The University of Maine football team gave a good account of itself in its 44-31 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision team the University of Massachusetts at Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday.
But, in the end, UMaine’s inability to make plays in the fourth quarter played a major role in its downfall.
UMaine has now been outscored 45-13 in the fourth quarter of its five losses and has outscored its opponents 23-6 in its four wins.
UMaine rallied from a 24-7 deficit to tie UMass at 24-24 and then fell behind 37-24 but pulled within 37-31 and had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead.
But three penalties proved costly and the Black Bears eventually turned the ball over to UMass at their own 35 yard line after they failed to convert a fourth-and-six with 2:11 to go. The Minutemen then scored a clinching TD.
UMaine was called for 12 penalties totaling 124 yards and the Black Bears are the most penalized team in the 12-member Colonial Athletic Association, averaging 84.2 yards per game.
UMaine marched down to UMass’ five yard line on its last possession but the Black Bears turned the ball over on downs after four incompletions.
“It could have been a special moment. I’m disappointed we didn’t come up with the win, said UMaine second-year head coach Joe Harasymiak. “The guys played hard. They fought back. But it was the story of what has been going on here consistently. We have opportunities to make plays in the fourth quarter but we don’t make them.”
Playing at Fenway Park supplied the Black Bears with a unique experience.
“It was great for our program. It was an unbelievable experience,” said Harasymiak. “Hopefully, we’ll get to do it again sometime.”
Among the bright spots were running back Josh Mack’s seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season (22 carries-110 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the play of defensive ends Kayon Whitaker (8 tackles, 1 sack) and Connor Walsh (5 tackles, 1 sack) and defensive tackle Charles Mitchell (6 tackles, one sack). Mack, Whitaker and Mitchell are sophomores and Walsh is a junior. And redshirt freshman linebacker Deshawn Stevens had a game-high 12 tackles.
“The defense played real well up front,” said Harasymiak. “Mitchell was very, very good; Whitaker was good and Walsh had a good game. (Walsh) has been battling injuries.”
He credited Mack and the offensive line for turning in an impressive performance but said his receivers had “six or seven drops and you can’t have that in a game like that.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson completed 16 of 41 passes for 232 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Speedy sophomore wide receiver/kickoff returner Earnest Edwards was named the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 37.8 yards on five kickoff returns including a 95-yard TD run. He also caught two passes for 46 yards to rack up 238 all-purpose yards.
The Black Bears will now turn their eyes to Saturday’s noon final at Alfond Stadium against surging Stony Brook, which has won four straight and is 8-2 overall, 6-1 in the conference. Stony Brook appears to be playoff-bound.
“The biggest difference for them this year is their quarterback is playing very well. Their defense is the same…. they fly around and make plays,” said Harasymiak.
Stony Brook junior quarterback Joe Carbone has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 1,773 and 18 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just three times. Ray Bolden has 64 catches for 769 yards.
Mack continues to lead the CAA in rushing with 1,262 yards on 213 carries. He also leads the league in all-purpose yards with 163.4 per game. He has a team leading 30 catches for 209 yards.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.