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Playoff preview: New Hampshire at Delaware

By Andrew Gaddess, FCS Assistant

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

FCS THIRD ROUND: (11) NEW HAMPSHIRE AT (5) DELAWARE

Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 10, 8 p.m. ET

Facts & Figures: Site: Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium (22,000) - Newark, Delaware. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN 2. Announcers: Pam Ward, Danny Kanell. Home Record: New Hampshire 4-1; Delaware 7-1. Away Record: New Hampshire 3-3; Delaware 3-1. Neutral Record: New Hampshire 1-0; Delaware 0-0. Series Record: Delaware (19-10-1). Last Meeting: October 6, 2007 (New Hampshire, 35-30 at New Hampshire). Series Streak: New Hampshire has won the last three meetings. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Delaware - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; Delaware Blue Hens. The Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: New Hampshire (11); Delaware (5). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (88-57 at New Hampshire and Overall); Delaware - K.C. Keeler (72-41 at Delaware, 160-62-1 Overall). All-Time Record: New Hampshire (522-329-55); Delaware - (649-414-44). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (6-8); Delaware (20-13). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 8 (1991, 94, 2004-09); Delaware 14 (1981-82, 86, 88, 91-93, 95-97, 2000, 03-04, 07).

What to know: New Hampshire advanced to the quarterfinals with a 45-20 victory over Bethune-Cookman last Saturday in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Quarterback Kevin Decker, making his first start of season in place of the injured R.J. Toman, completed 23-of-35 passes for 289 yards and three second- half touchdowns.

With the score tied 14-14 at halftime, the Wildcats erupted for 21 third- quarter points. Terrance Fox, Chris Chandler and Joey Orlando each had touchdown receptions in the decisive quarter.

Linebacker Matt Evans paced the UNH defense with 10 tackles. His 145 tackles on the season lead the CAA and are the second-most in UNH single-season history. Defensive end Brian McNally recorded 2.5 sacks, giving him 11.5 for the season, which ties a UNH single-season record.

The defense now has 33 sacks on the season. The unit averages 2.67 sacks per game (No. 17 FCS) and has recorded 34 takeaways (tied No. 3 FCS). Cornerback Dino Vasso leads the team with six interceptions and Evans has forced three fumbles.

Of main concern entering the Wildcats' matchup with Delaware is the health of Toman. Decker is still penciled in as the starter, but it is likely that Toman, who is nursing a sprained ankle, will be ready to go. Also of concern is the health of running back Dontra Peters, who is hampered by a foot sprain. Peters played against Bethune-Cookman, but gained only 19 yards on six carries, had one catch for 27 yards and also failed to score. He is said to be at about 75 to 80 percent.

Delaware, which has advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth time in nine seasons under head coach K.C. Keeler, did so last week with a 42-20 win over Patriot League champion Lehigh.

Lehigh held a 14-13 lead at the half, but, just like New Hampshire, Delaware reeled off 21 third-quarter points to seal the victory.

Pat Devlin recorded his fourth straight 200-yard passing game as he threw for 256 yards and completed touchdown passes to four different receiver in the win. Mark Schenauer led the Blue Hens with a career-high 113 receiving yards and a touchdown. Tim Crosby added 69 receiving yards and a score.

Running back Andrew Pierce continued his stellar freshman campaign, running for 88 yards and a touchdown. He was spelled by David Hayes, who also scored a rushing touchdown to go with his 74 yards on the ground.

The defense allowed a career day from Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum, who completed 35-of-58 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns. However, the unit played well when necessary, holding Lehigh to just seven second-half points. Cornerback Anthony Walters recorded two interceptions.

On the season, the Blue Hens' defense is ranked No. 1 in the nation in points allowed (12.33), No. 8 in rushing (99.6 ypg) and No. 5 in total defense (278.08 ypg).

While the UNH defense is founded on pressure and big plays, the Delaware defense relies on solid principles: team tackling and execution (the Blue Hens are averaging only one sack per game), but both defenses are incredibly successful in their own right.

Delaware seems to have a counter for the big-play capabilities of the Wildcats' defense. Devlin ranks No. 2 in the nation is passing efficiency (156.2 rating) and, more importantly, has thrown just two interceptions this season. Running back Andrew Pierce offers a counter to the Wildcats' uphill line play. His ability to gash a defense may keep the UNH line honest long enough to allow Devlin to find the open man.

Throw in the Toman and Peters injuries, along with the Blue Hens' home field advantage, and this matchup favors Delaware.

Prediction: Delaware, 23-17

12/08 13:53:26 ET

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