Saturday’s 33-23 loss to Elon left the University of Maine’s football team staring at an 0-3 Colonial Athletic Association record and an overall 1-4 mark.
That means that — barring a miraculous finish — UMaine’s postseason Football Championship Subdivision aspirations have gone by the wayside.
UMaine has five conference games remaining, but three are on the road. The Black Bears will also play Football Bowl Subdivision team UMass, which picked up its first victory of the season on Saturday over winless UConn, 27-13.
UMaine will host William and Mary (4-1 overall, 2-0 in CAA) in Saturday’s noon Homecoming game before going on the road to play Albany (0-5, 0-3) and Rhode Island (5-0, 3-0), entertaining Stony Brook (1-5, 0-3) on Nov. 6 and finishing up at UMass (1-5) and New Hampshire (3-2, 2-1).
UMaine head coach Nick Charlton dismissed any notion that the Black Bears are going to begin looking toward next season during Monday’s weekly CAA coaches zoom conference.
“We aren’t making any plans for next season. We’re very focused on what we’re doing right now. Everything is still in front of us. But we need to play a lot better than we have,” Charlton said.
Charlton said he and his staff have taken a long, hard look at his team over the past 24 hours, particularly the defense, and will make some changes in preparation for the William and Mary game.
“We can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results,” he said. “We have to figure out what we need to do to win these football games.”
The defense continues to be an issue as Elon converted 75 percent of its third downs (12-for-16) which was the key to the game, according to Charlton.
“That’s way, way too much,” Charlton said. “We have to play a lot better on the perimeter. We were pretty effective against the run. But we have to do a better job in pass coverage. They won some one-on-one battles. We had some mental errors and some communication [lapses].”
Elon senior quarterback Davis Cheek completed 29 of 37 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns and repeatedly scrambled out of the pocket to avoid pressure and connected with his receivers. He was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week.
“He’s a great player. We missed some opportunities to sack him. We left three [sacks] out there. Those are physical errors,” Charlton said.
UMaine sacked Cheek just once.
UMaine did limit Elon to 2.3 yards per rushing attempt.
The defensive schemes and personnel are being evaluated, he said.
UMaine remains in the bottom 10 percent among 123 FCS schools in defensive categories as it is 119th in passing yards allowed per game (307.4), 109th in points allowed (37.8), 106th in total yards allowed (454.4) and 103rd in third down defense (45.2 percent conversion rate).
UMaine was also hurt by four costly second-half penalties and is now averaging 73.80 penalty yards per game. Only 13 FCS teams have been assessed more penalty yards per game.
On the positive side of the ledger, redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson continues to improve as he threw for a career-high 283 yards while completing 19 of 32 passes and throwing for a touchdown. Graduate student Andre Miller from Old Town caught eight passes for a career-high 176 yards.
“Miller is a really good player,” said Elon coach Tony Trisciani. “He goes up and gets the ball.”
“Derek played pretty well,” Charlton said. “His mental errors were very limited and he made a number of [good] throws. We only ran 51 plays but he did a real good job being productive in those plays.”
UMaine averaged 7.2 yards per play compared with Elon’s 5.6, but the Phoenix ran 24 more plays.
With Robertson’s continuing improvement and UMaine’s playoff status, Charlton was asked if redshirting Joe Fagnano has been discussed. Fagnano suffered a high ankle sprain in the second game of the season, a 55-7 loss to James Madison, and continues to be sidelined “indefinitely,” according to Charlton.
To retain a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s medical redshirt guidelines, a player must sustain the injury in the first half of the season and compete in less than 30 percent of the games.
So if he doesn’t play again this season, he would retain a year of eligibility.
“We’ve had internal conversations about it. We’ve talked to everyone involved about his timetable to return,” Charlton said. “We will see how it shakes out.”