ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s football team was highlighted on ESPN’s list of Top Ten plays late Saturday night. In fact, the Black Bears were involved in the play that was selected No. 1.
But they wished they hadn’t been.
The play was Joe Carbone’s 35-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Harrison Jackson as time expired to give Stony Brook a 20-19 victory over UMaine on Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium.
Holding a five-point lead with 31 seconds remaining and with Stony Brook 73 yards from the end zone with no time-outs, the Black Bears seemed poised to beat the the No. 12 Football Championship Subdivision football team in the country.
But the Black Bears’ history of fourth-quarter demises hit rock bottom as it took just four plays for Football Championship Subdivision play-off bound Stony Brook to snatch an unlikely victory and improve to 9-2 overall, 7-1 in Colonial Athletic Association play.
UMaine wound up 4-6, 3-5 in league play.
UMaine was outscored 58-13 in the fourth quarter of its six losses.
Carbone floated a pass to the right side of the end zone where Jackson out-jumped a large throng of Black Bears to win it.
Jackson was thankful for the opportunity after he had dropped a pass on the previous drive and Stony Brook wound up turning the ball over on downs.
“I thank God for putting me in position to catch the ball. My teammates believed in me more than I believed in myself (after the drop). Joe threw the ball and trusted me and I went up and did what I was coached to do,” said Jackson. “I just saw the ball and knew I had to go up and get it.”
“That’s our Big Ben Play. We practice it every Thursday. And it never works,” joked Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore, who noted that Carbone usually throws it out of the end zone.
The Black Bears came away frustrated.
“At the end of the day, they wanted to make the play. They’re a playoff team and we’re not,” said sophomore cornerback Manny Patterson. “In order to be a playoff team, you’ve got to make (defensive) plays like that.”
“We were in the right defense. I don’t care if we have 10 men in the end zone. You have to knock it down,” said UMaine coach Joe Harasymiak. “We didn’t make the play.”
But Harasymiak said the play that cost them the game happened two plays prior when Carbone completed a 23-yard pass to Donavin Washington across the middle to move Stony Brook to the UM 35. Carbone then spiked the ball to stop the clock.
The play was originally called to be a deep pattern to the sideline but Priore said Washington instructed them to change the play so he could cut across the middle and he was wide open.
“That was the play that lost us the game. We cut a guy loose in man coverage,” said Harasymiak.
A pass interference call on UMaine had started the drive.
The Black Bears built a 12-0, first-quarter lead on Chris Ferguson’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Earnest Edwards and Josh Mack’s 3-yard run.
UMaine failed on a pair of two-point conversions and it proved costly.
Donald Liotine’s 10-yard run cut the lead to 12-7 in the second quarter but Jared Osumah caught a 59-yard TD pass from Ferguson (19-for-29 passing, 256 yards) just 43 seconds later to make it 19-7.
But UMaine would never score again. Brandon Briggs missed a 38-yard field goal in the third period and UMaine was not able to produce points after three second-half drives into Stony Brook territory.
The Seawolves caught a break that led to Carbone’s 11-yard TD pass to Washington in the third period when Jackson hauled in a 65-yard pass that deflected off the hands of another Stony Brook receiver.
“That has been the story of our year. We haven’t been able to make plays when we needed to,” said Harasymiak.
The Black Bears could have salted the game away with a first down on their last drive but Stony Brook’s stout run defense stuffed Maine on three runs.
UMaine’s defense limited SBU to 67 rushing yards and 289 total yards and forced Carbone into an 11-for-34 passing effort good for 222 yards, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
Deshawn Stevens made 11 tackles, Kayon Whitaker registered nine and Patterson turned in five pass breakups for the Black Bears.
“You’ve got to give credit to Maine. They played a real good game, especially defensively,” said Carbone. “They made us work really hard on offense.”
Noah McGinty’s 13 tackles and Chris Cooper’s 12 led Stony Brook, which held CAA rushing leader Mack to 73 hard-earned yards on 30 carries.
Jaquan Blair made seven catches for 54 yards.
The Black Bears held the Seawolves to 71 total yards and seven first downs in the first half while racking up 276 themselves.
Ferguson opened the scoring with a perfectly-thrown pass to Edwards, who caught the pass in full stride with 7:03 left in the first quarter.
A trick two-point conversion pass failed.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Black Bears strung together a nine-play, 79-yard drive that was culminated by Mack’s 3-yard run. The two-point conversion pass was dropped.
A Ferguson 25-yard scramble had set up Mack’s TD on the next play.