UNH falls flat in Twin Cities road trip against Big 10 foe
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
University of Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Golden Gophers to a 44-7 victory against the University of New Hampshire in Saturday afternoon’s football matchup at TCF Bank Stadium.
UNH – now 5-5 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, including 1-1 against the Big Ten – fell to 1-1 overall in the 2012 season. Minnesota improved to 2-0.
Sophomore quarterback Andy Vailas, who was forced into action when redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich was injured on the Wildcats’ second offensive play, led UNH’s offense. Vailas was 18-for-34 for 158 yards, all of which marked career highs; he also threw one interception and was sacked four times.
R.J. Harris was his top target with six catches for 61 yards. Jimmy Giansante followed with three receptions for 55 yards. Nico Steriti was the top ground gainer with six carries for 34 yards. Chris Setian accounted for UNH’s lone touchdown with a five-yard scamper late in the first quarter.
Matt Evans spearheaded the Wildcats’ defensive effort. He and Alan Buzbee both had nine tackles apiece; while Evans finished with a personal-best two sacks. Cody Muller recorded a career-high seven tackles, including a sack, and also forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Chris Beranger.
Minnesota outgained UNH, 412-231, with a 240-68 edge in rushing yards. Gray finished 6 of 8 for 100 passing yards and had 17 carries for 109 yards. Donnell Kirkwood also had 17 rushes for a total of 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Golden Gophers quickly built a 9-0 lead in the first quarter with a safety and touchdown spanning 18 seconds. With UNH facing 4th-and-6 at its 15-yard line, the long snap went between the hands of punter Mike MacArthur, who retreated to the end zone and threw the ball out of bounds for a Minnesota safety and a 2-0 lead at 10:12.
Troy Stoudermire returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards and a personal foul against the ‘Cats gave the home team 1st-and-10 at the UNH 27. Gray lofted a pass down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown completion to Isaac Fruechte, and Jordan Wettstein’s PAT extended the Gophers’ lead to 9-0 at 9:54.
On the next UNH possession, a 27-yard run by Steriti down the left sideline and a personal foul assessed against the defense advanced the ball to the UM 38. The Wildcats’ offense remained on the field for 4th-and-4, but Vailas’ pass to Justin Mello fell incomplete.
New Hampshire’s defense forced the Gophers to three-and-outs their next two possessions. Then the Wildcats responded with an eight-play, 76-yard drive to pull within 9-7 with 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Vailas’ 25-yard completion to Giansante and a 16-yard run by Setian quickly advanced the ball to the UM 38. Vailas then connected with Harris for 18 yards and Giansante for eight more to set up 2nd-and-2 from the 13. Steriti carried the ball eight yards to create 1st and goal, and Vailas pitched the ball right to Setian, who won the race to the pylon and MacAruthur’s kick was successful.
Minnesota reestablished a nine-point lead, 16-7, just 11 seconds later when Gray opted to keep the ball, broke through a hole in the middle of the line and raced to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown.
UNH’s offense responded with a methodical drive of 11 plays and 42 yards, but the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs when Vailas’ 4th and 4 pass intended for Harris was broken up by the Gophers’ secondary at 10:54 of the second quarter.