DURHAM – Stung by a pair of early defensive touchdowns and down by three scores 11 seconds into the second quarter, the University of New Hampshire football team tried desperately to get back in the game.
The Wildcats scored their first TD late in the first half to grab some momentum going into the break, and they threatened to make it a one-score game by driving to the Stony Brook 11 on their first series of the third quarter.
But they missed a 28-yard field goal attempt and on the ensuing possession the Seawolves marched 80 yards for the clinching score in an eventual 35-7 win Saturday before a homecoming crowd of 17,687 at Wildcat Stadium.
“Tough loss to a good football team,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. “They did the things their team does and did them well. They ran the football very well against us. They created turnovers on the defensive side. They scored twice on the defensive side.”
The loss – its second in three home games this year — dropped UNH to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association. No. 19/20 Stony Brook improved to 5-2 and 3-1 in the CAA.
Although the Wildcats trailed 21-7 at halftime, they held the ball for almost 18 of the 30 minutes. However, that was deceiving because Stony Brook’s other two touchdowns came on defense with a pick-six and a fumble return. The Seawolves have six defensive touchdowns this season.
“Defensively, they did just enough after they got ahead and we couldn’t finish some drives,” McDonnell said. “We had some opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage of them and make all the plays we needed to make.”
Trailing by three scores, the Wildcats took some momentum into the break on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Knight to Neil O’Connor with 1:07 left in the first half. O’Connor caught 10 passes in the first half for 108 yards.
He finished with a career-high 14 receptions for 156 yards and Knight completed 27 of 48 passes for 221 yards.
“When you’re not scoring it’s obviously frustrating,” O’Connor said. “The defense played awesome. I wish we could have helped them out more. Turnovers obviously hurt. There were a couple missed opportunities – missed catches. We’ve got to make those plays to beat teams like that and we didn’t.”
Stony Brook’s Andrew Trent scored on an 8-yard TD pass from Joe Carbone to cap the game’s opening series. TJ Morrison returned an interception 35 yards for a TD that made it 14-0 with 8:50 left in the first quarter and Shayne Lawless brought back a fumble 54 yards for another score on the first play of the second quarter.
“I love our defense’s ability to put points on the board,” said Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore.
In addition to the two turnovers, Knight was also sacked four times in the first half and five overall. Stony Brook out-gained the Wildcats on the ground, 176-78. Stony Brook’s Donald Liotine rushed for 163 yards on 32 carries.
“We knew going in that 33 (Liotine) was their guy,” said UNH safety Rick Ellison, who had an interception for the second game in a row. “We basically knew their game plan was to give 33 the ball. What it came to was they made plays more than we did.”
Stony Brook’s Kameron Pickettt scored on an 18-yard run with 1:32 left to make 35-7.
“There were times when I thought we played up to our abilities and did the things that are necessary to win in this league,” McDonnell said. “I thought we did a good job tackling at times and knocking people back. They just made some plays when they had to on the offensive side.”