Villanova vs. New Hampshire final score: 'Cats scratched in narrow loss 29-28

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

It was a competitive game in New England for what became a de-facto national television contest for Comcast Sports, but it wasn't the result that Nova needed.

A late hit penalty and a 2-point conversion may have been the difference in Villanova's 28-29 loss at New Hampshire. The Wildcats haven't defeated their same-name rivals in New England in a decade, and a second-half surge helped to ensure that the streak continued.

Villanova and UNH played to a stalemate for the first seven minutes, when neither team seemed to get much going in its first possession. The Villanovans, however, managed to generate a bit of momentum on their second drive, with John Robertson, Austin Medley and Kevin Monangai combining for 12 rushes and just one pass on a 13-play, 88-yard scoring drive to put Nova ahead 7-0.

New Hampshire answered back with a 9-play, 84 yard drive with Dalton Crossan taking the ball the final 17 yards for a score, but the two Wildcats would not be even on the scoreboard after that, however, because the Mike MacArthur extra point attempt was blocked.

Villanova's next drive would also result in a touchdown, with Robertson carrying the ball into the endzone himself to take a 14-6 lead, which is where the score would stay at halftime.

The second half was a story of UNH resurgence, however. After a 4-play drive by Villanova resulted in a punt, New Hampshire would run 13 plays for 78 yards and a QB-keeper to make it 14-12. The two-point conversion attempt was no-good, however, and despite matching Villanova's two touchdowns, they would remain trailing.

New Hampshire got the ball again with 5:34 left in the third quarter, and ran a long, time-consuming drive that would result in a field goal to put them ahead by one point before the break. Again, they scored on their first possession of the fourth-quarter, going up 21-14, but MacArthur shanked the extra point attempt.

Then, it was John Robertson's turn to take over.

Robertson rushed five times on the next drive of seven plays, covering 70 yards and scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 21. Thee plays later, Villanova got the ball back and again Robertson sliced through the UNH defense, hitting Gary Underwood for 21 yards and then running for 3 yards and 42 yards on his own to take it to the house to go up 28-21, leaving 1:02 on the clock for New Hampshire to work with.

Normally, that would be enough for Villanova to lock down a victory, but the New England Wildcats were in an offensive groove in the second half — and had a big help from from a penalty. UNH's Sean Goldrich completed four passes in his final drive and a late tackle call against Don Cherry that helped move the ball to the Villanova 4 yard line. The next play was a 4-yard QB keeper by Goldrich.

What happened next was a risky call by UNH. Instead of kicking the PAT to take the game into overtime, the home team lined up to go for it. With eight seconds left, they would all-but-seal a victory by making it, but risk defeat if they failed.

A tricky play call on the goal line, however, caught Villanova looking as Chris Setian ran the ball past the blocked-up Villanova defenders.

The Main Line 'Cats wouldn't be able to get their hail mary's said quick enough after getting the ball back.

Villanova led UNH with 317 rushing yards to their 237, but the northernmost 'Cats did far better in the air to lead 'Nova 488-439 in total offense. Robertson completed 15 of 17 pass attempts for just 122 yards, but ran the ball 27 times for 256 yards and three of Villanova's four touchdowns. Monangai had the only other Villanova score.

Neither team turned the ball over.

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