Northwestern stunned in home opener by I-AA New Hampshire

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Ricky Santos was confident Division I-AA

New Hampshire could beat a Big Ten opponent, even on the road.

"All 90 guys in our program felt we could win if we played our

game," Santos said Saturday after leading a convincing 34-17

victory over Northwestern. "And that's what we did. We played our


Santos scored three touchdowns and threw two TD passes to David

Ball as New Hampshire used variety and a no-huddle offense to build

a comfortable lead. Then its defense took over by blanking

Northwestern in the second half.

"The kids at this level want to prove they can play Division I

guys," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm still in shock a little,"

said Ball, on the verge of breaking some of Jerry Rice's I-AA

records when he played at Mississippi Valley State.

Northwestern (1-1) was playing its first home game since the

death of coach Randy Walker from a heart attack June 29 and honored

the coach throughout the day. There was a crowd of 20,108 at Ryan


The team wore patches in tribute to Walker. The Northwestern

band, joined by high schools, played "Amazing Grace" at halftime

as Walker's face was shown on the scoreboard.

"Everybody knows our season is dedicated to him. So it's

nothing new," said Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton. "We

need to focus our energy."

A moment of silence was held 12 minutes before kickoff and then

a video tribute to Walker was played on a large scoreboard that

hangs behind the team's dressing quarters. Members of Walker's

family participated in the pregame coin flip.

When the team arrived about two hours before kickoff, several

hundred fans lined the newly designated path known as "Walker

Way" to greet and cheer them as they got off their bus and headed

to their football center. Painted on each side of Ryan Field

between the 20- and 30-yard lines was a rectangular "Walk" in

black letters.

"The pre-game was excellent, a real special moment and

obviously a great tribute," said Pat Fitzgerald, who replaced

Walker. "It was electric out there. It got me ready to play.

Obviously it didn't get us to the right place, but I don't think it

had any role in it. I just think New Hampshire executed well."

Walker was also remembered during tributes in the season opener

when Northwestern played at Miami of Ohio, his alma mater.

Northwestern's defense was unable stop an opponent ranked No. 2

in the I-AA poll -- both schools are nicknamed Wildcats.

Santos completed 17 of 21 passes for 197 yards by halftime as

New Hampshire (1-0) opened a 10-point lead in its opener. New

Hampshire's defense, led by tackle Brendan St. Peter, stopped

Northwestern four times on fourth-down attempts in the second half.

Santos only attempted three passes in the second half.

"They knew our schemes a lot better than we knew theirs," said

Northwestern defensive end Kevin Mims. "I don't feel we overlooked

them. I feel they outplayed us."

Santos was masterful during a two-minute drive closing the first

half, hitting a 23-yard pass to Keith LeVan, a 27-yarder to an open

Aaron Brown and then a 13-yard TD pass to Ball who made a great

catch for the score even as he was interfered with by Deante

Battle. The seven-play, 81-yard drive put New Hampshire up 27-17 at

halftime. It was Ball's 47th career TD pass, leaving him three

behind Rice's all-time Division I-AA record.

New Hampshire made it 34-17 when Santos sneaked in from the 1 on

the second play of the final quarter, a score set up by Matt

Parent's recovery of quarterback Mike Kafka's fumble at the

Northwestern 17.

Santos directed a 77-yard drive early in the second quarter,

hitting LeVan for 29 yards to the Northwestern 5 and carrying it

from the 1 for his second TD of the first half.

New Hampshire drove 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown on the

game's first possession. Santos completed five passes to Ball for

45 yards, including a 20-yard TD toss less than four minutes into

the game.

"We always talk about fast starts," Santos said. "When they

deferred, we talked and said, `We have got to get a score and that

will be big for us.' It kind of put them on the back of their heels

for the rest of the game."

New Hampshire's T.J. Taylor recovered a fumble by Northwestern's

Gerard Hamlett on the ensuing kickoff at the 14, leading to another

1-yard scoring run by Santos. Northwestern's Adam Hahn blocked the

extra point attempt by Tom Bishop, leaving New Hampshire's lead at


Sutton broke a 61-yard run to the New Hampshire 9 on

Northwestern's first possession and two plays later, Terrell Jordan

ran seven yards for the touchdown.

After Northwestern stopped New Hampshire on the next series, the

Wildcats drove 54 yards in seven plays with Sutton taking it from

the 6 after a pair of penalties on New Hampshire, one for roughing

the passer. The PAT gave Northwestern a 14-13 lead, its last of the