The University of Maine football team won their third consecutive game as they took down the No. 17 University of Albany Great Danes 20-16 on Saturday afternoon in front of the largest crowd in stadium history, 10,443 people. The Alfond Stadium was loud and electric for all four quarters of the matchup.
The Great Danes jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead as Albany’s second-year safety Mason Gray picked off third-year quarterback Dan Collins the opening drive of the game around midfield. Albany gained about 35-yards on the drive and turned Gray’s interception into a 27-yard field goal just five minutes into the game.
Collins and Maine bounced back rather quickly as second-year wide receiver Micah Wright hauled in a spectacular 49-yard touchdown pass from Collins to put Maine ahead 7-3 with 6:50 left in the first quarter.
The Black Bears got back to work in the second quarter, as they chewed clock by dipping-and-dunking up the field with a couple screen plays and nice runs to get them on Albany’s 40-yard line. Collins then threw a strike to first-year wide receiver Earnes Edwards in the front corner of the endzone to extend the Maine lead to 14-3 with 9:00 remaining in the first half. The touchdown was Edwards’ third in the last four games.
The Maine defense forced a three-and-out on the next Albany possession. It was really starting to look like Maine could run it up here. Unfortunately, a bad snap by the center way over Collins’ head ended up in the end zone and resulted in an Albany safety. This cut the Black Bear lead down to just 9 with 7:09 left in the half. Albany then got the ball back and went 32 yards in 3:21 to set up a 39-yard field goal and chop the Maine lead down to 13-8 heading into halftime.
In the second half you could feel momentum starting to shift over to the Great Danes. Albany was slicing up the Black Bear defense coming out of the half and maneuvered their way to the Maine 21 yard-line setting up an easy field goal. Maine’s second-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield had other plans, arguably making the biggest play of the game by breaking through the line of scrimmage and blocking the field goal. Sheffield was quick to credit his teammates for his great execution.
“There was a field goal early on in the game, both me and Taji Lowe almost got the block but it just barely went right by us. So on the sideline, we knew next time we would be able to take advantage of the holes they gave us. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if the d-line and everyone else didn’t do their assignment so I credit them,” Sheffield said.
The following possession, the Maine offense made the most of the huge field goal block by Sheffield. They quickly moved the ball to midfield and Collins took care of it from there. As Collins was being chased around the pocket he was able to heave one all the way to the endzone where he hit fourth-year wide receiver Jordan Dunn for a 51-yard touchdown. Dunn made the catch of the game here as he had to leap up over two Great Dane defenders and haul it in while falling into the endzone for the touchdown. The touchdown proved to be the game winning score and was good for Collins’ third touchdown pass of the game. Collins is very appreciative of the wide receivers he has to throw to and is confident they can make big plays when he just has to throw it up there sometimes.
“All I have to do is put the ball in the area, I have all the faith in the world in my wide receivers. They know not to ever give up on a play because I don’t ever give up on them. Micah [Wright] and Jordan [Dunn] both made a great play on the ball today,” Collins said.
The Great Danes collected an 8-point drive the in fourth-quarter with 10:16 left in regulation, to diminish the Black Bear lead to just 20-16. Maine and Albany traded possessions the rest of the way, as the ball ping-ponged back and forth around midfield and the Black Bears escaped victorious.
Edwards led the way for Maine with four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 30 yards on the ground and returned a kickoff for 83 yards, totaling 192 yards and touchdown on the day. Second-year running back Darian Davis-Ray ran the rock 16 times for a career-high 81 yards. Collins completed 11 of 23 passes for 280 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) leader in tackles and fourth-year linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga recorded his fourth double-digit tackle performance of the season with 13 tackles. Third-year defensive back Darrius Hart played big for Maine, with 10 tackles and an interception.
Maine’s head coach Joe Harasymiak is aware it wasn’t his team’s most sound performance today, but a win is a win and he will take definitely take it.
“Obviously not the cleanest of games for either side, but good football teams find ways to win and we did that today,” Joe Harasymiak said.
Maine looks to keep their win streak alive next Saturday, Oct. 22 when they travel to Rhode Island to take on the Rams. Kickoff is set for noon. Albany will travel to Villanova on Saturday, Oct. 22 to take on the Wildcats with a kickoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.