The University of Maine Black Bears (5-3) played host to the visiting State University of New York Albany Great Danes (3-6) on Saturday, Oct. 27 for Maine’s homecoming weekend. In front of a large home crowd composed of current students and alumni, the Black Bears didn’t disappoint, controlling the game and winning by a final score of 28-9.
In typical fashion for the Black Bears, per the previous week and this week, they scored on the first play of the game, as second-year quarterback Chris Ferguson dropped back to pass from his own 23 yard-line and found third-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards on a seam up the center of the field. Edwards proceeded to outrun everybody on his way to the endzone. Following an extra point from reliable second-year kicker Kenny Doak, the Black Bears were up 7-0 just 20 seconds into the game.
From there, the Great Danes took their first offensive series of the game. Following a strong return from second-year running back Karl Mofor, fourth-year quarterback Vincent Testaverde led the Great Danes offense onto the field at their own 37-yard line. Following a Great Dane first down, Testaverde missed his mark on the first down, and was only able to move the ball three yards on second down.
Facing a long third-and-7, Testaverde dropped back, and was immediately facing pressure from Maine’s formidable front seven. Testaverde, hoping to avoid the sack, threw the ball down the sideline in hopes it would find its way into the hands of first-year wide receiver Dev Holmes. Maine’s fourth year defensive back Darrius Hart had other ideas, snagging the ball out of the air and returning the ball 23 yards to Maine’s 38-yard line.
Each team proceeded to punt once a piece, followed by a five minute drive commanded by Ferguson. Between Ferguson throwing the ball down the field and first-year running back Ramon Jefferson pounding the rock between the tackles, the Great Danes defense was unable to do anything other than slow the Black Bears. Following a 15-yard completion to second-year wide receiver Andre Miller that set the Black Bears up with a first and goal from the one yard-line, Ferguson punched the ball in himself on a quarterback dive.
The remainder of the first quarter saw the Black Bears’ defense envelop the Testaverde and the Great Danes’ offense, as their net yardage on their next four drives was an astounding negative 22 yards. Between some strong defensive plays by the Great Danes and a few penalties, the Black Bears’ offense ground to a halt until there were six minutes left in the first half.
Ferguson and the offense marched back onto the now snowy field, and Jefferson got right to work, grinding out 11 yards on three straight rushing attempts. On second and nine, Ferguson dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Albany’s fourth-year cornerback Kareem Brown, but the interception was negated by a penalty against the Great Danes. Following a completion from Ferguson to Edwards for 11 yards and the first down, Jefferson ran the ball on four consecutive plays until he found paydirt, scoring his second touchdown in just as many weeks.
With Albany quickly turning the ball over and with 40 seconds before the half, the Black Bears’ offense ran back onto the field in an attempt to increase their massive lead before heading to the locker rooms to warm up. Ferguson managed to move the offense, with the help of second-year running back Joe Fitzpatrick, down to Albany’s 29-yard line. With just three seconds left in the second quarter, Black Bears’ Head Coach Joe Harasymiak sent Doak out for the 46-yard attempt. Doak’s kick sailed wide left. Wintery conditions are always a hindrance to kickers, and the snow wasn’t easing up as the Black Bears headed to the locker room with a comfortable 21-0 lead.
The game devolved from there, as the snow turned to sleet and rain, and both teams’ offenses began to bog down in the weather. Late in the third quarter, replacement third-year quarterback Will Brunson lead the Great Danes slowly down the field, chipping away yardage through a strong effort from Mofor, who finished the drive with an impressive 5.8 yards per carry. Brunson and the Great Danes made their way to the Black Bears’ six-yard line, but were stopped on fourth-and-1 by a fantastic tackle by second-year linebacker Deshawn Stevens.
Stevens and the rest of the Black Bears’ “Black Hole” defensive unit performed to their namesake, allowing Albany to net only 113 yards of offense on the day. Stevens, Hart and third-year defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker led the Black Bears on the day, as Stevens racked up eight tackles, Hart had the key interception in the beginning of the first quarter, and Whitaker tally tallied two-and-a-half sacks to pair with the rest of their respective statistics. While the Black Bears totalled five sacks on the day, the Great Danes’ quarterbacks were under pressure every time they dropped back to pass. Now sitting at eight consecutive games of holding an opponent under 100 yards rushing, the “Black Hole” front seven has allowed the secondary to read the off-timely throws made by opposing quarterbacks.
Decimating an opponent in front of their home crowd, and also being undefeated at home for the season (3-0), the Black Bears hope to carry that energy into this coming weekend, where they’ll be traveling to Maryland to take on Towson College on Saturday, Nov. 3.