The University of Maine football team erased a 21-point deficit on Saturday to come back and defeat the Bryant Bulldogs on their home turf. The Black Bears outscored Bryant 28-10 in the second half. The victory was the first for Maine’s young head coach, Joe Harasymiak.
Maine’s first-year running back Josh Mack stole the show and ultimately propelled the Black Bears to victory. Mack’s went for 151-yards and three touchdowns — making him the first three-touchdown scorer since Pushaun Brown did it in 2011 against Delaware.
“I was just thinking North and South. I had a bad run last week against James Madison, so in my mind I was just thinking North/South and that they couldn’t tackle me,” Mack said. “Coach tells me all the time, just believe.”
Bryant got out to a 21-0 lead in the blink of an eye. Maine’s fourth-year quarterback Dan Collins and the offense started their comeback on the last possession of the first half with just 38 seconds of clock to use.
Mack started the possession off with a 20-yard run. Collins then hit second-year wide receiver Micah Wright for a 31-yard bomb that put Maine on the Bryant 3-yard line. Maine ran a fake spike that led to Collins hitting Wright in the corner of the end zone on a fade route. This touchdown cut the deficit down to 21-7 heading into the half, as well as boosting Collins’ confidence for the second half.
“It was definitely a turning point for me. Micah [Wright] made a great play. I just gave him a chance and he came down with it. It was a turning point for me because I went into halftime confident that we were going to go back out there and be who we should be,” Collins said on the essential touchdown to end the first half.
Bryant came out of the gates in the second half and converted a quick field goal, extending their lead to 24-7. Maine answered back on the next possession with a touchdown run from 2-yards out by Mack.
Following Mack’s touchdown midway through the third quarter, Bryant answered again. Bryant’s fourth-year quarterback Dalton Easton connected with third-year wide receiver Matt Sewall for an 18-yard touchdown. Sewall’s score put Bryant ahead 31-14 with 4:00 remaining in the third quarter.
In Maine’s next possession Collins threw a 38-yard dart in the corner of the end zone to third-year wide receiver Jalil Reed for the touchdown to keep Maine within striking distance and shrink the Bryant lead back down to 10. Maine’s defense forced Bryant to a quick three and out on Bryant’s next possession, forcing them to punt. On the punt, the electrifying Wright returned the ball 53 yards to give Maine great field position on Bryant’s 25-yard line. Mack took the ball to the house on the first play for a 25-yard touchdown run and cut the deficit to just three headed into the fourth quarter, at 31-28.
The Black Bears defense stood tall again on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, forcing Bryant to punt the ball back to Maine just 1:20 later. Collins and the offense marched back down the field and Maine took their first lead of the day when Mack ran his third touchdown of the game from 9 yards out with just 10:30 left in regulation to make the score 35-31.
There was no more scoring the rest of the way in the contest and the Black Bears snuck away victorious at 35-31. Despite this being his first win as head coach, Harasymiak was quick to credit his players following the game.
“It feels great but I don’t care about myself, it’s for them. It’s for these kids, that’s why I do this. If I did this for me I wouldn’t be doing this for very long,” Harasymiak said following the comeback win.
Maine will look to bring their momentum with them on the road Saturday, Oct. 8 as they travel to take on Delaware with kick-off set for 3:30 p.m.