Homecoming draws 10,000 fans

Homecoming draws 10,000 fans

It wasn’t necessary. But then again, Northeastern football coach Rocky Hager usually doesn’t flinch when it comes to going for the win – regardless of whether his sanity is questioned.

“If you check the history of Rocky Hager in overtime, I’ve never been afraid to go for two, even when it maybe isn’t perceived to be necessary,” Hager said.

But as the saying goes ‘the risk was worth the reward,’ as sophomore quarterback John Sperrazza connected with sophomore tailback Alex Broomfield in the right side of the endzone to complete the two-point conversion. It gave the Huskies the win to stun No. 11 New Hampshire in overtime, 36-35, much to the joy of a sellout Homecoming crowd at Parsons Field.

“You have to do it eventually so why not do it now?” Hager said. “The levels and depths of the routes were perfect … and no one else is going to catch it except for Alex Broomfield.”

Broomfield said he was ready to go for the win.

“We worked on [two-point conversions] all summer at camp, and when we came back to Parsons,” Broomfield said. “They told me to stick it all out and get them to bite on the flat route … [the cornerback] sat down, so I pumped back inside and expected the ball there.”

The 5-foot-6-inch, 190-pound tailback took over the spotlight for Northeastern in the last quarter, posting a 38-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in regulation to put Northeastern up 28-21. But an excessive celebration penalty allowed the Wildcats to start their final drive at their own 43. Quarterback Ricky Santos made it count, going 4-for-6 and finding receiver David Ball for a 23-yard touchdown strike with one second left. With the extra point, the game went into overtime.

The Wildcats went on a four-play drive culminating in an 11-yard touchdown reception from Santos to receiver Mike Boyle. With the extra point making it 35-28, the Huskies were pushed to fourth down on their drive before Sperrazza (18-for-31, 175 yards, one touchdown) found senior tight end Kendrick Ballantyne (five receptions, 71 yards, two touchdowns) over the middle. The receiver did the rest, going into the end zone on a 20-yard pass play, setting up for Broomfield’s two-point catch (nine carries, 93 yards).

“The linebacker bit on the fake hitch, so I ran down the middle of the field,” Ballantyne said. “The safety closed and the other linebacker dropped and Sperrazza put [the ball] in the only spot it could be in. Thankfully, I was there to catch it.”

For three quarters, the game was defense-driven with both offenses off balance. The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead with 4:58 remaining in the first quarter as Santos rolled out of the pocket and fired toward the back of the end zone where Ball picked out the high ball in double coverage for a five-yard touchdown reception, the 52nd of his career.

Northeastern battled back as Broomfield took the ball from Sperrazza and then found Ballantyne for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 52 seconds left in the first half. UNH broke the 7-7 tie in the third quarter as Ball was able to grab a 24-yard dart from Santos while getting one foot into the end zone along the left sideline.

In the fourth quarter junior tailback Maurice Murray (18 carries, 96 yards) scored from one yard in with 10:37 left, tying the game at 14 and take advantage of an interception by senior cornerback Richard Orah that was returned to the Wildcat 5.

UNH went three-and-out on their next drive and their punt was tipped, landing at their 30. A 18-yard pass from Sperrazza to fullback Shane Hopkins on fourth down put the Huskies at the three. Murray would burst through for his second touchdown run on the next play.

Down 21-14, the Wildcats capped a 16-yard play, 78-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown sneak from Santos, tying the game with 2:47 left in regulation and setting the stage for a stellar finish to one of the wildest games in Husky Homecoming history.

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