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Black Bears offense falls silent in the second half against the Rams

The University of Maine Black Bears opened their first home game on Friday for the first time since 2021 due to Hurricane Lee, playing against the University of Rhode Island (URI) Rams. While the Black Bears kept it competitive throughout the first half, the Rams proved too much as UMaine was held to just 57 total yards in the second half, resulting in a 34-17 loss.

Entering this game, URI came in as the 21st-ranked team in the nation with a 1-1 record after losing to FBS opponent Georgia State 42-35 but beating Stony Brook last week 35-14. The Black Bears entered with a 0-2 record, though the two losses came against FBS opponent Florida International University and FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.

Photo by Liv Schanck

UMaine started hot. On their first drive in 12 plays, they were able to drive down the field thanks to big runs from first-year running back Tristen Kenan, resulting in Kenan scoring after diving in from eight yards out to take the 7-0 lead. URI responded with a 10-play drive highlighted by seventh-year quarterback Kasim Hill finding fifth-year wide receiver Kahtero Summers on a fade route for 39 yards. However, thanks to Hill overthrowing a wide-open receiver that should have been six, the Black Bear defense was able to hold the Rams to three, making it a 7-3 game.

After forcing UMaine to punt on consecutive drives, URI’s fourth-year running back Gabe Sloat returned a punt for 40 yards after breaking multiple tackles, which two plays later Hill capitalized off of, finding Summers wide open for the 35-yard touchdown, making the score 10-7.

Photo by Liv Schanck

Once again, the Black Bears were forced to punt the ball back to the Rams. However, on the drive’s first play, UMaine’s third-year linebacker Latrell Couchman jarred the ball out of third-year running back Deon Silas’ hands, which third-year defensive lineman Justyn Haynesworth fell on. Thanks to a 21-yard connection to second-year tight end Rohan Jones, Keenan scored his second touchdown of the night, walking in from 15 yards out and regaining the 14-10 lead. 

However, UMaine was called for an excessive celebration after the touchdown, and that, along with a 5-yard penalty for punting the kickoff on a non-safety, forced the Black Bears to kickoff from their own 15 yard-line. This would result in fifth-year defensive back Romello Edwards returning the ball to the Black Bear 42-yard-line. Three plays later, URI made UMaine pay for the costly penalty as Summers scored his second touchdown, this time from 37 yards out after making an impressive catch while being tightly covered, managing to out-run third-year defensive back Alhaji Kamara for the score.

After forcing a three and out, the Rams would receive the ball at the 44 yard-line and would move the ball methodically down the field in eight plays, resulting in fifth-year running back Ja’Den McKenzie scoring from 17 yards out. Right before halftime, UMaine made it a one-score game as fifth-year kicker Cody Williams drilled the 36-yard field goal right down the middle of the uprights, making it a 24-17 game at the break.

Photo by Liv Schanck

In the third quarter, the Black Bears started off well after Summers caught a 40-yard pass from Hill. Two players later, UMaine’s second-year defensive lineman Xavier Holmes sacked Hill, followed by just one play later, third-year defensive back Abdul Stewart intercepted Hill, giving the Black Bears a chance to regain momentum. However, UMaine squandered the opportunity and was held to a three and out, which would be a sign of things to come for the offense in the second half.

From that point forward, it was all Rams. The Black Bears had four chances to stop URI on their next possession on third down and failed three; the last would result in a field goal by first-year kicker Ty Groff. The struggles on third down would highlight a major weakness on defense for UMaine as the Rams would convert 13 of 18 third downs to the Black Bears, pitiful three of 11.

After trading punts, URI forced UMaine to punt for the seventh time of the game to end the third quarter. In the fourth, the Rams were able to chew over four minutes off the clock on a 13-play drive that Sloat capped off with a 10-yard untouched touchdown, making it a 34-17 ball game. The Black Bears had one final opportunity to try and get back into the game as fourth-year quarterback Derek Robertson would lead the offense down to the 19-yard-line. However, one play after converting a third down, Robertson’s pass would be intercepted in the endzone by third-year defensive back Fredrick Mallay, ending the game as well as URI’s 25-year drought of losing in Orono.

After the first half, the offense seemed to vanish, only having two possessions that did not result in a three-and-out. Robertson did not have an impressive night as he completed 20-30 for 164 yards and an interception. Throughout the game, he made multiple questionable decisions and had more than a few passes nearly intercepted. Kenan led the team in rushing for the third consecutive week with 18 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns. No receiver ran for over 50 yards for the third consecutive week, as there is no clear number-one receiving threat.

UMaine will go on the road next week as they head to Virginia to face off against the College of William and Mary before returning home on Saturday, Sept. 30, to face off against the Stony Brook University Seawolves, with kickoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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