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Mental mistakes come back to bite the Black Bears on senior day

The University of Maine Black Bears faced off against the Hampton University Pirates. While the Black Bears led 28-14 at halftime, bad penalties and two costly fumbles in the fourth quarter eventually caught up with them as they blew the lead and lost 42-35.

“We had a real good first half and half of a good third quarter,” Black Bears head coach Jordan Stevens said after the game. “The turnovers and not getting key stops when we needed them defensively was the game.”

UMaine entered the game with a 2-7 record, coming off a 37-21 defeat by the University at Albany last weekend. Hampton entered with a 4-4 record, coming off a 26-24 win over North Carolina A&T State.

After both teams traded punts, the Black Bears went on a 13-play drive that UMaine capitalized on when fourth-year quarterback Derek Robertson found second-year tight end Rohan Jones wide-open in the end zone for the 7-0 lead. However, this lead did not last long, as on the Pirates’ first play, third-year running back Darren Butts found a wide-open hole in the middle and ran for 68 yards but was stopped short at the seven. Four plays later, fourth-year quarterback Chris Zellous capitalized on it, scoring on a keeper from five yards out on fourth down.

On the following drive, Robertson connected on big passes to fourth-year wide receivers Jamie Lamson and Montigo Moss for 19 and 23 yards, respectively, setting up Robertson to find Jones again, regaining the seven-point lead. Like the last drive, the Pirates opened their next drive with a 60-yard run from third-year running back Elijah Burris on the same play that once more led to a walk-in touchdown from Zellous, making it a 14-point game.

Following the score, UMaine got the ball back and methodically moved the ball down the field, picking up solid yards play after play. This resulted in Robertson finding Lamson wide-open, who fought his way into the endzone, making it once more a seven-point game. On Hampton’s next drive, the Black Bears forced the Pirates to punt, but on the punt, Jones came up big once more by blocking the punt, which second-year running back Evan Wallace, which UMaine recovered at the Pirates’ 45. This set up an eight-play drive in which Robertson found fifth-year tight end Cooper Heisey from one yard out. The Black Bears had a chance to make it a 21-point game right before halftime, but Robertson was picked off by first-year defensive back Darren Burton, keeping the score 28-14 at the break.

Photo by Liv Schanck

After the Black Bears’ held strong at the end of the first half, that fell apart immediately in the third quarter as on the Pirates’ third play, Burris once more found a wide-open middle of the field and ran untouched for an 80-yard touchdown. On the Black Bears’ first drive of the second half, UMaine decided to call for a fake punt on fourth and five from their 44-yard line, and the gutsy play call paid off as backup quarterback fourth-year Anthony Harris found Lamson for 26 yards, setting up Jones’ third touchdown on the day from nine yards out.

After the solid start for the third quarter, everything fell apart for UMaine. After forcing a punt on fourth and 11, the Black Bears got called twice in a row for running into the punter, and when Hampton finally punted the football, return man third-year wide receiver Michael Monios muffed the punt but fell on it. This signified what would come for the Black Bears in the fourth quarter.

UMaine turned the ball over on downs on their drive, giving the Pirates the ball at the Black Bear 34th-yard line, in which Hampton methodically picked the UMaine defense apart before Zellous found third-year wide receiver Romon Copeland in tight coverage for the 40-yard touchdown, making it a one-score game entering the fourth.

After forcing UMaine to punt, Zellous found fifth-year wide receiver Dorrian Moultrie open for 15 yards. One play later, the Black Bears got called for a face mask penalty, which set up Zellous to run all over the defense, including 21- and 18-yard carries, setting up Burris for a seven-yard score, making it 35 all.

On UMaine’s next drive, it appeared that the Black Bears were starting to put a good drive together after Robertson found Lamson for 26 yards. However, two plays later, Robertson received a bad snap, resulting in a fumbled handoff to second-year running back Brian Santana-Fis that culminated in him fumbling the ball back to Hampton. The Pirates, however, did nothing with the ball, giving it back to the Black Bears.

For UMaine, on their next drive, the one thing they could not afford to do was turn the ball over. However, three plays into the drive, first-year running back Tristen Keenan had the ball popped out by fifth-year linebacker Mason King, with Hampton getting the ball back with just under six minutes to go. 

With their possession, Hampton could run off three minutes of the clock on an eight-play drive in which Burris scored with little resistance, as the Black Bears wanted a chance of possession. However, with the ball back, UMaine faltered on a fourth and 10, falling 42-35.

Photo by Liv Schanck

Robertson finished the game going 28-46 for 349 yards for five touchdowns and one interception. Keenan led the team with 16 carries for 88 yards, while Lamson led the team with eight catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Hampton torched UMaine on the ground with 343 yards on 34 carries and five touchdowns, thanks to Burris alone gaining 177 yards on 14 carries.

“We have the ability to play good defense, the ability to move the ball down the field and finish drives. We have talented receivers, and obviously, Derek did a tremendous job. Things are really starting to come together in that sense,” Coach Stevens said after the game on the team moving forward.

The Black Bears will end their season two weeks from now on Saturday, Nov. 18, as they travel to face arch-rival UNH with kickoff starting at one.

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