Big gains on fourth down. Momentum-crushing turnovers. Ill-timed penalties.
Everything Vermont couldn’t afford in the 60th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, New Hampshire ran with.
With its persistent, multi-back ground game, the Granite State churned six Vermont turnovers into a 43-0 victory Saturday at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field, cementing its dominance in the yearly all-star showdown for a 13th consecutive summer.
“You can’t give a team this good this many opportunities and that’s what we did today,” Vermont coach Jason Thomas said.
“We played hard, we just made mistakes,” Thomas said. “There was no quit in any of these kids. They kept fighting and fighting and fighting. I just wish I had done a better job limiting those mistakes.”
Tailback Romeo Masuku led nine New Hampshire rushers with two touchdowns and 113 yards on 14 carries while quarterback Connor Benjamin broke loose for 81 yards and a score on 11 carries. As a team, they rolled out 405 yards rushing on 72 attempts, 16 yards shy of the Shrine record set two years ago.
Vermont’s offense, meanwhile, struggled to get on track against a New Hampshire defensive front that recorded four sacks and harried Green Mountain signal-callers into five interceptions.
“That was huge, defense-wise, because we had to get pressure on their quarterback,” New Hampshire coach Ray Kershaw said. “That was the key for our defense, getting pressure, forcing bad decisions, and the defensive backs would be there.”
Twice in the first half, Jake Stalcup (12-of-26, 117 yards, three interception) had the Vermont offense humming. But a red zone interception snuffed out one drive on third-and-goal. A forced fumble after a completion in New Hampshire territory killed the momentum on another.
“We just weren’t making big plays we needed to make at the end of drives,” said Vermont lineman Billy Katon of Burlington. “We were pushing the ball pretty well but making mistakes at the end.”
Aside from Benjamin’s lone completion, a 55-yard touchdown pass to Graham Nyhan in the second quarter, and Tyler Ford’s Shrine record-setting 42-yard field goal as the first half expired, the Vermont defense held New Hampshire in check early.
“Defense was the only thing that kept us in this game,” Thomas said.
It looked like Vermont had an answer early in the second half in the form of a quick three-and-out on New Hampshire’s opening drive, but Ford, the punter, broke free for an 18-yard gain and drive-saving first down. Four plays later, Masuku scampered 40 yards for a score.
Later in the frame, Benjamin added a flashy 36-yard option to boost New Hampshire’s 15-0 halftime lead to 29-0 after three quarters.
Chris Redding was Vermont’s top receiver with five catches for 53 yards. Carter Glenn (22 yards) and Ryan Beaudry (14 yards) each had two catches.
Edward Doton led the Vermont on the ground with 38 yards on six carries and Doug Saffo added six carries for 21 yards.
Tolbert Nemo and Tyler Grant added New Hampshire touchdowns in the fourth quarter to finish off the shutout, the first in the series since the Granite State won 42-0 in 2008.
The win improved New Hampshire’s record in the series to 45-13-2.