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Black Bears burnt by turnovers in loss to rival New Hampshire

The University of Maine football team suited up for their final regular season game on Saturday in Durham, N.H., where they took a frustrating loss to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats, 44-25. The game marked the 111th battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket, which is awarded annually to the winner of this historic rivalry game.

Despite the lopsided final score, many stats from the game indicate an even matchup. UNH outgained UMaine by only 27 total yards, and each team converted about half of their third down opportunities. UMaine even had significantly more passing yards than New Hampshire. However, the game was once again lost for the Black Bears on the ground, as they managed only 31 rushing yards against 102 for UNH. 

The rushing numbers for UMaine were significantly impacted by the 38 ground yards lost by fourth-year quarterback Derrick Robertson on failed rush attempts. UMaine’s only major contributor on the ground was first-year running back Tristen Kenan, who accumulated 50 net rushing yards, averaging 4.4 per attempt. 

Running the ball may not have been much of an option for UMaine from the start of the game, as New Hampshire put two touchdowns on the board in the first quarter to jump out to a 13-0 lead. From there, Maine had to play catchup, meaning that the passing game was their main focus throughout the duration of the contest.

There were significant questions for Maine coming into this game about how they handled the passing attack while being down their top two receivers. Third-year Montigo Moss and fifth-year Joe Gillette were not dressed this week, as they sustained injuries two Saturdays before against UAlbany. Robertson did not let this affect his play, as he did a fantastic job spreading the ball around to different targets. 

Robertson amassed 315 passing yards and three touchdown passes for the afternoon. He went 32-51 and threw one interception, as well as losing a fumble. This was Robertson’s fifth game with 300+ passing yards this season.

Fourth-year wide receiver Jamie Lamson was once again Robertson’s top target. He made eight grabs for 50 yards and a touchdown, which extended his scoring streak to five games. Second-year wide receiver Trevin Ewing had another great game, proving that he can step up in the absence of Maine’s top receiving targets. He made seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown of his own. Fifth-year tight end Cooper Heisey also found the endzone, making two receptions for 48 yards.

Maine’s best chance to seize control of the game came late in the second quarter when UMaine fifth-year kicker Cody Williams hit a line drive off of a Wildcat, which was recovered by the Black Bears. Unfortunately for Maine, they’d cough it up two plays later on a backbreaking fumble by Robertson that the Wildcats turned into a touchdown a couple of plays later.

On Maine’s next drive, Robertson threw an interception that New Hampshire converted into a touchdown drive, effectively burying the Black Bears. 

With this loss, the Black Bears’ season ends with a dismal 2-9 record, the same record as last year. While there were silver linings throughout the season, it is evident that something needs to be done to change the trajectory of this team going forward. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if the offseason pays off.

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