IOWA CITY, Iowa — On paper, the University of Maine’s trip to take on Iowa was an opportunity for the Black Bears to knock off a Bowl Championship Subdivision opponent in an exciting football atmosphere.
As the Black Bears discovered again Saturday, the thrill of such an experience can be dulled by the fact most Bowl Championship Subdivision programs are superior in almost all aspects.
The Hawkeyes confirmed that reality, rolling to a convincing 46-3 victory over UMaine on a hot, sunny day in front of 70,585 gold-clad fans at soldout Kinnick Stadium.
“These are tough games,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “There’s the excitement and buildup of a I-A [BCS] game and there’s the reality of a I-A game.”
Iowa, guided by former UMaine head coach Kirk Ferentz, unleashed its Big Ten size, strength, speed, quickness and depth while making sure the Black Bears earned the school’s $450,000 payday.
“There were a number of spots on that field where we were just physically outmatched,” Cosgrove said.
“The reality will set in over the course of time during a 60-minute game,” he added. “Twice [against Mississippi State and Nebraska] we’ve had opportunities where we were in the football game in the fourth quarter in I-A games. The last two years have really been hard.”
Led by senior end Jovan Belcher, the UMaine defense provided solid resistance for the better part of three quarters. However, Iowa scored twice during a span of 15 seconds early in the fourth to make it a rout.
“They had a great running game and passing game,” Belcher said. “They’re a hard-nosed football team, so they came right at us and we didn’t respond in every situation we needed to.”
The Hawkeyes amassed 457 yards of total offense. Tailback Shonne Greene netted 109 yards on 22 carries, while quarterbacks Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi combined to throw for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Iowa ran 73 offensive plays, which gradually wore down the Bears’ defense.
“It’s just really difficult for us to stand up to them consistently in the run game and also to get something going on offense,” Cosgrove said. “That was the difference on our defense, because they were on the field so much.”
Linebacker Levin Ervin of Lisbon Falls posted six tackles, while cornerback Lionel Nixon Jr. had a sack among his six tackles.
The UMaine offense was unable to establish itself consistently, although the rebuilt offensive line paved the way for senior tailback Jhamal Fluellen to rush for 104 yards on 21 carries.
“I thought we did pretty well,” Fluellen said. “Our guys held their own against probably the best defensive line I’ve ever gone against in my life. The offensive line did a good job of opening up the holes for me.”
The passing game struggled. Sophomore quarterback Adam Farkes went 9-for-22 for only 83 yards and was intercepted twice.
He did complete a 35-yard pass to Mike Brusko on UMaine’s first play from scrimmage on which Brusko beat his man and likely would have scored had he not stumbled and fallen.
“It’s just a matter of being able to execute on a more consistent basis,” Farkes said. “We made some plays on and off throughout the whole game, but on and off isn’t going to win you any games.”
Fluellen also caught three passes for 10 yards.
Iowa mounted four long touchdown drives that averaged 10 plays and 66 yards. The hosts set the tone by converting two lengthy marches while gaining a 14-0 advantage.
Greene capped the first with a 1-yard run, while Christensen found Brandon Myers on a 4-yard TD pass on the second.
UMaine’s best offensive possession was its first and was sandwiched between the Iowa TD drives. The pass to Brusko and Farkes’ 7-yard run got the Bears to the Hawkeyes’ 23-yard line, but A.J. Edds tipped a Farkes pass that was intercepted by Bradley Fletcher.
“I think I was trying to force some balls, especially the first one,” Farkes said. “Give them credit, they got their hands on them and knocked it down and made a play on the ball.”
Freshman Brian Harvey gave UMaine fans something to cheer about when he kicked a 40-yard field goal on a low line drive to end the first half that accounted for the Bears’ only points.
“It was a good moment, a shocking moment for Maine football fans,” Cosgrove joked, referring to the program’s history of inconsistent place-kicking.
“We’re excited about that, no matter if it looked like he [Harvey] threw it over,” he added. “It went over. It’s a good moment; good for him.”
The kick by Harvey, who was not made available for comment, cut the Iowa lead to 22-3.
The Hawkeyes put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter. First, Paki O’Meara capped a 50-yard march with a 1-yard scoring run.
Pat Angerer’s interception on UMaine’s next play set up a 19-yard TD dash by Jewel Hampton.
“I just hoped we would come ready to play and play well and play a fairly clean game, and I think for the most part we did that,” Ferentz said.
UMaine returns to action Saturday with a nonconference game at Monmouth University of West Long Branch, N.J.