A week after late fourth quarter heroics kept their season alive, the fourth-seeded Southeastern Louisiana University football team had its playoff hopes dashed in similar fashion.
With 47 seconds left in the game, New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich ran in a quarterback draw from two yards out to advance the Wildcats to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals with a 20-17 win.
“It was a heck of a ball game that came down to the wire,” Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said. “When it’s tight, it’s tough to handle that you had your opportunities to win the game, but that’s the playoffs.”
The Wildcats will travel to take on North Dakota State next week with a national championship game berth on the line.
“I give my kids a lot credit,” New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said. “We just kept battling and found a way to win.”
The game-winner came after the Lions were faced with a fourth-and-goal at the New Hampshire 5 and opted to keep the offense on the field.
After taking the snap, quarterback Bryan Bennett was immediately flushed out of the pocket to his right. After avoiding two potential sacks, Bennett hurled a pass into the hands of Marquis Fruge’ in the back of the end zone to retake the lead with 5:17 to go in the game.
“I was trying to be a competitor,” Bennett said. “I knew that we needed a score there, and I just fought to not go down.”
Goldrich came into the game with just three rushing touchdowns, but equaled that total on Saturday night. He led the Wildcats with a career-high 99 rushing yards to go along with his 276 passing yards.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Goldrich said. “There seemed to be things that opened for the running game a little more than the passing game.”
It was a tough night for Bennett. He was held to just 29 rushing yards to go along with his 269 passing yards on 45 attempts.
“They scouted us well,” Bennett said. “They knew our game plan and did a good job on not allowing me to run the ball.”
With New Hampshire deferring to the second half, Bennett marched the Lions down the field on the game’s opening drive. The junior quarterback was able to find holes in the Wildcats secondary, completing 6-of-7 passes for 73 yards.
Bennett capped the 12-play drive with a 2-yard quarterback sneak for the game’s first touchdown.
Goldrich answered back on his first chance with the ball. On a draw, he was able to squirt through the Southeastern defensive line and found a seam for a 32-yard run to tie the game up at 7-7.
After Southeastern failed to put any points on the board despite twice having the ball inside New Hampshire’s 30-yard line, Goldrich made them pay, leading the Wildcats on an 8-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead.
Following another Goldrich touchdown, the Wildcats had a chance to add to their lead later on in the second quarter as the quarterback continued to baffle the Southeastern defense with his ability to scramble out of the pocket.
However, Southeastern senior linebacker Cquilin Hubert kept the Lions’ deficit to a single possession as he burst through the line and blocked the kick, keeping the score at 14-7, which lasted into halftime.
After his stellar first drive, he completed only five of his next 17 passing attempts. The Wildcats outgained Southeastern in total offense through the first two quarters, with 246 yards to the Lions’ 151.
“Their defensive front did a great job,” Roberts said of New Hampshire. “We misfired a lot with some dropped balls that slowed us down offensively.”
McArthur fell victim to another blocked field goal to open the second half when Southeastern’s Harlan Miller beat his man off of the left edge to come around and swat the 28-yard attempt away.
“We had our backs against the wall for a while,” said McDonnell. “I’m just so proud of our kids on the way they fought through adversity.”
The Lions’ second block of the night negated a 15-play drive for New Hampshire that saw Goldrich convert a pair of third downs, as well as a fourth down, with his arm.
With the momentum on their side, the Lions looked to tie the game up with a touchdown on the ensuing possession. It appeared that would be the case when Bennett connected with junior receiver Chris Mallot on a 19-yard pass to put the Lions just a yard away from the end zone.
Despite having three tries, New Hampshire’s defensive front would not budge, and the Lions had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Sebastian to go into the fourth quarter trailing 14-10.