The University of Maine Black Bears’ football team traveled down to Towson, Maryland to take on the University of Towson Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Black Bears prevailed against the Tigers, taking home the victory with a final score of 35-28.
Maine’s starting quarterback, second-year Chris Ferguson, led the Black Bears through the air by completing 16 passes on 32 attempts for 233 yards, a pair of passing touchdowns, and an interception. Ferguson found six different receivers on the day, but third-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards led the Black Bears in receiving, catching three passes for 74 yards and both of Ferguson’s touchdown passes.
Towson’s starting quarterback, third-year Tom Flacco, finished the game with 21 completions on 36 attempts for 211 yards, a pair of touchdown passes and a pair of interceptions. Tigers’ third-year running back Shane Simpson was Flacco’s favorite target, as he caught six passes for 64 yards and a score.
The Black Bears, facing off against the league’s leading offense, allowed their impressive front seven to fight tooth and nail with Towson’s offensive line. Their valiant effort paid off as the Tigers were limited to 367 yards of total offense, their lowest total on the season.
With the league’s leading offense, the Black Bears had finally found a true rushing opponent, as the Tigers managed to be the first team this season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Black Bears’ vaunted “Black Hole” defense. Flacco led the team with 67 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
While the Tigers were able to amass a total of 156 rushing yards, the Black Bears refused to be beat in the ground game, as first-year running back Ramon Jefferson led the way with 121 rushing yards on only 14 rushing attempts, along with scoring three rushing touchdowns. The Black Bears finished the day with 175 yards on the ground.
The first drive of the game saw the Black Bears march 74 yards down the field on six plays. On their first snap of the game, Ferguson dropped back but handed the ball off to Jefferson on a delayed half-back draw. Jefferson took off against the off guard Tigers’ defenders, and was finally taken down after gaining 29 yards. Following two short plays and seeing a third-and-6 situation, Ferguson dropped back deep, standing tall in the pocket before throwing a perfect back shoulder fade to second-year wide receiver Andre Miller, who tapped his toes on the sideline before stepping out of bounds at the Tigers’ 7-yard line. On first and goal, Ferguson faked the hand-off to Jefferson, and then fired a bullet pass to Edwards in the right side of the end zone. After a successful extra point attempt by kicker Kenny Doak, the Black Bears were ahead 7-0. The remainder of the first quarter saw the Tigers punt twice and the Black Bears punt once, as both defenses fought hard.
Opening up the second quarter, Ferguson and the Black Bears’ offense found themselves on Towson’s side of the 50-yard line once again. Ferguson, on a play action pass, dropped back and delivered a 46-yard strike to a wide open Edwards, who cruised into the end zone to put the Black Bears up 14-0.
Towson finally showed some signs of life in their offense, responding with a score just 40 seconds later. Following a strong kick return by Towson’s second-year defensive back Coby Tippett to Maine’s 36-yard line, Flacco went two for two on throws, finding second-year wide receiver Jabari Allen in the back of the end zone to cut the Black Bears’ lead in half. The majority of the rest of the first half was spent with both teams punting the ball after short drives, along with a drive that ended with Flacco throwing an interception to Black Bears’ fourth-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield.
With little over two minutes left in the first half, Jefferson broke free for a 64-yard scamper and found the endzone to put Maine up 21-7 heading into halftime.
Coming out of the gate swinging, the Tigers’ emerged from halftime to take the opening drive of the second half 57 yards on 11 plays. However, with the ball on Maine’s 15-yard line, the “Black Hole” defense tightened up, shutting Flacco and the Tigers’ defense down and forcing them to take a 36-yard field goal to make the score 21-10.
Following a quick Maine three-and-out series, Flacco led his offense back onto the field. Starting at their own 42-yard line, the Tigers’ had fantastic field position to drive down the field for another score. However, first-year defensive back Richard Carr had other ideas, picking off Flacco and setting up Ferguson and the Black Bears’ offense on Towson’s 48-yard line.
Thanks to a pass interference call on third-year defensive back Brandon Schuman on a pass from Ferguson to fourth-year wide receiver Micah Wright, the Black Bears offense set up on the Towson two-yard line, which led to another Jefferson rushing score, making the score 28-10.
The Tigers answered immediately, driving down the field and scoring as Flacco found fourth-year tight end Ellis Knudson for the score. On the ensuing drive, Ferguson was intercepted by second-year defensive back Vashon McCants, leading to another field goal for the Tigers, cutting the Black Bears’ lead to 28-21.
With just 15 minutes to play in regulation, Towson tied the score after a 10 play, 66-yard drive that ended in a rushing touchdown from Simpson. With the score now 28 all, Ferguson and the Black Bears stormed back onto the field to complete a nine-play, 85-yard drive capped off by Jefferson punching the ball in from Towson’s 6-yard line.
The true test of the day for the vaunted “Black Hole” defense came on the last drive of the game, as the Tigers, now down by seven with six minutes left to play in the game, tore down the field until they were in Maine’s red zone.
On first and goal, Flacco completed a pass to Simpson, who was taken down by Black Bears’ second-year linebacker Deshawn Stevens on Maine’s 2-yard line. On second-and-goal, Simpson was handed the ball but was stopped at the line of scrimmage by Deshawn Stevens once again. On third-and-goal, the Tigers went back to the running game, handing the ball off to third-year running back Yeedee Thaenrat who was stopped for a two yard loss by fourth-year defensive lineman Andrew Stevens. Facing fourth-and-goal from Maine’s 4-yard line, each team burned through timeouts, as Towson used two of their three and Maine used one of their three, before the Tigers ran their next play.
On fourth-and-goal, Simpson was handed the ball once again, but was taken down on the Black Bears’ 2-yard line by Sheffield. Following the turnover, there was under two minutes to play and Ferguson kneeled down twice to run out the clock as the Black Bears continued their dominant stretch, winning their fourth game out of their last five. Sitting atop the Colonial Athletic Conference, the Black Bears will face off against the University of Richmond in Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 10, before wrapping up their regular season at home against Elon University on Saturday, Nov. 17.