Tigers blow out 'Cats
Less than 24 hours before the football locker room exploded in cheers, tears and hugs, linebacker Alan Buzbee sat quietly searching for words to describe the shellacking his team took.
The captain hung his head and his long hair fell over his eyes. His face was still red from his last football game at Cowell Stadium. With a chance to win the conference and a chance to show the selection committee they deserved a home game in the NCAA FCS playoffs, the UNH football team took a pounding from Towson, 64-35, Saturday afternoon.
UNH hadn't allowed more than 60 points at home since 1988.
"On senior day, at home with an opportunity to win the conference championship and it's basically thrown in your face when you get 64 on you," Buzbee said. "It's not a good feeling."
Buzbee and the UNH defense gave up 660 yards of total offense - 415 of them came on the ground - and the offense, strong in the first half, couldn't find a rhythm late and were outscored 34-7 in the second half in front of 5,531 in the final regular season game.
The next afternoon, the Wildcats learned that the selection committee gave them a spot in the playoffs despite the loss. They will play Wofford on Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. in South Carolina. That gives them two weeks to prep for the run-oriented Terriers.
And after Saturday, they have plenty of work to do.
Sophomore running back Terrance West gouged the Wildcats for 236 yards on 19 carries and found the endzone twice. UNH never tackled West behind the line of scrimmage and only forced Towson to punt once.
The offense, which went blow-for-blow with Towson's offense in the first half, was in a rut the entire second half.
"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot and couldn't get anything going," lineman Chris Zarkoskie said. "You can't do that against a good football team. That showed in the second half."
Towson marched 86 yards down the field on the opening possession after halftime and punched it on a three-yard pass. The Wildcats failed to counter on their first drive (a missed field goal) and the Tigers took the ball downfield for another touchdown in the midst of 27 unanswered points.
"The first drive of the second half was huge," head coach Sean McDonnell said. "And then we never got in a rhythm offensively after that."
On the lone Towson drive in the first half that didn't result in points, UNH capitalized in a big way.
Heading into the break, Jared Smith blocked D.J. Soven's 43-year field goal attempt and the ball fell back into the arms of Steven Thames who took it 65 yards for a touchdown that cut Towson's lead to 30-28 at halftime.
"That's exactly what we didn't want," Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. "We would have been happy with zero points."
McDonnell rotated quarterbacks Andy Vailas and Sean Goldrich throughout most of the game.
Early on, the quarterbacks found seams in the Towson defense and were able to use their legs to extend plays.
Vailas (who led the team in rushing with 118 yards) threw a second quarter touchdown to Brian Ciccone and ran for two touchdowns including a 77-yard scamper down the left sideline on the first play from scrimmage.
But neither found a rhythm in the second half and combined for just 141 passing yards on 27 attempts.
"Never in my wildest did I figure it would get away the way it did today," McDonnell said. "But it did."
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