DURHAM, N.H. — Maine’s bid for a perfect Colonial Athletic Association season, its eighth straight win and to take the Brice-Cowell Musket back to Orono came crashing to a close on Saturday with a 24-3 loss in front of 10,333 at Cowell Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“They played an outstanding game and we didn’t measure up to it,” said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove.
Maine, ranked No. 4 in the FCS last week, finished the regular season at 10-2 overall and 7-1 in the CAA.
The Black Bears clinched the league championship and an automatic berth in the playoffs last week and will get their assignment for the tournament during the FCS Selection Show on Sunday morning at 11:30.
Maine hopes to land a top eight seed for the 24-team tournament and New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said he has no doubt Maine deserves a top eight spot and the bye that comes with it.
New Hampshire retained the historic Brice-Cowell Musket that goes to the winner of this series each year and improved to 7-4 and 6-2 in the CAA.
Maine’s only win in the series in the last 11 years came in 2010, 16-13 in overtime.
There’s no time to worry about that now, said Maine senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski.
“We can’t take a while to recover from this,” he said. “Obviously the one thing the seniors wanted to do was bring the musket back to Orono. But we have playoffs to prepare for right now and we’ve got to great ready for them.”
UNH has qualified for the playoffs nine straight years and hope to receive an at-large bid this year.
The Wildcat defense managed to get a pair of turnovers against Maine with one interception and one fumble. Maine had not turned the ball over in its last six games.
“They executed very well on defense and made for some tight windows and tight spot to throw,” Wasilewski said. “Hats off to them.”
The Black Bears managed just 315 yards of total offense, 95 on the ground, to UNH’s 331.
Wasilewski completed 27 of his 43 passes for 220 yards and had the one pass picked off.
UNH drove 85 yards in 14 plays — helped by a successful run for a first down on a fake punt — for the only touchdown of the first half.
Andy Vailas connected with redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Powell for the 5-yard score with 7:02 left in the first quarter.
Maine drove and had a second down on the UNH 4-yard line early in the second period, but an incomplete Wasilewski pass and a sack left Maine trying a 27-yard field goal into the wind. Sean Decloux’s kick was wide left.
UNH went back the other way and Mike MacArthur kicked a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 9:52 left in the half.
Casey DeAndrade intercepted a Wasilewski pass — the quarterback had gone six games without a pick — to get UNH the ball at the Maine 16.
The defense held and Maine blocked a 31-yard McArthur field goal attempt.
Wasilewski drove Maine down the field to a Decloux 22-yard field goal that cut it to 10-3 at the break.
UNH turned the second Maine turnover into a touchdown late in the third quarter.
Linebacker Shane McNeely sacked Wasilewski and slapped the ball away from him and defensive tackle Sean McCann recovered the ball on the Maine 20.
Three plays later, Sean Goldrich, who had replaced Vailas, teamed with Jimmy Giansante for a 6-yard scoring pass on a 3rd down and goal play. MacArthur’s kick made it 17-3 New Hampshire with 3:13 left in the third.
The UNH defense forced a three-and-out and forced a punt. The Wildcats quickly struck again when Steriti broke through the line of scrimmage and ran 68 yards for a score.
“We turned it over a couple of times and that hurt us,” Cosgrove said. “We did some things we hadn’t been doing and as a result we lost the football game.”