New Hampshire Football Report

Santos thrived in FBS games


By Allen Lessels


Rick Santos loved – just loved – these types of challenges as a quarterback at the University of New Hampshire. And he thrived on them.

These days, as UNH’s head coach, he continues to embrace the big tests for Max Brosmer, Dylan Laube, Josiah Silver and the rest of his Wildcats.

UNH plays its annual FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Central Michigan. The Chippewas play in the MAC (Mid-American Conference) and are coming off a hard-fought 31-7 loss to Michigan State in their opener and play at Notre Dame in their next contest.

The Wildcats began playing these step-up-a-level games – which come with a payday well into six figures as FBS teams “buy” games to fill out their home schedules — shortly before Santos arrived on campus as a freshman in 2003. In fact, the Wildcats played Central Michigan that season, but Santos did not make the trip.

In 2004, UNH opened the season with a game at Delaware, which had won the FCS national championship the year before and was celebrating its title.

Santos worked his way up to backup for the Delaware game. A knee injury to starting quarterback Mike Granieri in the first half forced Santos into the game and he managed the Wildcats to an upset win of the Blue Hens.

The next week, UNH played at Rutgers, a team expecting to have a breakout season in the Big East.

All Santos did in his first career start and second career game – against an FBS team that had upset a Top 25 team in Michigan State the week before – was lead the Wildcats to another huge upset, their first over what was then called I-A teams.

The way it reads on an ESPN recap: “Redshirt freshman Ricky Santos passed for 385 yards and a school record five touchdowns to help Division I-AA New Hampshire spoil Rutgers season of great expectations with a 35-24 victory Saturday night.”

David Ball had two of the touchdown catches, David Bailey, Aaron Brown and Shaun Diner had the others. Etienne Boulay had a late interception and George Peterson and his mates on the defensive line helped UNH combat Rutgers’ physicality.

UNH did not play an FBS team in 2005, but Santos engineered wins over Northwestern as a junior and Marshall as a senior to finish 3-0 against those teams. The Wildcats tacked on wins over Army in 2008 and Ball State in 2009 to run its remarkable string to five-straight FBS wins.

The next and latest FBS win for the Wildcats came in 2017 against Georgia Southern.

A handful of FCS teams generally knock off an FBS opponent each season, but so far this year the tally is FBS 42, FCS 0.

The Wildcats will aim to buck those odds Saturday.

“It’s certainly going to be a tall task for us,” Santos said. “But at the same time, it’s just a great opportunity for us to go there, play relentlessly, play our hearts out, cut it loose. All the pressure’s on them and just go have fun with it.”

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