UMass Tops UNH 24-17, Advances To NCAA Semifinals
Dec. 2, 2006
AMHERST, Mass. - No. 3 UMass (12-1) advanced to the NCAA Semifinals for the first time since the National Championship season of 1998, with a 24-17 victory over No. 9 New Hampshire (9-4) before a sell-out crowd of 17,000. The Minutemen travel to No. 2 Montana next weekend. The day and time will be announced on Sunday.
Tailback Steve Baylark romped for 198 yards - his second-highest rushing total - to pace the UMass offensive attack. His 60-yard burst in the first quarter set up his only touchdown of the day.
In a virtual repeat of the waning seconds in the regular season meeting between the rivals, Jason Hatchell batted down a fourth-and-one pass by UNH's Ricky Santos, intended for Keith LaVan, to ensure the 12th victory of the for the Minutemen.
Brad Anderson intercepted Ricky Santos with 13:30 left in the fourth quarter and returned the ball 31 yards to the UNH 14-yard line which set up Chris Koepplin's 33-yard field goal with 11:08 left in regulation.
UMass took a 21-17 lead as Brandon London snagged a 31-yard TD pass from Liam Coen with 6:21 left in the third quarter. He broke away and dove across the endzone line with tacklers drapped on him. It was London's 15th career receiving TD, tying for fourth-most at UMass.
The Wildcats grabbed a 17-14 halftime lead as Tom Manning kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. UNH tied the game at 14-14 with 1:34 left in the first half as Keith Levan hauled in an 11-yard pass from Ricky Santos.
The teams traded big drives in the first three minutes of the game. After a fumbled opening kickoff by Courtney Robinson, UMass regrouped and drove down the field 98 yards in six plays capped by a Baylark 1-yard run, just 2:29 into the game. Baylark's career-long 60-yard run keyed the drive.
New Hampshire answered on their first play from scrimmage as Chad Kackert took a handoff 87 yards and dashed down the left sideline for a score with 3:09 left in the first quarter. It was the longest run by a UNH players this season.
The last sellout at a UMass game was on Sept. 8, 1973, when 18,100 jammed into McGuirk Stadium, prior to fire code guidelines. The crowd is the ninth-largest in UMass history.