Storm clouds hovered over Shuart Stadium for this afternoon’s Hofstra football game against New Hampshire and when the Pride left the field there was likely no more glimpse of sun for the program ending a seven year playoff drought. Costly mistakes including two first-half turnovers and a high snap on a punt that led to a safety all spelled doom for the Pride in an 18-10 loss to ninth-ranked New Hampshire. .
The loss before a rain-soaked crowd of 3,386 all but ends any hope Hofstra (4-4, 2-3) had at reaching the football championship subdivision (FCS) post season, as it is very rare for a four-loss team to receive an at-large bid to the 16-team tournament. After starting off the new millennium strong with playoff appearances in 2000 and 2001, the remainder of the decade for Hofstra football has lacked a post-season presence and today’s loss to the Wildcats (6-1, 3-1) all but assures that 2009 will be no different.
“For our leadership, our seniors that is a tough locker room right now,” said Hofstra head football coach Dave Cohen after the game of the team’s playoff chances likely being over as a result of this afternoon’s loss. “They understood that their backs were against the wall if they planned on playing past the regular season.”
Hofstra appeared like it may remain in the FCS playoff discussion late in the third quarter after a three-yard touchdown run by Cory Christopher cut the UNH lead to 10-7. The Wildcats however seized back momentum early in the fourth quarter when kicker Tom Manning broke a UNH record with a 54-yard field goal aided by the wind at his back to make it 13-7.
Trailing 18-7 late in the fourth quarter Hofstra nearly made a dramatic comeback as after a 38-yard field goal from Henry Greco cut the lead to eight, the Pride recovered an onside kick at its own 46-yard line. Christopher drove the Pride offense to the UNH six-yard line but a tipped pass intended for Benjamin in the back of the end zone put the rain-soaked game on ice.
Costly mistakes plagued the Pride all day including with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter when a high snap on a punt sailed toward the end zone and forced punter Shane Casciano to take a safety that extended the Wildcat lead to 15-7. Hofstra also had two turnovers in the first half including a fumble by Christopher on the opening drive that led to a 30-yard Manning field goal and a 3-0 UNH lead.
“The same mistakes that have hurt us in some previous games came back to prevent us from winning this one as well,” said Coach Cohen.
Hofstra also got some unlucky breaks from the referees with two touchdowns taken away in the first half when the Pride were trailing 3-0. The first was an apparent 20-yard diving reception in the end zone by Aaron Weaver that was ruled by one of the officials as hitting the ground and the other was a controversial holding penalty that wiped away a 25-yard score from fullback Everette Benjamin.
UNH picked up the win despite Hofstra dominating time of possession 36:14 to 23:46. The Wildcat’s lone touchdown came on a juggling 40-yard reception in the end zone by Mickey Mangieri from quarterback R.J Tolman early in the third quarter.
Hofstra now has a bye week before two straight road games at Delaware on Nov. 7 and Northeastern on Nov. 14. The Pride closes its regular season at Shuart Stadium against Massachusetts on Nov. 21 at 1 p.m.