The University of Maine football team headed to the University of Connecticut as 24-point underdogs on Thursday night, putting up an incredible fight, but ultimately losing by the score of 24-21 in a game that could have gone either way.
Third-year wide receiver Jaleel Reed led the Black Bear offense, hauling in six receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown. Fourth-year quarterback Dan Collins was also impressive, completing 19-of-33 of his passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. First-year running back Josh Mack showed his versatility by running for 30 yards on nine carries, with three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Maine drew first blood, scoring the first touchdown of the game on their third possession late in the first quarter. The drive started by Collins connecting with Reed on a 48-yard bomb to get the Black Bears in the red zone. Collins then found Mack on a screen pass that he took down the field for a 20-yard touchdown, giving the Black Bears the 7-0 lead. Mack’s touchdown was his first of his young career.
UConn’s third-year running back Ron Johnson evened the score up at 7-7, with a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Following the UConn score, Collins then drove the Black Bears back down the field to UConn’s 20-yard line to set up a routine 37-yard field goal. Unfortunately for Maine, the kicker missed and the game remained tied.
UConn claimed the lead for the first time with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter, when Johnson ran in his second touchdown of the game from 21 yards out.
The Black Bears answered the call on the following possession to tie the game up at 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Collins and the offense marched up the field to the Huskies 40-yard line. Collins and Reed then hooked up on a 40-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
Then it was the Maine defense’s turn to contribute, and they did just that. Third-year cornerback Najee Goode made the play of the game on a corner blitz. Goode came in from the UConn quarterback’s blindside, strip-sacked him and took the ball from 74-yards out to score a touchdown — giving Maine the lead 21-14 early in the fourth quarter.
After the Goode touchdown, the Maine sideline lost control and received a crucial penalty, forcing their kicker to kick from the Black Bears 20-yard line. This allowed UConn to start their possession near midfield. UConn took full advantage of the penalty and went 54 yards on six plays in three minutes. The drive was capped off by a 2-yard plunge into the endzone by third-year running back Arkeel Newsome, knotting the score at 21-21 with 3:20 remaining in regulation.
UConn got the ball back quickly after Maine went three and out on their last possession of the game. They finessed down field to Maine’s 20-yard line with 11 seconds left in the game, where UConn’s fourth-year kicker Bobby Puyol hit a 37-yard field goal to win the game 24-21.
With the loss, Maine becomes 0-1 on the year overall with no conference games played. UConn moves to 1-0 on the season with the victory.
Maine looks to get in the win column as they continue non-conference action on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Toledo for a 7 p.m. kickoff. UConn will travel to Maryland on Saturday, Sept. 10 to take on Navy with a kick-off time of 3:30 p.m.