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UNH football team rolls past Maine into FCS quarterfinals

  • New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine  Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • Maine tight end Justin Perillo (80) can't hold on to a pass while being defended by New Hampshire defensive back Casey DeAndrade (28) and linebacker Akil Anderson (42) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    Maine tight end Justin Perillo (80) can't hold on to a pass while being defended by New Hampshire defensive back Casey DeAndrade (28) and linebacker Akil Anderson (42) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles past Maine defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (44) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles past Maine defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (44) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire tight end Harold Spears (89) is wide open as he catches a pass on a trick play against Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire tight end Harold Spears (89) is wide open as he catches a pass on a trick play against Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game against Maine, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game against Maine, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire offensive linesman Sean Ryan (61) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire offensive linesman Sean Ryan (61) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) is sacked by Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) is sacked by Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell argues with a referee after New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris (15) was injured on a hit by a Maine defender during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell argues with a referee after New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris (15) was injured on a hit by a Maine defender during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) runs away from Maine defenders Patrick Ricard (44) and Cabrinni Goncalves during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) runs away from Maine defenders Patrick Ricard (44) and Cabrinni Goncalves during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire wide receiver Jimmy Giansante looks back as he nears the end zone to score the Wildcat's second touchdown after making a reception against Maine during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire wide receiver Jimmy Giansante looks back as he nears the end zone to score the Wildcat's second touchdown after making a reception against Maine during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine  Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

  • New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine  Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • Maine tight end Justin Perillo (80) can't hold on to a pass while being defended by New Hampshire defensive back Casey DeAndrade (28) and linebacker Akil Anderson (42) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles past Maine defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (44) during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire tight end Harold Spears (89) is wide open as he catches a pass on a trick play against Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) scrambles during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game against Maine, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire offensive linesman Sean Ryan (61) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) is sacked by Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell argues with a referee after New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris (15) was injured on a hit by a Maine defender during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) runs away from Maine defenders Patrick Ricard (44) and Cabrinni Goncalves during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire wide receiver Jimmy Giansante looks back as he nears the end zone to score the Wildcat's second touchdown after making a reception against Maine during the first half of an NCAA college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire defensive end Cody Muller (96) celebrates the Wildcat's victory over Maine during the second half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire wide receiver Justin Mello (81) heads for the end zone to score the Wildcat's first touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game against Maine  Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. Maine's Maine defensive back Jamal Clay (15) and Maine defensive back Cabrinni Goncalves (2) pursue Mello. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) looks to pass against Maine during the first half of an NCAA football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Orono, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

ORONO, Maine – The rivals were trading punches, as usual, and it looked like the back-and-forth would last until the bitter end. But one New Hampshire pass play changed all that.

“It broke our backs,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “That was a big time throw and catch.”

The pass from Sean Goldrich to R.J. Harris covered 15 yards on a third-and-13 from the New Hampshire 10, sparking a nine-play, 87-yard, fourth-quarter drive that gave the Wildcats a two-score lead, and, like Cosgrove said, spelled the end for the Black Bears yesterday. No. 15 New Hampshire (9-4) finished things from there, claiming a 41-27 second-round playoff win over No. 8 Maine (10-3).

It was the second time in three weeks UNH has beaten the Black Bears, the CAA’s regular-season champions. It was also the most meaningful win the ’Cats have posted against their border rival, since it pushed New Hampshire into the FCS quarterfinals for the seventh time in 10 years and marked the first time UNH has ever won two playoff games in the same season.

The Wildcats will try to make more history next week when they play the winner of the Sam Houston State/Southeastern Louisiana game, but looking ahead to that matchup can wait for now.

“I can’t tell you enough what it’s like to have a Maine (and) New Hampshire football game in December up here, just everything about it was awesome. It’s great for New England football,” UNH Coach Sean McDonnell said.

“I told the kids we live another 24 hours today, let’s enjoy it, boys, and whoever it is, Sam Houston or Southeastern Louisiana, let’s go get the next one.”

Maine running back Rickey Stevens said his team “came out with a lot more energy” than it did two weeks ago, when UNH beat the Black Bears in the regular-season finale, 24-3. Maine also had a home crowd of 7,992 on its side, a throng that made Alfond Stadium “the loudest we can ever remember it here,” according to Black Bears senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski.

But none of that deterred the Wildcats. Their offense was crisp and creative from the start and the defense created pressure all over the field. But every time it looked like UNH would pull away in the first half, the Black Bears clawed back.

New Hampshire scored first on a season-long 43-yard field goal from Mike MacArthur, but Maine’s Damarr Aultman returned the ensuing kickoff for an 88-yard touchdown. UNH immediately countered with a 57-yard touchdown connection from Goldrich (16-for-27, career-high 291 yards, three touchdowns) to Justin Mello (five catches, 90 yards, two touchdowns) and the first quarter ended with the ’Cats on top, 10-7.

Goldrich found a wide open Jimmy Giansante for a 48-yard touchdown to give New Hampshire a 20-10 lead with 3:25 left in the half, but again Maine answered, this time with a 60-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown catch from John Ebeling 47 seconds before halftime. The back-and-forth continued in the third quarter as UNH got a 3-yard scoring catch from Mello and the Black Bears responded with a 28-yard field goal from Sean Delcoux.

The Wildcats held a 27-20 led at that point, and it seemed like another fourth-quarter photo finish was about to unfold. After all, six of the last eight games between these two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less, four times it was by just a field goal, and twice it went to overtime. But Goldrich’s throw to Harris on that third-and-13, and the finishing kick it ignited, made sure there was no need for late-game drama.

“(Because) we played them before we knew what kind of defense they would be in, and we practiced that all week,” Goldrich said. “Fortunately enough they were in the exact alignment we wanted them in.”

Goldrich seized the opportunity with a 15-yard bullet that moved UNH to its 25-yard line. The running game took over from there as Nico Steriti (14 carries, 74 yards) ran for 41 yards on the drive and Chris Setian (10 carries, 54 yards, two touchdowns) finished it with a slicing 12-yard touchdown run that gave UNH a 34-20 lead with 6:47 left on the clock.

The New Hampshire defense, which has transformed into a beast over the last month, clamped down on the ensuing drive, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the offense the ball back on the Maine 44. Five plays later, Setian shook his way to a game-icing 7-yard score with 2:42 left on the clock.

The Black Bears added a touchdown with 21 seconds left, but it didn’t matter by then. The Wildcats had already posted another win against their rivals, the 11th in their last 12 meetings, and punched their ticket to another quarterfinal.

NOTES

∎ UNH finished with a 495-384 advantage in total yards, which started with a 270-176 edge in the first half.

∎ Casey DeAndrade and Steven Thames each had an interception for New Hampshire and Akil Anderson led the team with 13 total tackles.

∎ Wasilewski went 21-for-39 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Maine. He also led the team with 71 yards rushing.

∎ Concord native Andrew Lauderdale, a redshirt freshman tight end, played on the kickoff return team for UNH.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)

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