Just 1:48 into the second half, the University of Maine’s football team found itself leading defending Football Championship Subdivision champion and current No. 1 James Madison University 10-7 courtesy of Josh Mack’s 60-yard touchdown run on Saturday.
But the Black Bears next six possessions ended with four punts and two interceptions and senior quarterback Bryan Schor threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half to rally the Dukes past the Black Bears 28-10 at Bridgeforth Field in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
James Madison improved its record to 4-0 and extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games. It was a come-from-behind 31-20 victory over UMaine in Orono last fall that started the winning streak.
It was James Madison’s Colonial Athletic Association opener.
UMaine is now 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the CAA.
“Obviously, we didn’t make enough plays,” said UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak in the post-game press conference.
He added that the Black Bears are trying to get to the point where they can beat James Madison and get to the top of the CAA but they aren’t there yet.
“We’re knocking on the door. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to keep grinding,” said Harasymiak. “The bottom line is that they made more plays than we did and that’s why they’re the number one team in the country. Give all the credit to them.
Harasymiak added that he was “proud of our kids. We were drained at the end.”
The game pitted the two highest-scoring teams in the CAA as James Madison entered the game averaging 53.7 points per game while UMaine was averaging 41.5.
But the defenses dominated the first half as James Madison took a 7-3 lead into the intermission.
Schor hit All-American tight end Jonathan Kloosterman in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard TD in the second quarter but Brandon Briggs hit his first career field goal, a 40-yarder with 14 seconds left in the half, to pull the Black Bears within four.
Sophomore running back Mack burst free for his 60-yard TD scamper on the first series of the second half but, later in the quarter, Harry O’Kelly’s 63-yard punt to the UM-13 pinned the Black Bears deep in their own end and a Ron’Dell Carter sack of redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson at the UM-5 eventually resulted in the Dukes getting the ball at the UM-40 following a 35-yard punt by Derek Deoul.
It took the Dukes just three plays to take the lead for good as Schor tossed a 22-yard TD pass to David Eldridge with 9:12 left in the third quarter.
UMaine’s offense continued to sputter but the defense kept it within four points when Deshawn Stevens recovered a Trai Sharp fumble at UM’s one-yard line after Jaron Grayer forced the fumble and the Black Bears stopped another JMU drive at the UM-30.
But JMU made it 21-10 with 12:07 left in the game when Schor hooked up with Taylor Woods coming out of the backfield for a nine-yard TD pass after the drive had been set up by a Rashad Robinson interception.
“Taylor was wide open,” said Schor.
JMU iced it when Schor finished off a nine-play, 86-yard drive with a three-yard TD pass to Ezrah Archie after he had thrown a 26-yard pass to Riley Stapleton to set them up at the UM-3.
Schor, a second team All-American last year, completed 21 of 31 passes for 281 yards and the four touchdowns. He was intercepted once and sacked three times.
“They were in a lot of one-on-one coverage. We’re really skilled offensively so we took that personally,” said Schor.
Ferguson wound up completing 20-of-41 passes for 162 yards. He was intercepted three times and was sacked on four occasions.
“I’m sure Chris would like to have this game back,” said Harasymiak. “He played pretty well in our first two games but he looked like a freshman out there today. On some of those sacks, he held on to the ball way too long. He made a lot of mistakes. But it’s growing pains.”
Harasymiak said Schor proved he’s “probably the best quarterback in the country. He made some great throws.”
Schor said the Black Bears gave them a battle.
“We started slowly. But tough games like this are good for us. We had to keep our heads down and keep plugging away. Something would open up,” said Schor.
Mack led all rushers with 144 yards on 24 carries. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in all three games so far. Jaleel Reed had four catches for UMaine with Earnest Edwards, Jared Osumah, Drew Belcher and Mack catching three apiece.
Taji Lowe made 10 tackles to pace the Black Bears with Grayer involved in nine tackles and Sterling Sheffield was in on eight, including two and a half sacks. Jason Matovu and Charles Mitchell were also in on eight tackles each.
Marcus Marshall rushed for 135 yards on 19 carries for JMU, Archie caught eight passes, Curtis Oliver had a game-high 12 tackles and Kyre Hawkins had two sacks.
UMaine is off next weekend before traveling to Villanova (Pa.) for an Oct. 7 game.