HAMPTON, Va. (AP) – Ricky Santos tied a career-high with five touchdowns and saved the best one for last: a 25-yard fourth quarter TD pass to Chad Kackert to lift the University of New Hampshire over Hampton, 41-38, in a Division I-AA first-round playoff game Saturday.

The Wildcats (9-3), an at-large selection for the playoffs from the Atlantic 10, will go on to play Massachusetts next week in the quarterfinals.

Hampton (10-2) had fought back from a 34-21 halftime deficit, scoring two third quarter touchdowns and adding a field goal in the fourth for a 38-34 lead with 8:59 remaining.

But the Wildcats (9-3) took the ensuing kickoff and put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive that included a 19-yard run by Maurice Draper on a fake punt to keep the drive alive. Kackert’s touchdown catch came with 4:40 left.

New Hampshire’s Marvin Wright then sacked Hampton quarterback Princeton Shephard with 1:38 remaining to seal the game.

The Pirates hadn’t allowed more than 17 points since Sept. 17 against Grambling. But New Hampshire rolled up 411 total yards – most of it passing.

Santos was 27-for-40 for 315 yards, with one interception. Keith Levan caught nine passes for 99 yards and one touchdown, while David Ball caught five passes for 70 yards, including two touchdowns in the second quarter.

Ball, a walk-on as a freshman, broke Jerry Rice’s all-time touchdown record earlier this season and led the conference this year as a senior with 82 receptions. His 7-yard TD catch with 6:44 left in the second quarter followed a 15-yard score five minutes earlier and put the Wildcats ahead 27-21.

Robert Simpson ran for a 2-yard TD just before the half, giving New Hampshire its comfortable halftime lead.

The Wildcats went into the lockeroom having scored on five or its nine first-half possessions.

“We thought we had the game won at halftime and didn’t come out with the energy we needed in the second half,” Santos said. “We were lucky that our defense kept us in it and we just made a play at the end.”

Hampton coach Joe Taylor said New Hampshire’s fake punt in the fourth quarter was the game’s decisive play.

“It just came down to who had the ball last,” he said. With an offense like that, you’re not going to shut them down.”

New Hampshire coach Sean McConnell said the idea for the fake punt came to him during film sessions this week.

“We thought we might have the opportunity,” he said. “Luckily it worked.”

Hampton’s offense was also impressive, gaining 354 in total yards.

Shepherd was 24 of 32 for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Marquay McDaniel caught both of those scores – a 4-yard pass in the first quarter and a 6-yarder in the third.

Alonzo Coleman rushed for 143 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown – a 65-yarder in the first quarter. The senior is just the sixth player in Division I-AA history to have four 1,000 yard seasons.

“We’ve been riding his back for four years,” Taylor said. “We’ve been fortunate to have him in our program.”

Hampton lost its sixth Division I-AA postseason game in as many tries.

AP-ES-11-25-06 1826EST


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