On a cold Saturday afternoon, the University of Maine Black Bears took on their rival school, the No. 18 University of New Hampshire Wildcats, for the Brice Cowell match on graduation day. In an exciting game that went into overtime, the Black Bears narrowly missed out on a two-point conversion that would have won the game, falling to their rivals 42-41.
“I thank these players and coaches for how hard they played all game and all season, and I really feel for them right now because I think they fought to the end,” said head coach Jordan Stevens. “Hard way to lose.”
UMaine went into this game 2-9 after long being eliminated from the playoffs. UNH went into the game 7-3, chasing the College of William and Mary for the CAA title.
After stopping the Black Bears on their first drive, the Wildcats had no problem scoring at all. Third-year running back Dylan Laube and sophomore quarterback Max Brosmer sliced up UMaine’s defense for big plays and had only one first down to lead to Laube, who scored the first points from three meters.
On UMaine’s second drive, fourth-year quarterback Joe Fagnano had a wide-open third-year wide receiver Trevin Ewing, but Fagnano brought him down. It was a costly mistake, eh the black bears were later he stopped in fourth place with no points to show.
During UNH’s next drive, Brosmer was intercepted by second-year defense attorney Abdul Stewart. However, it was called back for defensive holding. The Wildcats responded thereafter by efficiently moving the ball down the field, which resulted in Brosmer finding first-year wide receiver DJ Linkins, who got past the defender and hit from 33 yards for the 14-0 .
After exchanging punts, UMaine got the ball back and Fagnano let it run down the field after the Wildcats were called to a horse-collar tackle. This set up fourth-year Elijah Barnwell to score. After taking the snap in the wildcat formation, he held it and stiffly armed a defender for 57 yards. Barnwell was tackled on one though hit it in the next game to make it a seven-point deficit.
It didn’t take UNH long to react, as just two games later, Brosmer found fourth-year wide receiver Sean Coyne 48 yards wide open on the right touchline. Thanks to a face mask penalty, Laube set up an easy goal from 15 yards out to make it 21-7 Wildcats. Due to a pass disturbance, UMaine got the ball and carried it 83 yards in 13 games. A touchdown pass by Fagnano to third-year wide receiver Montigo Moss was recalled for an illegal chop block. The Black Bears scored when Barnwell hit another one-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 at halftime.
Both teams came out of the break without scoring in their first ball possession games. However, UNH initially scored from the break when Laube found Spaced to the right and walked a tightrope while passing the defender for his third touchdown of 48–yards out and made the score 28-14.
On UMaine’s first game of their next drive, offensive line coach Patrick Kugler returned to his old routes from his Michigan days when he had five additional players lined up in the backfield before taking their positions. The strategy worked perfectly as fifth-year wide receiver Zavier Scott stiffly armed the defense for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Black Bears to seven.
After forcing UNH to stab, the Black Bears drove down thanks to a 21-yard rush from Fagnano and Scott. That Wildcats were called for a horse collar penalty, which eventually resulted in Fagnano keeping the ball and running to an 11-yard touchdown, ending the game.
UNH approached Laube to turn the tide in their favor. His big runs put Brosmer in a position to find Sophomore wide receiver Caleb Burke for 41 yards. Two games later, Brosmer found fifth-year tight end Adam Deese for his first career touchdown, falling by seven.
The Black Bears’ offense delivered again thanks to Barnwell, who made big plays including converting a fourth down after Scott fumbled the ball wide just short of the end zone. UMaine continued to shut it down and eventually Barnwell struck from two yards, tying the game and sending it into overtime.
UNH got the ball first in overtime and Laube carried it four times in a row, resulting in good shipyards. Brosmer was able to find third-year tight end Kyle Lepkowski in the end zone for a seven-point improvement.
Nothing worked on UMaines Drive as the Wildcats completely filled out the Black Bear offense. Fagnano fell back and miraculously found Barnwell, who then found Moss, who just before he was about to be tackled, was able to lead him to a wide-open fourth-year wide receiver Rohan Jones. Jones passed the defense for a touchdown.
Knowing the black bears had momentum and knowing they were lengthening With overtime most likely not going to go well, Stevens decided to call for a two-point try to either win or lose the game. Fagnano took the snap and faked it to third-year running back Freddie Brock, but the defenseman was right on Fagnano, who was forced to throw it up and was intercepted by third-year linebacker Bryce Shaw, ending the game .
Fagnano finished the game 16-32 for 202 yards and a touchdown. Barnwell carried the ball 20 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns in his last collegiate game. Scott led the team in his last game with five catches for 25 yards, followed by nine carries for 109 yards and a touchdown on the floor.
UMaine will graduate 25 seniors this year, but plenty of talent will return next year to hopefully turn many close games into wins next time.