June 23, 2018
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Black Bears capitalize on 7 turnovers

By Pete Warner

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Looking at the final score, it is difficult to imagine what the University of Maine football team endured Saturday afternoon.

Hofstra rolled up 32 first downs, 533 yards of offense, including 293 on the ground, and manufactured a 7½-minute edge in time of possession.

“Did we give up that much? Wow!” Black Bears coach Jack Cosgrove said after the game.

Even so, UMaine forced seven turnovers, including five interceptions, and emerged with a 16-14 victory at cool, windy Shuart Stadium.

The Black Bears (3-3, 2-1 CAA) snapped a three-game losing streak with a porous but resilient defensive effort.

“There’s no excuse for that amount of turnovers, none,” said Hofstra coach Dave Cohen.

“[UMaine] played hard, they caused turnovers and they did what they had to do to win the game,” he added.

UMaine’s defense, which had faltered during the second half of its previous three contests, came through this time. The Bears’ ability to come up with turnovers helped them hold Hofstra (3-3, 1-2 CAA) at bay.

“Late in the game, we asked them to reach down and I think we got a great win for our guys in terms of emphasizing the intangibles of hard work, perseverance and those type of things,” Cosgrove said.

UMaine prevailed despite allowing Hofstra to run 85 offensive plays, 29 more than UMaine, including 47 in the final 30 minutes.

“Yeah, it seemed like we were out there quite a bit,” said senior end Jordan Stevens of Temple, who made eight tackles and forced a fumble.

“We just kept fighting. It helped us a lot creating seven turnovers in key moments when we needed to. We got the job done when we needed to, so that’s all that matters.”

Hofstra was coming off an upset victory over then-No. 7 James Madison a week earlier.

Sophomore Jordan Waxman, who missed an extra point in the first quarter, drilled a 28-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the game to give UMaine the eventual margin of victory.

“You’ve got to keep it out, let it roll off your back,” Waxman said of the early miss. “That [field goal] was a big kick. I’m glad I made it and helped our team get a victory.”

The kick capped an 11-play, 35-yard drive that featured a key, fourth-down pass from quarterback Warren Smith to tight end Derek Buttles.

The Pride shook off its turnover woes long enough to make things interesting on their next possession.

Christopher (22-for-32, 223 yards) completed seven passes for 54 yards to lead a 10-play, 72-yard scoring march that culminated in his 4-yard TD toss to Aaron Weaver with 2:22 to play.

Henry Greco’s PAT cut the UMaine lead to 16-14.

The ensuing onside kick failed, but the Bears were forced to punt, leaving the Pride only 38 seconds. Doug Alston’s fourth-down sack near midfield ended the game.

“We’re always told to put out the fire, whatever happens,” said Bears linebacker Ryan McCrossan. “If the offense is struggling a little bit, we’ve just got to go out there and get the ball back.”

Sophomore linebacker Donte Dennis was in on 10 tackles, made two interceptions and recovered a fumble. Cornerback Steven Barker made nine tackles and an interception, while Jerron McMillian and McCrossan each made seven tackles with an interception.

Smith was the catalyst for the UMaine offense, which netted 311 yards (only 11 first downs) and had three turnovers. He emerged as the leading rusher with 82 yards on 16 carries and completed 15 of 25 passes for 189 yards with two TDs and an interception.

Tyrell Jones made four catches for 86 yards and Landis Williams caught four balls for 45 yards and a TD.

The Bears ran only seven offensive plays in the third quarter, but rode Smith’s play to a more productive final period.

He was intercepted on a third-down pass from the H 21 at the 11:51 mark, but later engineered the clinching drive.

Smith carried three times for 12 yards and completed two passes for 22 yards to get the Bears into field-goal range.

“We weren’t doing a real good job running the football except with Warren,” Cosgrove said. “Really what I was saying to him [offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin was], the only guy I want touching the ball is Warren.”

Hofstra might have seized the momentum in the second half, but a bad snap helped lead to a missed 22-yard field goal by Greco on the third play of the fourth quarter.

The Bears held after Hofstra had first-and-goal from the 6.

Hofstra couldn’t sustain its offensive momentum because of turnovers. Christopher was picked off three times and Steve Probst, who shared the QB duties, wound up 2-for-8 passing with two interceptions.

Miguel Maysonet ran for 95 yards on seven carries and Probst gained 91 yards on 12 attempts for the hosts.

UMaine opened the contest by moving 50 yards on six plays. Jones’ acrobatic, leaping catch of a 36-yard pass from Smith set up a five-yard scoring toss from Smith to freshman fullback Julian McCall.

Waxman’s PAT hit the left upright, leaving the score 6-0.

UMaine was poised to make it a two-score game on its next possession after Williams’ 30-yard punt return to the Hofstra 25. However, tailback Derek Session fumbled the ball away at the 4-yard line, the first of his two fumbles on the afternoon.

The Bears got a big boost on their last possession of the half (after a Hofstra fumble) as Smith engineered a nine-play, 62-yard drive. It included a clutch 11-yard pass to Williams on a fourth-and-four play from the H 34.

Three plays later, Smith found Williams open at the goal line for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Waxman’s PAT made it 13-0 with 1:17 to play.

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