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HAMMOND, La. – New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell knew quarterback Sean Goldrich had the athleticism to win a game with his feet.
Goldrich picked a fine time to prove his coach right.
Goldrich ran for a career-high 99 yards and three touchdowns, the last with 47 seconds left, and UNH defeated Southeastern Louisiana 20-17 in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs Saturday night.
"I got to clear something up for everybody. This kid can run," McDonnell said of his quarterback, who'd rushed for only three TDs all season before doubling his total on a wet, windy night in south Louisiana. "He's something special as an athlete. You just don't get to see it."
The victory put New Hampshire (10-4) into the national semifinals for the first time. The Wildcats will play at two-time defending national champion North Dakota State on Friday night.
Bryan Bennett was 25 of 46 for 269 yards and a touchdown for Southeastern (11-3), which saw its school-record 10-game winning streak snapped. The junior transfer from Oregon also ran for a 2-yard score. His touchdown pass to Marquis Fruge, which came after he escaped the grasps of two defenders on fourth-and-goal from the 5, gave the Lions a 17-14 lead with 5:17 left.
UNH had more total yards (479-344), possessed the ball for 31:49, and its defense found a way to slow a Southeastern team averaging 40 points a game. But the Lions blocked two field goals and stalled another drive with Marice Sutton's interception in the end zone to stay within one score the whole way.
"Our guys played hard. I real proud of them," Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said. "We made some huge plays ... It was a great football game."
Goldrich's touchdowns went for 32, 1 and 2 yards. He was 24-of-35 passing for 276 yards. He led a 14-play, 80-yard drive for the winning score. The series included his scramble on third-and-9 that set up his successful keeper on fourth-and-inches from the Southeastern 15.
"The one thing I wanted to do especially was protect the football," Goldrich said. "Some of those throws, when I wasn't really positive I could kind of fit them in there, tucking and running, getting a couple and keeping the ball in our hands seemed like the smart thing to do."
UNH could have tied the game with a field goal on the late fourth-down play from the SLU 15, but McDonnell said he never considered that.
"We didn't come here to go to overtime. We came here to win," McDonnel said. "I figured if I didn't go for it I would have had a tough time looking these guys in the eye in the locker room."
The Lions took a 7-0 lead on their first drive, but later failed to cash in on Xavier Roberson's weaving 71-yard kickoff return to the 29, turning the ball over on downs. The Lions also squandered Devante Scott's 41 yard punt return to the UNH 28 on Seth Sebastian's missed 37-yard field goal.
"I thought early we were putting ourselves in a position to do some things," Robert said. "We got down there a couple times and came away with nothing."