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Sunday, December 2, 2012

UNH drops FCS playoff game to Wofford

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The University of New Hampshire football team couldn’t overcome a mistake-filled first half and a game-changing performance by fullback Eric Breitenstein.

That lethal combination proved too much for the Wildcats to endure in a 23-7 loss to Wofford in the second round of the FCS playoffs that ended their season Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium. ...

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The University of New Hampshire football team couldn’t overcome a mistake-filled first half and a game-changing performance by fullback Eric Breitenstein.

That lethal combination proved too much for the Wildcats to endure in a 23-7 loss to Wofford in the second round of the FCS playoffs that ended their season Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium.

The Terriers turned three turnovers and four sacks into 13 first-half points and made the lead stand up.

“I thought defensively they played downhill on us,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. “They created turnovers and they didn’t let us breathe on offense at all.”

Wofford also outgained UNH on the ground in the first half, 275-23, led by Breitenstein, who was as good as advertised. He rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns by halftime. He scored on a 54-yard run on the Terriers’ fourth play from scrimmage and added a 6-yarder late in the first half as the Terriers led 13-0 at the break.

UNH finished 8-4 after losing its last two games. It was the Wildcats’ third consecutive postseason loss and fourth in their last five playoff games. Breitenstein finished with 247 yards on 22 carries and three scores. The Terriers outgained UNH on the ground, 454-73.

“I knew it could happen,” McDonnell said. “Did I expect it? No. I thought we would do a better job.”

The Terriers received the second-
half kickoff, but the Wildcats benefited when Alan Buzbee forced a fumble and Muller returned it
14 yards for UNH’s first score.

Mike MacArthur’s point-after made it 13-7 early in the third quarter, but it took the Terriers less than two minutes to respond.

“I think it was a big momentum boost,” Muller said. “Everybody was fired up and ready to go. We just couldn’t get it going after that.”

Breintenstein ripped off back-to-back runs of 45 and 26 yards to make it 20-7 with 9:58 left in the third.

At that point the two-time Southern Conference offensive player of the year had 246 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns.

“We just didn’t rise up and meet what I think is a hell of a football team,” McDonnell said.

Wofford’s Kasey Redfern kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:57 left in the third quarter to make it 23-7.

The Terriers outrushed the Wildcats 415-41 through three quarters.

UNH couldn’t have scripted a much worse start. The Wildcats never really got untracked offensively.

Their first two possessions yielded 6 yards of total offense and Wofford scored the game’s first touchdown when Breitenstein rumbled 54 yards on the Terriers’ fourth play from scrimmage.

Breitenstein rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Every time it looked like UNH had something going, something would go wrong. Quarterback Sean Goldrich turned the ball over twice in Wofford territory to kill promising Wildcat drives.

“The difference in the ball game was the number of times we were able to stop them and take the ball away from them,” said Wofford coach Mike Ayers. “The ability to get pressure on the quarterback was huge.”

Goldrich was stripped attempting to pass with the Terriers recovering the fumble. They also turned an interception of a deflected pass into their second TD with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter.

Goldrich was also sacked three times in the first half and Andy Vailas was sacked once.

“I thought they planned for us well,” Goldrich said. “We weren’t able to execute on offense the way we wanted to. Give them credit.”

Through all the adversity, the Wildcats still trailed only 7-0 late in the first half. The only things that kept them in the game were fumble recoveries by Jared Smith and Hayden Knudson that prevented Wofford from extending its lead.

Trailing 13-0, UNH got another break when the Terriers missed a 34-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half. Wofford moved into scoring position after picking off another Goldrich pass for their third takeaway of the first half.

“We didn’t move the ball effectively,” McDonnell said. “(We) couldn’t run it. (We) just struggled to get in any type of rhythm. … It’s something we’re not used to at the University of New Hampshire on the offensive side of the ball.”