ORONO — Chris Setian scored twice in the fourth quarter to seal a 41-27 victory for the University of New Hampshire Saturday afternoon over fifth-seeded Maine in the first NCAA playoff football game ever played at Alfond Stadium.
A season-high crowd of 7,992 came out to see whether the Black Bears (10-3) could reverse the outcome of two weeks ago, when New Hampshire (9-4) spoiled Maine’s perfect conference record with a 24-3 victory in Durham.
Instead, the Wildcats prevailed over their border rivals again, winning for the 11th time in their past 12 games, to advance to a quarterfinal game in the Football Championship Subdivision tournament against the winner of Saturday night’s game between Sam Houston State and No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana.
The loss was Maine’s second in succession after a 10-1 start, the best in the 121-year history of the program. The Black Bears had two chances for a tying touchdown in the second half, but came no closer than the UNH 38 early in the fourth quarter.
New Hampshire had taken a 27-20 lead into the fourth. The Wildcats drove 51 yards after returning the second half kickoff nearly to midfield. Justin Mello’s 3-yard touchdown reception made it 27-17.
Maine responded with a 28-yard field goal by Sean Decloux after its first possession of the third quarter stalled at the 11. Those three points proved to be the final points of the season for Maine.
Two weeks and 200 miles away from their last meeting, the Black Bears once again struggled to move the ball against their interstate (95) rivals.