ORONO, Maine — The potential of this year’s University of Maine football team was evident Saturday night.
However, the Black Bears were again unable to establish enough consistency to come out on top.
Delaware dominated the second half, controlling the ball with a balanced offense while grinding out a 27-17 Colonial Athletic Association victory in front of 4,314 fans at cool, damp Alfond Stadium.
UMaine (2-3 overall, 1-1 CAA) led early in the third quarter, but the Blue Hens scored 13 unanswered points to hand the Bears their third consecutive loss.
“We just didn’t execute at times the way they did, quite frankly, in the second half,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “They made the plays and executed better than we did.”
The Bears managed only 100 yards of offense in the second half, while Delaware (3-2, 1-2 CAA) rolled up 271 yards.
Quarterback Pat Devlin, a Penn State transfer, efficiently directed the Blue Devils. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown. Yet it was Delaware’s ability to run the ball behind tailback David Hayes (106 yards on 17 carries, five catches, 49 yards) that made the difference.
Delaware held the football for 11 minutes, 34 seconds in the fourth quarter to hold the Black Bears at bay.
“I thought we did some good things coming off the second worst rushing game in the history of Delaware football (minus 2 yards),” said Hens coach K.C. Keeler. “We needed to run the football and I thought we did a pretty good job doing that.”
Delaware amassed 512 yards and ran 20 more offensive plays against a UMaine defense that afforded the visitors some costly, long pass plays and failed to contain the run.
Despite wearing down late, the Bears made two successful goal-line stands in the game. However, sophomore quarterback Warren Smith and the offense were unable to maintain their level of play in the second half.
“We didn’t complement each other as an offense and a defensive football team,” Cosgrove said. “Our defense was out there way too much against a very talented quarterback and crew of receivers.”
Smith completed 23 of 36 throws for 258 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Landis Williams made 10 receptions for 104 yards.
Even so, Delaware held the Bears’ ground game in check (68 yards) and limited them to 3-for-11 success on third down.
“That’s probably the biggest factor in the game right there,” Cosgrove said.
Sophomore linebacker Donte Dennis spearheaded the Bears defense with 23 tackles (nine solos), including a sack. Jerron McMillian and Ryan McCrossan posted 10 tackles each.
UMaine had regained the lead on its first possession of the second half. Jordan Waxman closed out a 12-play, 53-yard drive with a 35-yard field goal that gave the Bears a 17-14 edge.
Delaware answered late in the quarter, sparked by Devlin’s 48-yard sideline throw to Mark Duncan. Leon Jackson punctuated a 71-yard march with a 2-yard TD dive as the Blue Hens went on top for good (21-17) with 2:27 to play.
They continued to control the game with an effective pass-run mix, although UMaine held on a fourth-and-one from the 6-yard line with 10:46 left in the game to stay close.
As was the case after a first-half stand, the Bears couldn’t take advantage.
“When the defense makes a big play, that’s when offense has got to respond,” Smith said. “That’s momentum in the game, right there, and as an offense we didn’t do that.”
Delaware scored the clincher on its next possession, moving 62 yards on 10 plays. Hayes raced 25 yards for a score on a fourth-and-two play to give the Hens a 10-point cushion with 3:57 to go.
A deep pass by Smith was intercepted on UMaine’s ensuing series, ending the Bears’ hopes.
The Blue Hens got on the board first, after Waxman missed a 31-yard field-goal try wide left. Two plays later, Devlin found wideout Mark Duncan streaking behind the Bears defense for a 79-yard touchdown pass with 6:37 to play in the first quarter. Jon Striefsky’s PAT made it 7-0.
UMaine responded five minutes later with a quick, five-play drive aided by a pass interference penalty. Des Randall caught a fade pass from Smith on the left sideline, sidestepped two defenders inside the 10-yard line and completed the 45-yard TD hookup.
Waxman’s PAT tied it 7-7 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Delaware failed to convert Ricky Tunstall’s interception. The Hens drove to the UMaine 2, only to be thwarted on three consecutive runs.
The Bears wound up punting out of the end zone and the Hens went back to work. Devlin kept the drive going by eluding an apparent sack for a 17-yard gain on a second-down play and Leon Jackson scored from eight yards out as Delaware made it 14-7 with 5:12 remaining in the first half.
Smith drove the Bears down the field on their last possession of the second quarter. Ty Jones leapt high to gather in a 9-yard timing toss from Smith and Waxman added the PAT kick to make it 14-14.