DURHAM, N.H. – Ricky Santos threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 116 yards and three scores as New Hampshire clinched the Atlantic 10’s automatic berth in the I-AA playoffs with a 59-47 win over Maine on Saturday.

The Wildcats (10-1, 7-1) held a 31-28 halftime lead, but pulled away in the third quarter when Santos threw touchdown passes of 20, 6 and 27 yards to David Ball. Ball had eight receptions for 76 yards.

New Hampshire’s sixth consecutive win snapped Maine’s three-game winning streak, and gave the Wildcats the Brice-Cowell Musket, presented to the victor of the annual game, for the third straight year. The teams combined for 1,110 yards of total offense.

Ball finished the regular season with 18 touchdown catches, breaking the school record of 17 he set last year. Santos’ 33 regular-season touchdown passes broke the school record of 31 that he set last season.

Santos completed 30 of 46 passes and his 116 yards on 18 carries was a career best.

Maine (5-6, 3-5) trailed 52-28 after three quarters but Ron Whitcomb threw three touchdown passes in the fourth to make it closer.

Whitcomb finished 36-for-60 for 363 yards and five touchdowns, four to Kevin McMahan. Arel Gordon was the Black Bears’ leader in both rushing with 90 yards, and receiving, with 14 catches for 85 yards.

New Hampshire led 10-7 after one quarter, then both teams scored 21 points in the second. Santos scored on runs of 2, 7 and 24 yards while McMahan caught a pair of touchdown passes and Montell Owens ran for one for the Black Bears.

AP-ES-11-19-05 1835EST

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