There are 123 teams playing in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision this season. Only 19 of them have put fewer points on the scoreboard than the University of Maine.
The Black Bears’ offensive inconsistency was the decisive factor Saturday night in a disappointing 13-3 Colonial Athletic Association loss at Villanova that snuffed out any postseason aspirations UMaine might have had.
UMaine (16.1 points per game) achieved some success with Drew Belcher getting the start at quarterback for the first time this season, but the Black Bears were unable to capitalize once they got into striking distance.
UMaine put up 339 yards against a Villanova defense that ranks 14th in the Football Championship Subdivision for scoring (17.6 points per game) and yards allowed (303.5 yards per game), but cashed in only once in four trips inside the 20-yard line.
“We didn’t find a way to get the ball in the [end] zone,” UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said during Monday’s Colonial Athletic Association coaches teleconference. “We were just not good in the red zone offensively and that’ll come back and haunt you.”
The Black Bears had offensive possessions stall out at the Villanova 17-yard line, the Wildcats’ 26 and twice at the 10.
Two ended with missed field goals of 35 and 27 yards by senior place-kicker Sean Decloux, while the others culminated in an interception and an incomplete fourth-down pass.
Belcher, who rushed for 97 yards and passed for 180 more, moved the Black Bears fairly well in the middle third of the field. UMaine was forced to punt only three times, one of which ended when punter James DeMartini was ruled down while fielding a low snap.
But a combination of Villanova’s resilient defensive play and UMaine’s inability to execute meant frustration once the Bears got down close.
“We were inefficient,” Cosgrove said. “Our throws, our catches, our routes, specificity.”
An ill-advised pass into coverage resulted in a Shayne Jones interception at the Villanova 10 early in the third quarter.
Later, wide receiver John Hardy failed to come up with a low pass to the end zone by Belcher that would have made it a one-score game.
“We dropped a couple balls down there that hurt,” Cosgrove said.
That drive ended on another incomplete pass after Cosgrove opted to forego a field-goal try because of the two previous misses.
“That was a decision that I’m still beating myself up over,” he said.
Belcher, making his first start since Oct. 18, 2014 — after Dan Collins had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury — was solid in all facets. But he also had a fumble that cost the Bears field position.
“We had a lot to do with the successes,” said Cosgrove, who did not go so far as to rule out future contributions by Collins, who did not play at Villanova.
“We’ve got two of them here and we think we can win with both of them. Right now Drew’s our starter,” he said.
UMaine will take on Towson at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Alfond Stadium.