New Hampshire 27

(11-2, 9-0 away)

Ga. Southern 23

(9-3, 5-1 home)

6:00 PM ET, November 27, 2004

Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA

1 2 3 4 T
UNH 6 7 6 827
GASO 14 7 0 223

Top Performers

Passing: R. Santos (UNH) - 204 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: J. Austin (GASO) - 23 CAR, 123 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: A. Brown (UNH) - 3 REC, 41 YDS, 1 TD

New Hampshire 27, Georgia Southern 21

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) -- New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, fighting back tears of joy, detailed his plan for running back R.J. Harvey.

"We tell Harv to just trust his speed," McDonnell said. "Hit the hole and go."

It was good advice.

Harvey gave New Hampshire its first lead on a 52-yard run early in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats defense made it hold up for a 27-23 victory over Georgia Southern in a first-round Division I-AA playoff game Saturday.

As a result, the Wildcats (10-2), making only their third playoff appearance in school history and first since 1994, became one of four Atlantic 10 teams to advance to the quarterfinals. New Hampshire will travel to Montana for the quarterfinals. Montana advanced with a 56-7 home victory over Northwestern State.

"That touchdown run obviously was a big play," McDonnell said. "But we showed great resiliency, being down at the half."

The Wildcats trailed 21-6 early in the second quarter but scored the game's last three touchdowns, handing Georgia Southern (9-3) the first first-round defeat in the school's proud history. The Eagles, making their 15th playoff appearance, have won the Division I-AA championship six times.

"It was a good football game," Georgia Southern coach Mike Sewak said. "But, we just made a lot of mistakes and New Hampshire took full advantage of it."

Redshirt freshman Ricky Santos, who completed 22-of-30 passes for 204 yards, hooked up with Aaron Brown for a 24-yard TD with 1:38 left in the third quarter. But the Wildcats failed for the second time on the point after, leaving them down 21-19.

Harvey, who finished with 72 yards on 12 carries, took care of that.

"I didn't have to do much," Harvey said. "We got a great push on the edge and I just took off."

Georgia Southern led 21-13 at the half despite losing the ball three times on fumbles, caused in part by a steady rain that hampered both high-powered offenses. The Eagles would fumble three more times in the second half, but recovered those.

The Eagles lost a fumble on their first possession at their own 48. But on New Hampshire's first snap, Santos threw an interception. Georgia Southern quarterback Chaz Williams, who rushed for 159 yards on 33 attempts in the Eagles triple-option offense, scored from 15 yards out five plays later for a 7-0 lead.

A high snap on an attempted New Hampshire punt set the Eagles up just 14 yards from the goal line moments later and Jermaine Austin, who rushed 23 times for 123 yards, slashed in for a 6-yard TD and a 14-0 lead.

Corey Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards, however, setting up John McCoy's 1-yard TD run for New Hampshire.

Williams gave the Eagles a 21-6 lead with an 11-yard run early in the second quarter.

But another kickoff return by Graham, this time 44 yards, set up a six-play, 50-yard drive capped by McCoy's 4-yard run as the Wildcats narrowed the gap to eight points.

"We were scrambling out there a bit," Georgia Southern linebacker Derrick Butler said.

The Eagles scored their final two points when Santos ran out of the end zone, taking a safety, with five seconds remaining.

"At the half, we knew we needed to go more up-tempo," McDonnell said. "We made some adjustments to slow Williams and Austin down inside."

With wins earlier in the day by Delaware, William & Mary and James Madison, the Atlantic 10 became the first conference in the 27-year history of the Division I-AA playoffs to land four teams in the quarterfinals.