ORONO — All season long, the University of Maine football team was unable to make enough plays in critical situations to win consistently.
That is exactly how the Black Bears’ disappointing 2010 campaign came to an end Saturday afternoon on Morse Field.
Tight end Jeff Falvey caught a short screen pass from quarterback Warren Smith but was stopped at the 3-yard line, allowing time to expire, as James Madison escaped chilly Alfond Stadium with a 14-10 Colonial Athletic Association victory.
Coach Jack Cosgrove took the blame for the last call with 12.4 seconds remaining that left UMaine, with no timeouts, unable to get off another play.
“I’m hurting on that one, just because we could have had another play or two,” Cosgrove said. “I take full responsibility.”
The Bears close out the season 4-7 overall, 3-5 in conference play. Three of the losses came by a combined 10 points.
“(It’s) a really tough loss,” Cosgrove said. “I thought our guys played hard. I thought we made some big mistakes, failed to capitalize on some opportunities that obviously could have changed the final outcome.”
James Madison (6-5, 3-5 CAA) won its second straight game after snapping a four-game losing streak a week earlier by beating then-No. 1 William & Mary.
Smith, reinserted as the starter after Chris Treister suffered a fracture and a cut on his right index finger in the Towson game, led the Bears to the brink of a comeback victory.
With time running out (3:49 left), the junior marched the Bears down the field 65 yards on 16 plays, completing eight of 13 passes. That included two third-down conversions and one on fourth down.
Finally, UMaine had two cracks from the 3-yard line. The first was a keeper by Smith, who was stopped for no gain. The last was the ill-fated screen pass.
“That’s kind of been the story of this year. We’re not finishing and that’s what we’ve got to work on offseason, everything we do, and make it real critical for us next year,” Smith said.
UMaine played well defensively against a struggling James Madison offense as it limited the Dukes to 204 total yards and 10 first downs. However, JMU broke two long plays to spark their only scoring drives.
In spite of converting seven of 17 third-down plays and all three of its fourth-down opportunities, UMaine was unable to put enough points on the scoreboard.
The Bears had one field-goal attempt blocked in the second quarter and missed another wide left in the third. The latter came after a 5-yard penalty for delay of game resulted in a 41-yard try in windy conditions.
JMU scored the go-ahead touchdown on the opening possession of the second half when “wildcat” quarterback Dae’Quan Scott ran off the right side and broke at least three tackles while ripping off a 43-yard scoring jaunt.
“I just saw everybody missing tackles,” said UMaine linebacker Donte Dennis, who made 11 himself. “We fit it (had it defended) well, everybody was in the right spots. He’s a good player. He got loose.”
UMaine eventually trimmed the deficit to four, after Jerron McMillian’s interception led to Brian Harvey’s 23-yard field goal with 10:09 to play. The Bears’ defense held on JMU’s next possession, which ended at the UM 32-yard line.
That set up the last-ditch effort.
It was the final game for UMaine’s 12 seniors, although four of them, including starting linebacker Mark Masterson and offensive lineman Matt Barber, did not play because of injuries.
“When you’re a team that is a close football team like this team is, and Maine generally has to be to be successful, it’s a tough break and a tough way to end it,” Cosgrove said.
The Bears also were without starting tailback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston and backups in linebacker Levi Ervin of Lisbon Falls, fullback Conor Keating, wideout/kick returner Roosevelt Boone, safety Mike Mangiarelli and defenisve tackle Brent Rice — all because of injuries.
Junior tailback Pushaun Brown led UMaine with 106 yards on 16 carries. It was his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance.
Smith completed 23 of 38 passes for 108 yards, with one interception, and also rushed for 51 yards on 13 carries.
Linebacker Troy Russell posted 11 tackles for the Bears.
JMU got 61 rushing yards from Scott and 60 from tailback Jamal Sullivan. Linebacker Pat Williams logged 11 tackles.
The Bears opened the game with an 11-play, 73-yard scoring march. It included a fake-punt run for a first down by Brown.
Smith scored on a 4-yard keeper with 8:55 left in the first quarter.
JMU tied it with 55 seconds left in the first half after a 19-yard punt gave the Dukes the ball at the UM 46. A 34-yard option pass from Scott to a wide-open Renard Robinson helped set up Sullivan’s 3-yard TD dive.
James Madison (6-5) 0 7 7 0 — 14
Maine (4-7) 7 0 0 3 — 10
UM — Smith 4 run (Harvey kick)
JMU — Sullivan 3 run (Wright kick)
JMU — Scott 43 run (Wright kick)
UM — Harvey 23 field goal