The University of Maine Black Bears football team travelled to Williamsburg, Virginia to take on the College of William and Mary Tribe on Oct. 20, fighting a hard game but eventually losing 27-20.
Fresh off of two consecutive wins, the No. 16 nationally ranked Black Bears football team quickly came out of the gate doing what they do best: letting fourth-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Following a kickoff from reliable second-year kicker Kenny Doak, along with a penalty against the Tribe for an illegal block on the return, the first offensive snap for the Tribe sailed directly over quarterback Dean Rotgers’ head into the endzone. Sheffield, reliable for the Black Bears as always, chased the ball down and dove on it in the endzone for a Black Bears touchdown, making the score 7-0 under 30 seconds into the game.
Black Bears’ second-year quarterback Chris Ferguson had a rough outing on the day, completing 26 passes on 46 attempts for zero touchdowns and three interceptions. While Ferguson out threw Rotger and Tribe quarterback Ted Hefter, who replaced Rotger midway through the first quarter, by a margin of 278 yards to 235 combined yards, the three interceptions crippled the Black Bears offense on the day.
One of the bright spots on the day was Black Bears’ third-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards stellar performance, in which he caught nine passes for 196 yards. Edwards not only led the Black Bears in yardage total through the air, but also amassed 126 yards on four kick returns, finishing the day with 326 all-purpose yards for the Black Bears.
The Black Bears both outgained the Tribe, 347 yards to 268 yards, and held the ball for 10 minutes more than the Tribe. Paired with Ferguson’s interceptions, the Black Bears were penalized 13 times for 130 yards, more than double the penalties and yards by the Tribe.
Limiting the offense even more was the Black Bears ability to convert on third down, as they were only able to convert four of the 18 situations.
Dependable as always, the Black Bears’ top ranked run defense showed up in force once against, holding the Tribe to just 33 rushing yards at just over one yard per carry. Outside of his fumble recovery for a touchdown, Sheffield finished the game with four tackles, contributing his part to the “Black Hole” defense. Second-year linebacker Deshawn Stevens, for the second time in as many weeks, racked up 10 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss of 13 yards and one sack for a 10-yard loss. However, Stevens wasn’t the top Black Bear tackler this week, as fellow linebacker third-year Taji Lowe finished the game with 11 tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss.
The Black Bears rushing attack faired ever so slightly better than that of the Tribe, netting 69 yards on 26 carries. Running back redshirt first-year Ramon Jefferson averaged a solid 5.7 yards per carry on 14 attempts for 80 yards, however the rest of the rushing attack was unable to muster more than five positive yards on the day.
With their next game being homecoming, hosting the University of Albany on Oct. 27, Black Bears Head Coach Joe Harasymiak will be going back to the drawing board on how to fix his offense’s woes, looking to get back on track before their final three game stretch to wrap up the regular season.