With a 23-18 victory over the Weber State University Wildcats, the University of Maine Black Bears football team advanced to the final four for the first time in school history.
Out of the gate, strong defensive efforts by both teams led to a scoreless first quarter. Maine’s aggressive front seven led to a long day for Wildcats’ second-year starting quarterback Jake Constantine, who was taken down by third-year defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker on Weber’s opening drive for a 12-yard loss.
The Wildcats broke the silence on the scoreboard first, as second-year kicker Trey Tuttle hit a chip shot field goal from Maine’s 20-yard line to open up the second quarter. Both teams continued to trade punts on short drives, as the defensive battle kept sending both offensive units back to the sideline just as quickly as they had run onto the field.
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, second-year starting quarterback Chris Ferguson ran back onto the field with his offense, and headed right to work. Between first-year running back Ramon Jefferson pounding the ball between the tackles and Ferguson hitting a plethora of targets, the Black Bears offense smashed their way through the Wildcats’ defense. Capping off the drive, Ferguson found third-year wide receiver Jaquan Blair for the 9-yard score. Second-year kicker Kenny Doak sent the extra point through the uprights with ease, and Maine took the 7-3 lead. Maine quickly forced another punt from Constantine and the Wildcats’ offense, and kneeled out the clock to end the first half.
Receiving the ball first in the second half, Ferguson and the Black Bears offense stormed out of the locker room looking to recapture their offensive form from their previous contest against Jacksonville, and that they did. Dropping back to pass on third down, Ferguson found ever reliable third-year wide receiver Earnest Edwards for the 67-yard score. Another chip shot extra point for Doak, and the Black Bears were up 14-3.
The Wildcats were unable to find their rhythm on offense, mostly due to their inability to run the ball against the vaunted “Black Hole” defense. Weber entered the game averaging 152 yards rushing per game, but were unable to amass a net positive yard total from their rushing attack on the day, leaving the offense to be carried completely by Constantine.
Constantine, propelled forward by penalties and throwing the ball on nearly every play, drove his offense down the field to the Black Bears’ 28-yard line. From there, Maine locked down their defense, forcing the Wildcats into a fourth-and-10 situation. Weber State Head Coach Jay Hill sent Tuttle back onto the field, who drilled the 45-yard kick through the uprights to make the score 14-6.
A swift punt for the Wildcats followed up the Black Bears’ score, giving the Black Bears the ball back on their own 35-yard line. On the first snap following the punt, Wildcats’ fourth-year linebacker Toia LeGrand jumped the route on a Chris Ferguson pass, intercepting the ball before being taken down on the Wildcats’ 47-yard line.
Both defenses went back to their lockdown methods, forcing turn over on every series for the next 10 minutes of play. All of these were punts, aside from an interception from fourth-year defensive back Jeffrey DeVaughn off of a pass from Constantine.
With under five minutes left to play in the third quarter, on fourth-and-12, Constantine dropped back to pass, and found first-year wide receiver Devon Cooley for the 33-yard score. Maine thwarted the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 14-12.
The third quarter came to a close with both teams exchanging turnovers, and the fourth quarter saw its first five minutes of play produce negative offensive yards for both teams. A quick interception by third-year defensive back Manny Patterson six minutes into the quarter gave Maine another opportunity. However, Ferguson and the offense were unable to capitalize, forcing another Black Bears punt.
Constantine’s constant throwing led to the Black Bears playing more sub packages with extra defensive backs, allowing Black Bears’ Head Coach Joe Harasymiak to cast a wide net for Constantine to throw an interception into — and he did. DeVaughn jumped another pass, and managed to return the ball to the Black Bears’ 41-yard line.
Following a few short passes and rush attempts, Jefferson broke free on a 45-yard scamper to the end zone. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed up Doak 15 yards for the extra point, which Weber eventually thwarted, leaving Maine ahead 20-12.
A strong return from Wildcats’ second-year return man Rashid Shaheed set up Weber State on their own 29-yard line. Constantine dropped back, and had his first pass of the drive intercepted by second-year linebacker Jaron, who was downed at the line of scrimmage. Maine proceeded to run out the clock before Doak hit another field goal, giving the Black Bears a 23-12 lead.
Constantine marched back onto the field, and dissected Maine’s pass defense on an eight play, 61-yard drive ending in a fourth down touchdown pass to fourth-year wide receiver Darryl Denby. Due to running out the clock and the insurmountable score, Weber State walked off the field with a 23-18 loss to Maine.
Maine’s next contest in their playoff push is a quarterfinal game against the Eastern Washington State Eagles on Saturday, Dec. 15 in Washington.