The University of Maine’s defense has allowed only 10 points over the last six quarters. Those efforts helped the Black Bears rally for a 51-27 victory over Rhode Island on Oct. 14 and post a 12-10 Colonial Athletic Association football triumph at Albany last Saturday.
Albany’s only touchdown came on a fumble return.
UMaine allowed three touchdowns on URI’s first four possessions but has allowed just one over the last 21 possessions in the last two games.
The Black Bears, who held Albany to one third-down conversion in 12 attempts, lead the CAA while allowing the opposition to convert just 27.6 percent of their third downs (21-for-76).
“We have guys playing on third down who don’t play on first and second downs. We have special group packages,” UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said during Monday’s weekly Colonial Athletic Association teleconference.
“It’s very important for our guys to fit into an identity and the staff has done a great job coming up with a game plan,” he added.
Harasymiak said their third-down defense proficiency allowed them to be more aggressive and get to the quarterback with some three-man rushes.
UMaine held Albany to 13 first downs and 262 total yards, 163 through the air and 99 on the ground.
The Black Bears had three sacks including a crucial one by redshirt freshman linebacker Deshawn Stevens on Albany’s last drive that forced a longer field-goal try, which was missed.
Harasymiak said the defense did a good job tackling for the most part.
“Their freshman running back (Karl Mofor) is a good player. He’s thick and he breaks tackles. He had one long run (58 yards); they had a good scheme on that play. But we did a good job keeping that in check,” said Harasymiak.
Mofor rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries.
Sophomore cornerback Manny Patterson successfully dealt with Albany’s “over-the-top” passing game.
“They hit a couple of them but that’s going to happen here and there in four quarters,” said Harasymiak. “The guys stuck to the game plan and made plays in the air.”
Albany quarterback Will Brunson completed 13 of 27 passes for 163 yards.
Harasymiak said his one of the keys to the recent defensive success has been its discipline.
“They always play hard and they’ve played together. They been in the right spots,” he said.
The team’s grueling early-season road schedule, which included games against nationally-ranked New Hampshire, James Madison and Villanova, helped Maine handle Albany’s homecoming environment.
“That will make us stronger down the road,” said Harasymiak. “The guys battled the whole game. They faced a lot of adversity.”
Sophomore running back Josh Mack eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in six games with 108 yards on 32 carries. He gained 36 yards on seven tries during the Black Bears’ final drive.
“Josh and the offensive line enabled us to win the game at the end,” said Harasymiak.
It was a Mack fumble, his second in three weeks, that resulted in the Albany touchdown and Harasymiak said that is unacceptable.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson completed 19 of 30 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown and wasn’t intercepted.
“He didn’t turn the ball over and that was huge. He still needs to do some things better. He managed the game for the most part. He just needs to clean up some reads,” said Harasymiak.
The Black Bears (3-3 overall, 2-3 CAA entertain William & Mary at noon on Saturday. The Tribe (3-5, 0-4 CAA) has lost four in a row, including Saturday’s 46-14 loss to No. 1 James Madison.