The University of Maine Black Bears football team (2-2) traveled to New Haven, Connecticut this past Saturday, Sept. 29, to take on the Yale University Bulldogs (2-1) in a rough contest for the Black Bears, as they fell to the Bulldogs 35-14.
The Black Bears, missing starting quarterback Chris Ferguson as he recovers from an upper body injury suffered in last weeks’ loss to Central Michigan University, were out gunned by the Bulldogs. Thrust into the starting job, redshirt first-year quarterback Isaiah Robinson performed admirably, completing 10 of his attempted passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Unable to control the game without the powerful aerial offense typical of the Black Bears the first two weeks of the season, Head Coach Joe Harasymiak had to change up his offenses’ tempo.
Relying on a strong ground attack, the Black Bears ran the ball a total of 29 times throughout the game. Running backs Joe Fitzpatrick and Ramon Jefferson kept up their reliability behind a strong offensive line, rushing for a collective 67 yards on 15 combined carries. Neither running back was able to find the end zone though, as the Black Bears came up short on drives often. Going a poor 3-13 on third down, many of the Black Bears turnovers came off of incomplete passes from Robinson, as he had 17 incompletions on the night.
The Bulldogs had similar, limited success rushing the ball, going up against a Black Bears defense that leads the conference in fewest rushing yards allowed per game at 40.7, held their own, but allowed 90 total yards rushing by the Bulldogs.
Yale’s strong passing performance is what won them the game, as second-year quarterback Kurt Rawlings controlled the game, leading the Bulldogs by completing 22 of his 34 attempted passes for 306 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Bulldogs’ wide receiver, third-year JP Shohfi, led his team in receiving with 10 catches for 124 yards, but no touchdowns. Rawlings found fellow third-year wide receiver Reed Klubnik for six catches, 85 yards and three touchdowns.
While Rawlings was able to pick apart the the Black Bears’ secondary, the front seven held their own, racking up six tackles for loss, totaling a loss of 41 yards for the Bulldogs’ on the night. Fourth-year defensive back Jeffrey Devaughn had a career high nine tackles on the night, leading the Black Bears defense in tackles. Linebackers second-year Deshawn Stevens and third-year Taji Lowe anchored the front seven, limiting the Bulldogs ground attack and pressuring Rawlings. Stevens finished the night with seven total tackles, including one for loss, while Lowe finished the night with six total tackles, with two being for a combined loss of eight yards. Lowe also sacked Rawlings once, having a strong performance for an otherwise poor outing for the Black Bears.
The Black Bears found themselves down 14-0 heading into the second half, and fought back and forth with the Bulldogs for most of the third quarter. Rawlings finally managed to lead his offense down the field, scoring again to put the Bulldogs up 21-0 after covering 71 yards in three and a half minutes.
This score led to an ensuing shootout between Robinson and Rawlings, who both marched their offenses down the field for the rest of the quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. On the drive following the Bulldogs last touchdown, Robinson threw twice for 63 yards, including a deep 50-yard touchdown catch and run by third-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards. The drive only lasted 44 seconds, and gave the Black Bears a spark on offense they’d been lacking all game.
Rawlings came right back onto the field and drove the Bulldogs’ offense right down and into the end zone, throwing for 74 yards on the 75-yard drive, hitting Klubnik for their second score on the day, making the game 28-7 going into the fourth quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Robinson dialed up a 63-yard bomb that landed perfectly in the outstretched hands of third-year wide receiver Jaquan Blair. Cutting the score to 28-14, the Black Bears had found an offensive groove, and were handed another golden opportunity when first-year defensive back Katley Joseph intercepted Rawlings on the ensuing drive. The interception, the first of Joseph’s collegiate career, gave the Black Bears excellent field position, putting the ball at the Yale 30-yard line.
However, the Black Bears’ offense was unable to score, and the Bulldogs ended up getting the ball back after the Black Bears had a failed conversion attempt on fourth down, needing 13 yards to get the first down.
Rawlings came back onto the field one last time for the night, guiding his offense down the field and connecting with Klubnik for their third-and-final score of the night. Putting the score at 35-14 with under two minutes left in the game, the Black Bears’ offensive resurgence in the second half was too little, too late as they fell to 2-2 after starting the season 2-0.
Plagued by the injury to Ferguson, the Black Bears have the whole week to prepare to host Villanova at home on Oct. 6, and hopefully Ferguson will be in playing shape by then, as the Black Bears have put together a team that can compete against any opponent in their conference, when healthy.