New Hampshire Breaks Halftime Deadlock To Beat Bethune-Cookman
New Hampshire takes control in the second half to pull away from Bethune-Cookman and advance to the FCS quarterfinals again
Special to the College Sporting News
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. – In a battle between two backup quarterbacks, New Hampshire's depth won out in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championships.
Making his first start of the season in place of injured starter R.J. Toman, junior quarterback Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) threw for three second-half touchdowns to lead the 10th-ranked UNH to a 45-20 victory over 13th-ranked Bethune-Cookman University in Football Championship Subdivision playoff action on Saturday afternoon.
Bethune-Cookman played without standout senior Matt Johnson, who went out with a shoulder injury in B-CU's final regular season game against Florida A&M. Ahead 27-14 in that game, Bethune-Cookman lost its final two games without Johnson after running off 10 consecutive wins.
Johnson's replacement, Jackie Wilson (16-of-32, 192 yards, three TDs, two interceptions) threw a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter to help B-CU tie the score at 14-14.
But Wilson and the offense couldn't keep up with a 28-point New Hampshire explosion in a 17-minute span of the second half.
New Hampshire, which improves to 8-4 with the win, advances to meet No. 3 seed Delaware next weekend in the national quarterfinals. The Blue Hens dispatched Lehigh, 42-20, in their second-round game Saturday.
The Wildcats earn the first December win in school history in eight tries and win a postseason game for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
Bethune-Cookman, the MEAC champion making its first postseason appearance since 2003, sees its season end with a record of 10-2.
With the game tied 14-14 entering the third period, UNH exploded for 21 third-quarter points.
Decker, making only his second career start, started the rout when he found sophomore Joey Orlando for a five-yard touchdown at the 10:45 mark.
Chris Chandler then hauled in his first career scoring grab, a 63-yard catch-and-run score at 5:25; and Terrance Fox was on the receiving end of a 14-yard score that put the game effectively out of reach, 35-14, with 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Chris Setian iced by dashing for a five-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his first career score with 8:41 left.
A.J. DeLago (Menands, N.Y.) kicked a 30-yard field goal with 2:10 left to cap UNH’s scoring.
Senior captain Sean Jellison carried seven times for 29 yards and two touchdowns, his first two scoring rushes of the season, in the first half before being sidelined in the second half.
UNH took a 7-0 lead with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter on a five-yard touchdown run from Jellison.
The drive began on the Bethune-Cookman 44-yard line when senior captain Dino Vasso hauled in his CAA-leading sixth interception of the season on a deep fade along the left sideline, giving UNH possession at the B-CU 44-yard line.
Advantageous field position played a helpful role in Jellison’s second scoring run of the first quarter, a nine-yard scamper off right tackle that capped a four-play, 40-yard drive for a 14-0 lead with 6:20 remaining.
Bethune-Cookman used a big play to get on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Courtney Keith took a swing pass from Wilson and outran the defense for a 53-yard touchdown.
That sliced New Hampshire’s lead to 14-7 with 13:50 left in the first half.
B-CU knotted the score at 14-14 by virtue of a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Isidore Jackson with 3:51 remaining before halftime.
The Wildcats will visit No. 3 seed and CAA rival Delaware in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA D-I Football Championship on either Friday or Saturday.