2:00 PM ET, September 9, 2006
Ryan Field, EVANSTON, IL
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Ricky Santos was confident Division I-AA New Hampshire could beat a Big Ten opponent, even on the road.
"All 90 guys in our program felt we could win if we played our game," Santos said Saturday after leading a convincing 34-17 victory over Northwestern. "And that's what we did. We played our game."
Santos scored three touchdowns and threw two TD passes to David Ball as New Hampshire used variety and a no-huddle offense to build a comfortable lead. Then its defense took over by blanking Northwestern in the second half.
"The kids at this level want to prove they can play Division I guys," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm still in shock a little," said Ball, on the verge of breaking some of Jerry Rice's I-AA records when he played at Mississippi Valley State.
Northwestern (1-1) was playing its first home game since the death of coach Randy Walker from a heart attack June 29 and honored the coach throughout the day. There was a crowd of 20,108 at Ryan Field.
The team wore patches in tribute to Walker. The Northwestern band, joined by high schools, played "Amazing Grace" at halftime as Walker's face was shown on the scoreboard.
"Everybody knows our season is dedicated to him. So it's nothing new," said Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton. "We need to focus our energy."
A moment of silence was held 12 minutes before kickoff and then a video tribute to Walker was played on a large scoreboard that hangs behind the team's dressing quarters. Members of Walker's family participated in the pregame coin flip.
When the team arrived about two hours before kickoff, several hundred fans lined the newly designated path known as "Walker Way" to greet and cheer them as they got off their bus and headed to their football center. Painted on each side of Ryan Field between the 20- and 30-yard lines was a rectangular "Walk" in black letters.
"The pre-game was excellent, a real special moment and obviously a great tribute," said Pat Fitzgerald, who replaced Walker. "It was electric out there. It got me ready to play. Obviously it didn't get us to the right place, but I don't think it had any role in it. I just think New Hampshire executed well."
Walker was also remembered during tributes in the season opener when Northwestern played at Miami of Ohio, his alma mater.
Northwestern's defense was unable stop an opponent ranked No. 2 in the I-AA poll -- both schools are nicknamed Wildcats.
Santos completed 17 of 21 passes for 197 yards by halftime as New Hampshire (1-0) opened a 10-point lead in its opener. New Hampshire's defense, led by tackle Brendan St. Peter, stopped Northwestern four times on fourth-down attempts in the second half. Santos only attempted three passes in the second half.
"They knew our schemes a lot better than we knew theirs," said Northwestern defensive end Kevin Mims. "I don't feel we overlooked them. I feel they outplayed us."
Santos was masterful during a two-minute drive closing the first half, hitting a 23-yard pass to Keith LeVan, a 27-yarder to an open Aaron Brown and then a 13-yard TD pass to Ball who made a great catch for the score even as he was interfered with by Deante Battle. The seven-play, 81-yard drive put New Hampshire up 27-17 at halftime. It was Ball's 47th career TD pass, leaving him three behind Rice's all-time Division I-AA record.
New Hampshire made it 34-17 when Santos sneaked in from the 1 on the second play of the final quarter, a score set up by Matt Parent's recovery of quarterback Mike Kafka's fumble at the Northwestern 17.
Santos directed a 77-yard drive early in the second quarter, hitting LeVan for 29 yards to the Northwestern 5 and carrying it from the 1 for his second TD of the first half.
New Hampshire drove 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown on the game's first possession. Santos completed five passes to Ball for 45 yards, including a 20-yard TD toss less than four minutes into the game.
"We always talk about fast starts," Santos said. "When they deferred, we talked and said, `We have got to get a score and that will be big for us.' It kind of put them on the back of their heels for the rest of the game."
New Hampshire's T.J. Taylor recovered a fumble by Northwestern's Gerard Hamlett on the ensuing kickoff at the 14, leading to another 1-yard scoring run by Santos. Northwestern's Adam Hahn blocked the extra point attempt by Tom Bishop, leaving New Hampshire's lead at 13-0.
Sutton broke a 61-yard run to the New Hampshire 9 on Northwestern's first possession and two plays later, Terrell Jordan ran seven yards for the touchdown.
After Northwestern stopped New Hampshire on the next series, the Wildcats drove 54 yards in seven plays with Sutton taking it from the 6 after a pair of penalties on New Hampshire, one for roughing the passer. The PAT gave Northwestern a 14-13 lead, its last of the day.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-14||5-12|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-4|
|TD||11:39||DAVID BALL 20 YD PASS FROM RICKY SANTOS (TOM BISHOP KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||10:12||RICKY SANTOS 1 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 14 yards.
|TD||8:27||TERRELL JORDAN JR. 7 YD RUN (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 74 yards.
|TD||3:21||TYRELL SUTTON 6 YD RUN (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||13:50||RICKY SANTOS 1 YD RUN (TOM BISHOP KICK)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 77 yards.
|FG||7:50||JOEL HOWELLS 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 62 yards.
|TD||1:07||DAVID BALL 13 YD PASS FROM RICKY SANTOS (TOM BISHOP KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 81 yards.
|TD||14:15||RICKY SANTOS 1 YD RUN (TOM BISHOP KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 17 yards.