With their first Colonial Athletic Association football win under their belts after triumphing over William and Mary 27-16 in Saturday’s Homecoming game, the University of Maine’s Black Bears are hoping to use that to build momentum for their next matchup.
The team next plays on Saturday at 1 p.m. at winless Albany.
In improving to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the CAA, UMaine registered a number of game-highs for the season including offensive plays (83), time of possession (35:11), rushing attempts (43), rushing yards (194) and third-down conversions (10-for-19) against a William and Mary (Virginia) team that had won four straight.
“It was an important win for us,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson was selected the CAA Rookie of the Week after completing 20-of-40 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. The 40 passes, 20 completions and two touchdowns are career-highs.
He also ran three times for 25 yards.
Robertson completed 9-of-14 third down passes which produced eight first downs and his three runs all picked up first downs, two on fourth-down plays and the other on third down.
“He made plays in critical situations and that’s what quarterback play is all about,” said Charlton at Monday’s weekly CAA media zoom coaches teleconference.
“I was pleased with Derek. He played well. But there were too many incompletions. He made some physical errors and a couple of mental errors because his volume [of passes] was a little higher. There is a lot of room for improvement,” Charlton added.
Robertson did miss some open receivers but he has now thrown 121 consecutive passes without being intercepted.
“[Robertson] has played really, really well for them. He has made plays,” Albany coach Greg Gattuso said.
Charlton has always been a proponent of having a balanced attack and he liked the fact the team ran 83 plays after running just 51 in a 33-23 loss to Elon the previous weekend. They ran the ball 43 times and threw 40 passes and he pointed out that they have lost just one game in three years when they have run the ball at least 40 times.
“When you are getting 40 carries in a game, you are dictating the tempo of the game. That message is pretty clear and the stats back it up,” Charlton said. “I’m pleased with the running game and the [quarterback] protection was good.”
William and Mary — which came into the game with 16 sacks in five games, 13th best among 123 Football Championship Subdivision teams — was held without one.
Charlton said Robertson did a good job releasing the ball quickly and the offensive line turned in a solid performance. He added that running back Tavion Banks was a valuable pass protector.
He also said graduate student Gunnar Docos from Harrison did a nice job filling in at guard for Matthias Staalsoe, who was hurt on the 10th offensive play of the game.
Sophomore Freddie Brock was the leading rusher with 86 yards on 15 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Zavier Scott averaged 5.1 on 10 carries, Banks added 4.1 on his eight carries and Robertson chipped in with his 8.3 yards per run on his three.
Brock also caught four passes.
Running back Elijah Barnwell, who was the team’s leading rusher before spraining his ankle in a 41-14 loss to Northern Illinois on Sept. 25 and sitting out the last two games, could return to play in Albany, Charlton said.
Charlton was also pleased with the defense, which allowed the fewest points in a game since a 42-14 win over Sacred Heart on Aug. 30, 2019.
UMaine entered the game surrendering an average of 37.8 points per game.
Linebacker Adrian Otero’s game-clinching interception in the end zone with 2:30 left sewed up the win.
“He played really well. He graded out as our best defensive player,” Charlton said. “He’s extremely reliable.”
Otero had seven tackles, one behind team leader Xavier Nurse.
The UMaine coach said the defensive unit’s confidence will be bolstered by its performance, which included two interceptions.
He added that the coaches and the team did a lot of soul-searching on the Sunday following the Elon loss and the players responded with their best week of practice and carried it into the William and Mary game.
Albany will be a stern test even if it is 0-6 overall and 0-4 in the CAA, Charlton said. All four of its conference losses have been by seven points or less including a 17-10 loss to league leader Villanova on Saturday.
“They’ve lost a lot of close games. They’re well-coached and very physical. They have one of the best defensive fronts we’re going to see,” Charlton said.