On Saturday, Nov. 2, the University of Maine Black Bears football team took the field against the University of New York Albany Great Danes for a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) clash.
First-year, redshirt quarterback Joe Fagnano continues to find ways to win in place of injured third-year starting quarterback Chris Ferguson, completing 12 of 18 passing attempts for 257 yards and four scores. Each one of Fagnano’s touchdowns was caught by a different receiver; fourth-year wideout Earnest Edwards, third-year wideout Andre Miller, second-year tight end Ori Jean-Charles and first-year tight end Shawn Bowman all found paydirt in partnership with Fagnano.
Maine kept the ball on the ground the majority of the game, amassing 169 net yards on 41 attempts, good for 4.1 yards per touch. The Black Bears offensive line created gaps for fourth-year running backs Joe Fitzpatrick and Emmanuel Reed the majority of the game, allowing them to clash with linebackers and defensive backs at the second level.
For the Great Danes, their first-year, redshirt signal-caller Jeff Undercuffler, was gunslinging against a stingy Black Bears defense. With the vaunted “Black Hole” turning up once again, they limited Albany to 67 net rushing yards on 25 attempts, forcing Undercuffler to beat Maine through the air, to which he obliged. Undercuffler dropped back 49 times and only managed to complete 25 of his passes, but the 387 yards and four touchdowns he piled up made up for the incompletions.
Though Undercuffler was able to shred the Black Bears secondary, Maine’s defensive front continues to force turnovers when the offense needs them to. Following Fagnano’s touchdown pass to Bowman, both teams traded punts, setting up Undercuffler and the Great Danes offense on their own 14-yard line. Maine’s fourth-year punter Derek Deoul did an excellent job of pinning Albany inside their own 20, and third-year defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker looked to capitalize on the field position. On first down, Undercuffler dropped back to pass, only to have Whitaker blow past his blocker to take down Undercuffler for a strip-sack, which Whitaker recovered at Albany’s 8-yard line.
Setting up shop on Albany’s eight, Black Bears’ head coach Nick Charlton elected to run the ball down the Great Danes’ throat; Fitzpatrick gained seven yards on first down, and Reed punched the ball in for the one-yard score on second and goal, increasing the Maine lead to 24-14.
Penalties marred the ensuing Albany drive, as pass interference calls helped march Undercuffler and his offense down the field. He uncorked a beautiful 16-yard rainbow to first-year wide receiver Tyler Oedekoven to bring the score to 24-21 heading into the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Maine took off on a tear, scoring 23 unanswered points to build an insurmountable lead. Even when the Black Bears weren’t scoring in the third quarter, they were putting a clamp on the Great Danes’ offense. With Fagnano going three-and-out from Albany’s 31, just outside of third-year kicker Kenny Doak’s range, Deoul was sent out to pin the Great Danes once more and he delivered. A beautiful, 25-yard elevator shot bounced out of bounds right at the Albany 6-yard line. Defensive coordinator Michael Ryan elected to send the house at Undercuffler, and fourth-year defensive lineman Charles Mitchell took Undercuffler down as he threw the ball. The referees determined that Undercuffler hadn’t escaped the tackle box, and deemed the throw intentional grounding, which resulted in a safety.
From there, the flood gates opened, with Maine’s offense scoring on the ensuing drive as Fagnano dissected Albany on a six-play, 67-yard drive capped off by Edwards’ touchdown. Undercuffler desperately attempted to get his team back into the contest, but an errant throw resulted in an interception by Jean-Charles, who jumped out on defense in coverage for the Black Bears. Jean-Charles returned the pick 47 yards for the score, and within minutes Maine went from being tied 24-24 to holding a 40-24 lead.
Undercuffler was strip-sacked once more by the Black Bears defense, with Whitaker finding his mark another time and second-year defensive lineman Jamehl Wiley recovering the loose ball. This turnover resulted in another easy six points for Maine, giving Fagnano and the offense great field position to find Jean-Charles for an offensive touchdown pass.
Holding the 47-24 lead, Maine ran out the clock and continued to harass Undercuffler on defense. When the clock expired at the end of the fourth quarter, Maine came out on top 47-31.
The Black Bears’ next contest will be on the road at Elon University on Saturday, Nov. 9, with kickoff happening at 2:00 p.m.