ORONO, Maine — Sean Goldrich threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns, leading New Hampshire to a 41-27 victory over Maine in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs Saturday.
UNH (9-4) defeated Maine (10-3) two weeks ago, 24-3, in the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season finale. The Wildcats will play No. 4-seeded Southeastern Louisiana in the next round at Hammond, La.
Fifteenth-ranked New Hampshire, which won its fifth straight, scored first on Mike McArthur’s 43-yard field goal in the first quarter. Damarr Autman returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Maine advantage.
Three plays later New Hampshire retook the lead at 10-7 when Goldrich threw to Justin Mello for a 57-yard scoring strike
A Goldrich-to-Mello 3-yard pass gave the Wildcats a 27-17 advantage with 11:30 remaining in the third. UNH then pulled away on two Chris Setian rushing touchdowns in the final quarter.
Marcus Wasilewski completed 21 of 39 passes for 229 yards and two TDs for Maine, which was playing its first-ever home NCAA playoff game before a crowd of 7,992.
The Wildcats, who beat a league opponent in the tournament for the first time in program history, improved to 2-10 all time in December and reached the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2010.
“I can’t tell you enough what it’s like to have a Maine-New Hampshire football game in December up here,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell told the Bangor Daily News. “Everything about it was awesome. It’s great for New England football.”
Mello had five receptions for 90 yards and a pair of scores. R.J. Harris had six catches for 85 yards, and Jimmy Giansante had two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown for UNH.
Setian rushed for a pair of late touchdowns for the Wildcats. He capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive with a 12-yard burst with 6:47 left in the fourth to give UNH a 34-20 lead. His 7-yard carry with 2:42 left made it 41-20 and effectively iced the game.
Nico Steriti rushed for 74 yards on 14 carries and tossed a 24-yard pass to Harold Spears that set up a third-quarter touchdown. Steriti also had two receptions for 26 yards and returned a kickoff 31 yards, finishing with 131 all-purpose yards.
The UNH defense was led by Akil Anderson, who had a career-high 13 tackles. Casey DeAndrade and Steven Thames each had an interception.
Tenth-ranked Maine tied the score, 10-10, on a 21-yard field goal from Sean Decloux with 9:13 left in the second quarter. The Wildcats regained the lead for good with 7:40 left in the second when Goldrich connected with Giansante for a 48-yard scoring toss.
The Wildcats made it 20-10 on Mike MacArthur’s 22-yard field goal with 3:25 left in the half, but Wasilewski’s 9-yard touchdown pass to John Ebeling with 47 seconds remaining in the half left score, 20-17, at intermission.