UNH comes back to beat Villanova

There’s nothing like saving the best for last.

That’s exactly what the University of New Hampshire football team did Saturday afternoon at Cowell Stadium.

Trailing 28-21 with 1:02 remaining, quarterback Sean Goldrich drove UNH 50 yards downfield – finishing the drive himself from the 4-yard line with 14 seconds remaining – to get within one point of Villanova.

UNH coach Sean McDonnell then put the ball in Chris Setian’s hands for two points to lock up a come-from-behind 29-28 upset over Villanova in Colonial Athletic Association action.

For McDonnell the decision to go for two and the win was an easy one – especially after two failed PAT kicks earlier, one of which was blocked.

“That was part of the equation,” McDonnell said of the missed kicks, “but a lot of things were crossing my mind.

“The first thing was that we have a lot of two-point plays in our arsenal, and we’ve been really successful. I thought the law of averages was going to be with us.

“I just felt, two, that we were going to win it and we were going to win it there.”

That’s just what happened, as Setian took the handoff from Goldrich, appeared to run into one of his own players in the backfield, then darted into the end zone.

It was the celebration that almost wasn’t.

Just seven plays earlier on the drive, a botched hook-and-ladder on second down left the ball on the turf at Villanova’s 46. With the ball free and two Villanova players closing in, UNH receiver Jared Allison beat them to the loose ball.

On third down, Goldrich connected with Allison for 18 yards and a first down at Villanova’s 28. After a misfire on first down, Goldrich found Setian for a 10-yard completion to the 18 for another first down, which resulted in another completion to Setian down the left sideline for 14 more.

That’s when Goldrich called his own number – not intentionally, but still successful for a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 4.

“Originally, we set that up so it was a jump pass – a little like a Tebow look,” Goldrich (21-28-236-1-0) said in reference to former New England Patriots QB Tim Tebow. “But the play got broken. So I thought it would be safer just to tuck it and try to make a play. I saw an opening and went for it.

“I just did what I could. I wanted to at least get back to the line of scrimmage, and, you know, I found my way into the end zone.”

Goldrich wasn’t the only quarterback finding success on the day.

Villanova sophomore quarterback John Robertson carried the ball 27 times for 265 yards and three touchdowns (14, 2, 42), while also throwing for 122 yards.

Trailing 21-14 with 5:03 left, Robertson scored the game-tying touchdown from 2 yards out with 1:55 to play and then gave Villanova the lead on a 42-yard run with 1:09 left.

Unfortunately for Villanova, it was just enough time for UNH’s sophomore signal-caller to drive for the win.

“We relied too much on our quarterback,” Villanova coach Andy Talley said. “We didn’t spread the ball around. He shouldn’t have to run the ball for 200 some-odd yards. It’s ridiculous.

“And we didn’t get the job done on defense. It’s that simple.”

Villanova started the scoring with 1:52 left in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Kevin Monangai. Mark Hamilton’s PAT kick made it 7-0.

Dalton Crossan’s 17-yard TD run at the 13:28 mark of the second quarter got UNH within one after the first of two botched PAT kicks off the foot of Mike MacArthur.

Robertson scored for Villanova from 14 yards out with 8:34 remaining in the half and a 14-6 advantage at the break.

Goldrich rushed for his first of two ground scores with 8:13 to go in the third quarter, and a halfback pass from Setian went incomplete in the end zone. That, combined with a MacArthur 23-yard field goal eight minutes later, put UNH ahead 15-14.

Goldrich extended the UNH lead to 21-14 on an 8-yard TD pass to Allison with 5:03 left, setting the stage for Robertson’s come-from-behind effort – which was only outdone by Goldrich and Setian in the final 1:09.

“We saved the best for last,” McDonnell said. “We haven’t had a win like that in a long time.

“Haven’t had a win like that, that type of come-from-behind, fight and don’t quit win.”

UNH, which improved to 25-2 in its last 27 home games, registered its second straight victory to up its record to 3-3, 2-1 in the CAA. Villanova, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped, fell to 4-3, 3-1.