Santos said. “We’re going to get The Dungeon rocking back to the good, old days of New Hampshire football.”

The Wildcats (8-3, 7-1 CAA) received an at-large selection after defeating Maine, 42-41, in overtime Saturday at Alfond Stadium to clinch a share of the CAA championship and reclaim possession of the Brice-Cowell Musket.

“The job is not finished. This is the whole point of it,” Santos added. “We wanted to win a championship and get back to the playoffs. The ultimate goal of this program since I was a redshirt freshman, when Coach Mac (former UNH coach Sean McDonnell) put up those goals [in the locker room], was to win a national championship.”

The Rams received an at-large bid out of the Patriot League after posting a 9-2 record with a 5-1 conference mark. Fordham’s lone league setback came at Holy Cross, 53-52, in overtime Oct. 29.

Fordham head coach Joe Conlin spent seven seasons (2004-10) as a UNH assistant coach: defensive line (2004-07), defensive backs (2008) and the offensive line (2009-10).

“He’s as good of a head coach at any level,” Santos said. “Very detailed, methodical in his approach. He gets those guys playing extremely hard. They’re going to be tough, they’re going to be disciplined, so it’s a great opportunity for us to go against an unbelievable football team.”

Kevin Decker, Fordham’s offensive coordinator/QB coach, is a 2012 UNH graduate who won the 2011 CAA Offensive Player of the Year award in 2011 as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback. Associate head coach/WR coach Art Asselta coached Wildcat WRs in 2012.

Former Bedford quarterback Joe Mikol is the only New Hampshire resident on the Fordham roster.

The winner of the UNH/Fordham first-round game advances to face No. 8 seed and Patriot League champion Holy Cross (11-0, 6-0) on Dec. 3 at noon (ESPN+).

The Wildcats’ co-CAA championship is their first since 2014, which was also the only time UNH and Fordham have squared off in an NCAA playoff game. The top-seeded ‘Cats dispatched the Rams, 44-19, in a second-round matchup Dec. 6, 2014, at Cowell Stadium.

New Hampshire qualified for the NCAA Playoffs for the 17th time in program history and the first time since 2017, which capped a stretch of 14 consecutive playoff appearances. Fordham is making its sixth appearance and first since 2015.


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