Earnest Edwards was the scene-stealer for the University of Maine football team in Saturday’s 35-21 win over Colgate University with kickoff returns for touchdowns of 100 and 95 yards. But the production of running backs Joe Fitzpatrick and Emmanuel Reed was an important development.
That continues to be a key dynamic as the Black Bears seek to develop a balanced offensive attack.
North Yarmouth’s Fitzpatrick, whose career has been hampered by a series of injuries, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for his career. The senior ran for 102 yards on 16 carries, an average of 6.4 yards per carry. It was the second best production of his career, one yard shy of his 103 yards against Bryant in 2017.
“He is a salty kid with a big chip on his shoulder. He is physical and has an attitude,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said on Monday. “He represents the team in a lot of ways. We were a pretty salty team on Saturday and he embodies that.”
Fitzpatrick now has 1,076 career rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 224 carries.
Reed, also a senior, contributed 62 yards rushing on 15 carries against the Raiders as UMaine finished with 35 carries for a season-high 152 yards.
“Joe and [Reed] ran hard. Both have different skill sets. It was a good thing to see,” Charlton said. “Joe brought a lot of energy and was very physical. He picked up a lot of first downs in short-yardage situations. It was a testament to the guys up front and to Joe.”
The UMaine coach said the offensive line was powered by Danish sophomore left guard Matthias Staalsoe, who had the best game of his career.
He also noted that tight ends Shawn Bowman, a redshirt freshman, and sophomore Ori Jean-Charles, a transfer from Louisville, continue to improve every day.
Charlton said tailback Jordan Rowell, a Northern Illinois transfer who suffered a knee injury in UMaine’s first scrimmage last month, returns to practice with the team this week.
“I’m excited to see where he’s at. We don’t have any expectations right now but I’m going to love seeing him out there,” Charlton said.
Rowell would give UMaine a different look at running back. Fitzpatrick is a bruising 5-foot-10, 230-pound back while the 5-8, 195-pound Reed is shifty and quick.
Rowell is 6-1, 210 and is a power back with speed.
Charlton said that as UMaine continues to develop its run game, the passing attack left something to be desired on Saturday and has to improve.
Junior quarterback Chris Ferguson completed eight of 19 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, but he was just 2-for-8 in the second half. He was intercepted once.
In his last two games, Ferguson has completed 36 of 68 passes for 569 yards with two TD tosses, but he has been intercepted five times.
“Our passing game is inconsistent. We have to do a much better job throwing the football,” Charlton said.
Edwards was named the Colonial Athletic Association and STATS FCS national special teams player of the week. He added two receptions for 60 yards, including a 40-yard TD catch, to his returns.
Edward broke his own school record for most kickoff return yards in a game (198) and tied his own school and CAA single-game marks with two kickoff returns for touchdowns. His six career kickoff returns for TDs are a school record.
“He is just an electric player with an electric personality. He brings so much to his game. He has very good vision and elite speed,” Charlton said.
The UMaine defense registered eight sacks at Colgate, the most in seven years, according to Charlton.
Fordham University transfer Max Roberts (2.5 sacks), senior Kayon Whitaker (2) and sophomore Jamehl Wiley (1.5) led the way on Saturday.
“Max made some big plays. He did some real good things. There are a couple of things he needs to clean up,” Charlton said.
The leading tacklers were linebackers Taji Lowe and Adrian Otero with 12 and 10, respectively, and both were career highs.
Junior linebacker Jaron Grayer, who re-injured his shoulder in the first half of the 45-23 loss to Towson on Sept. 14, did not play against Colgate but Charlton hopes to have him back against Villanova.
The 2-2 Black Bears (0-1 in the CAA) face a tough task Saturday at 4-0 Villanova, which is coming off a 52-45 overtime win at Towson.
“They’re a great football team. We’ve got our work cut out for ourselves. That’s the nature of this league,” Charlton said.