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Black Bears pull off the upset on homecoming weekend against the Hawks

On Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, the University of Maine football team faced off against the Monmouth University Hawks. While the Black Bears may have entered the game as the underdogs, they did not play like it. They capitalized on the Hawks’ mistakes while limiting their own, leading to the 38-28 upset victory.

“I’m really proud of our team with their ability just to come out every day and continue to work to get better,” coach Jordan Stevens said. “The past two weeks have been our best weeks at practice, and that has really shown in games.”

UMaine entered this game after getting their first victory of the season against the Hampton University Pirates last weekend 31-24. Monmouth entered this game on a five-game winning streak, coming off a 38-31 victory over the University at Albany Great Danes.

Monmouth started the game off strong on their first drive. They had no issues driving down the field with big play after big play that resulted in third-year quarterback Tony Muskett finding fourth-year wide receiver Dre Tucker open in the endzone to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead early.

After forcing the Black Bears to punt, Monmouth got the ball back but quickly gave the ball right back to UMaine. Third-year defensive lineman Khairi Manns was able to strip the ball from Muskett that got recovered by second-year defensive back Shakur Smalls. Six plays later, the Black Bears made the Hawks pay for the turnover as fourth-year quarterback Joe Fagnano threw a perfect jump ball to fourth-year tight end Shawn Bowman to tie the game at seven.

Following the touchdown, neither offense was able to score again as both teams traded punts, along with UMaine failing on a fourth-down conversion. After forcing a Monmouth punt for the third time in a row, the Black Bears scored once more after third-year running back Freddie Brock was able to break tackles and outran the defense for a 33-yard touchdown to go up 14-7.

After back-to-back punts, the Hawks got the ball back, but they were not able to hold onto it for long. On their fifth play, Muskett’s pass got jumped by second-year defensive back Kahzir ‘Buggs’ Brown, who easily scored from 30 yards to bring the score to 21-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, UMaine shot themselves in the foot as they were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct, giving Monmouth the ball at the 43 yard-line. Muskett made the Black Bears pay for the penalty after finding fourth-year wide receiver Assanti Kearney for 12 yards. Muskett then found third-year wide receiver Dymere Brown who got past the defender and scored from 33 yards out to make it 21-14 going into halftime.

After the break, the Black Bears got the ball back, and it only took three plays to get on the board again. On the second play of the half, Fagnano found fourth-year wide receiver Kobay White wide open on the sideline, where he outran the defender but got tripped up after his 77-yard play ended only one yard from the endzone. One play later, fifth-year running back Elijah Barnwell punched it in to make the score 28-14.

On the ensuing kickoff, Monmouth’s return man first-year running back Makhi Green had the ball punched out by second-year linebacker Vince Thomas and it was recovered by second-year linebacker Latrell Couchman. Along with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the Hawks, the Black Bears were set up with a first down on the 14. Three plays later, UMaine once again made Monmouth pay for their mistakes as Fagnano found third-year wide receiver Montigo Moss on a back-shoulder pass that Moss caught one-handed and was able to fight his way in for the score to give the Black Bears a 21-point lead, bringing the score to 35-14.

The Hawks were able to score on their next drive after converting both a third and fourth down to keep the drive alive. Two plays after converting the fourth down, Muskett found Kearney in the endzone from 43 yards out and, even though the defender was all over him, was able to pull it down for the score. Curiously, Monmouth went for it on the two-point conversion, but Miller was not able to get in, and the score remained 35-20.

After forcing UMaine to punt, Monmouth drove down the field and were faced with a fourth and one on the six yard-line. The Hawks chose to go for it out of their Wildcat formation with fifth-year running back Owen Wright running it. However, the Black Bears were ready for it and fourth-year defensive lineman Josh Lezin and company were able to stuff him for no gain ending their drive.

UMaine was able to kick a field goal on the drive following the stop after second-year kicker Cole Baker made it from 35 yards out. Monmouth was able to score on their next drive as White scored and, along with the two-point conversion, made it 38-28. However, the onside kick failed, which effectively ended the game.

Fagnano finished the game going 14-23 for 181 and two touchdowns. Brock led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown. White led the team with six catches for 115 yards.

The defense as a whole was terrific all game long. Second-year running back Jaden Shirden entered the game as the CAA leader in yards with 923 and was held to just 85 yards in an impressive showing by the Black Bears defense.

UMaine will travel to New York next to face Stony Brook University on Saturday, Oct. 22, and will return home on Oct. 29 to face the University of Richmond.

“We’re playing more together. We’re complementing each other better than we were at the beginning of the year,” Stevens said. “We’re continuing to build. We’re going to enjoy the win today and then come back tomorrow.”

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