Homecoming weekend started at Alfond Stadium as the University of Maine Black Bears (1-5) battled the Long Island Sharks (1-4). A jam-packed crowd looked out over the chilly fall day as the Black Bears looked to string consecutive wins on their home turf. Let’s take a deeper dive into how things went down.
The Sharks came out of the gate with a flurry. On just the second play of the game, first-year quarterback Ethan Greenwood connected on a 71-yard catch and run with fourth-year wide receiver Michael Love to put the Sharks on top 7-0 early on. Maine could not get a first down on their first drive and quickly put the Sharks back on offense. Nine minutes into the first quarter, Greenwood was on his way to his second score but fumbled through the back of the endzone, turning the ball over to the Black Bears on a touchback. Maine began to settle in, and fourth-year quarterback Derek Robertson started to get it rolling. He found fifth-year wideout Joe Gillette multiple times throughout the drive before connecting with third-year pass catcher Montigo Moss for a 13-yard touchdown and tied the game at seven points.
The second quarter started with the Sharks again getting a hot start. On the first play of the drive, Greenwood took a quarterback draw up the middle of the defense and scampered for 51 yards, setting up Long Island with an instant red-zone opportunity. The Black Bears held the Sharks to a field goal attempt, and third-year kicker Michael Coney connected from 34 yards to give Long Island the 10-7 lead. Maine looked to respond on the following drive and was once again led by Gillette, who hauled a 22-yard pass on a crucial third down. The Black Bear offense stalled out and settled for a 36-yard field goal attempt from fifth-year kicker Cody Williams, but he could not connect, and the Sharks remained on top. After a string of short and intermediate plays, Coney had an opportunity to build on the lead for the Sharks at the end of the half with a 34-yard attempt, but fifth-year player defensive back Damon Matthews blocked the kick. The Black Bears headed into the locker room down three points.
On the first drive of the second half, the Robertson and Gillette connection started to shine. Gillette had back-to-back catches on consecutive third downs to keep the drive alive for the Black Bears. Maine constantly attacked the defense of the Sharks with a stable run game throughout the entirety of the game. Fourth-year running back Tavion Banks did not have a lot of glamor in his runs but continued to move the chains in short-yardage situations the whole game. Banks finished with 21 carries for 73 yards but broke off a 17-yard run to set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Robertson to fourth-year wideout Jeremy Lampson to give Maine the lead.
On the following drive for Long Island, Greenwood ripped off multiple runs that led the Sharks into Black Bear territory. The Sharks could not cash in on the red zone opportunity and had to settle for another Coney field goal from 39 yards out to cut the Maine lead to one point. But as the fourth quarter started, a switch was flipped.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw Robertson drop a gorgeous pass right in the hands of second-year wide receiver Trevor Ewing for a 51-yard catch and run touchdown to move the Maine lead to eight points. The opening play of the ensuing drive for the Sharks turned into a disaster, with a broken play resulting in a significant loss on a play made by fourth-year senior defensive lineman Izaiah Henderson. Long Island could not recover and was forced to punt the ball back to Robertson and the Black Bears.
Maine was able to string together multiple solid plays and bleed the clock throughout the middle of the fourth quarter. Robertson once again found Gillette on a fourth and six from the LIU 34 to extend the drive and set up Williams to tack on another three points and move the game to a two-score game. With the clock winding down rapidly, Greenwood and the Sharks looked to operate quickly but came to a screeching halt when third-year corner Buggs Brown jumped a pass and intercepted Greenwood, giving the ball back to Maine and effectively ending the game.
In his postgame press conference, Brown noted that LIU had “run the same kind of concept a couple of times, trusted his fundamentals on the play, and just went for it and made a play.”
Coach Jordan Stevens highlighted the defense in his postgame comments, applauding them for “being able to settle into the game in the second half over the past couple of weeks.”
Maine’s offense has come together over the past three games, averaging almost 34 points a game, and they’ll look to continue it next week when they head off to Campbell University.