PORTLAND, Maine — Josh Mack rushed for 173-yards, marking the sixth 100+ yard performance of the year for the Football Championship Subdivision’s (FCS) leading rusher, but the University of Maine football team came up short, dropping a 31-17 decision to visiting Delaware on Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Maine, which played its first game at the Portland stadium since 2005, outgained the Blue Hens by a final tally of 451 to 356 but a late fumble on a punt, which was recovered for a touchdown by Delaware, swung the momentum and gave the visitors a late lead.
The Black Bears’ rushing attack, led by Mack, ended the game with 233 total yards. Joe Fitzpatrick added 50-yards on eight carries and was able to notch his first career touchdown in a homecoming of sorts for the former Cheverus high school star.
Chris Ferguson finished the game 20-for-37 through the air for 218-yards and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Micah Wright.
Deshawn Stevens shined on the defensive front, racking up a career-high 14 tackles in his first career start. Jaron Grayer added 11 stops while Kayon Whitaker produced 3.0 tackles for loss, including a sack, and forced a fumble.
Maine broke a scoreless tie on its second drive of the game when the Colonial Athletic Association’s (CAA) reigning Special Teams Player of the Week, Brandon Briggs, knocked through a 29-yard field goal. The make, Briggs’ eighth of the year, completed a seven play, 40-yard drive with 8:03 left in the first quarter.
Charles Mitchell recovered a fumble by Delaware’s Kareem Williams on the Blue Hens’ next drive, giving Maine great field position at the Delaware 30. However, Briggs’ field goal attempt, this time from 40-yards, was blocked by Bilal Nichols.
Delaware retained possession but would again fumble, this time when Whitaker smashed through the line and knocked the ball loose from Kani Kane. Sterling Sheffield would recover as Maine started its next drive at its own 34.
Ferguson and the offense marched down the field before a 17-yard carry by Mack set Maine up at the Delaware 17. After an incompletion to Wright, Ferguson went right back to the junior wideout and this time Wright came down with the catch in the end zone. Following a Briggs extra point, Maine carried a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.
Delaware’s offense settled in for the second quarter, outgaining Maine 175-14 over the period and adding a pair of scores. J.P Caruso’s 10-yard completion to Brandon Whaley began the scoring for the Blue Hens before Kane ended an 11-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard score, giving Delaware the lead.
The Blue Hens would take a 14-10 edge into the break.
A Ferguson pass would tip off Wright early in the third quarter and land in the hands of Delaware’s Tim Poindexter at the Maine 37. After three-straight rushes from Kane, Frank Raggo came on to hit a 48-yard field goal, extending the Delaware lead to 17-10.
Maine had the answer on the ground in its ensuring drive, mustering 80-yards of rush offense on eight-straight rush plays. Fitzpatrick’s eight yard carry broke the plain as Maine tied it up, 17-17, with 9:01 left in the third.
Delaware snapped the tie with a special teams score late early in the fourth quarter. The Blue Hens were forced to punt on their own 47. Wright caught the punt at the Maine five-yard line but fumbled on a hit from Nasie Adderley. Delaware’s Colby Reeder recovered the punt and crossed the goal line. The score, and point after, gave Delaware a 24-17 lead.
The Black Bears were forced to punt after a three-and-out, giving Delaware the ball back on its own 42. The Blue Hens responded with a lengthy, 13-play, 58-yard drive spanning 7:44 and ending on a 1-yard touchdown run by J.P. Caruso. Maine would trail, 31-17, with 4:07 to play.
Maine looked for the answer on its next drive but came up empty on a fourth down try, turning it over on downs.
Delaware would run the clock out and escape with a 31-17 victory.
The Black Bears return to action on Saturday, Nov. 11 when they take on UMass at historic Fenway Park. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.