The lack of a consistent kicking game has haunted the University of Maine’s football program over the years. The Black Bears converted just one of seven field goal attempts a year ago and the 14.3 percent success rate was easily the worst in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The Black Bears also missed three of their 31 extra-point tries which was 11th among the 12 CAA teams.

It was more of the same on Thursday night in a gut-wrenching season-opening 24-23 loss to the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire.

A shanked extra point and two missed field goals by scholarship freshman Kenny Doak played a significant role in UMaine’s eighth consecutive loss to its archrival.

Doak did convert his first collegiate field goal attempt, a 35-yarder, at the 8:31 mark of the second period to pull UMaine within 14-10.

But, with UNH leading 17-10, he had a 31-yard attempt blocked with 53 seconds left in the half.

His 37-yard attempt sailed wide right in the third quarter and, after converting his first two extra points, he badly hooked the extra point that would had tied the game 24-24 with 9:07 remaining in the game.

UMaine did get the ball twice more with a chance to win within the last 4:27. The Black Bears reached the UNH-45 on their last drive but that’s as close as they were to get.

Rick Holt sacked UMaine redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson, UNH’s only sack of the game, with 35 seconds left and Quinlen Dean intercepted Ferguson’s pass on fourth-and-14 from the 50-yard line to close it out.

“The bottom line is, if you’re a Division I program, you have to be able to make a standard field goal,” said second-year Black Bear coach Joe Harasymiak. “You can’t simulate a Thursday night game under the lights in a pressure moment. But he’s got to get through it.”

Harasymiak said the field goal attempt that was blocked was too low and, after missing his second field goal right, Doak tried to overcompensate on the extra point and “duck-hooked it.”

Harasymiak noted that kickers are in high-profile situations.

“If a freshman defensive lineman makes three mistakes in a game, no one would even know it,” he said.

He isn’t going to make a “rash decision yet” on a kicker for the home opener against Bryant on Saturday, Sept. 9.

“We’ll evaluate everything. I’ll talk to Kenny and the other kickers,” said Harasymiak.

UNH took a 7-0 leading after marching 68 yards on 10 plays with its first possession. Trevor Knight hit Nick Lorden for a 12-yard TD pass.

UMaine answered 3:51 later when Ferguson finished off a 12-play, 80-yard march with a four-yard pass to Jaleel Reed.

The Wildcats used some trickery to restore a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter when Knight threw to wide receiver Neil O’Connor behind the line of scrimmage and O’Connor launched a 60-yard pass to Malik Love, who had snuck behind UMaine strong safety Darrius Hart.

Doak and UNH’s Max Pedinoff swapped second-quarter field goals and UNH took a 17-10 lead into the intermission.

Hart atoned for his mistake with an interception and 12-yard return in the third quarter that led to Ferguson’s 33-yard TD strike to Reed on the next play.

UNH regained the lead with 13:41 remaining in the contest when a wide open Rory Donovan caught an 11-yard pass from Knight to cap a 14-play, 75-yard drive but UMaine answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by a four-yard pass from Ferguson to Jason Simonovich.

But the Black Bears missed the extra point.

Ferguson completed 23-of-44 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.

“There was a reason he was named our starting quarterback tonight and he showed that,” said Harasymiak. “He is the least of my worries. He was the real deal. His last couple of throws [interceptions] weren’t his best, but he was awesome.”

He was less enamored with his receiving corps.

“Jaleel has to be better. He had three drops in a row. [Jared] Osumah also had some drops,” said Harasymiak.

Osumah did finish with a team-high six catches for 72 yards and Reed had four for 46 yards.

One of the surprises was former quarterback Drew Belcher, who was recently moved to tight end-H back and hauled in four balls for 67 yards.

“He’s a great kid. It was his first game so we didn’t want to put too much on him but he is going to be an important weapon for us,” said Harasymiak.

Sophomore Josh Mack rushed for 103 yards on 27 carries but 33 came on one run.

“He is already a good back but if he is going to be a great back, he has to become more disciplined. He has to run better routes and protect better. He has to play better,” said Harasymiak.

Mack also caught five passes for 20 yards.

The UMaine coach was satisfied with his offensive line, especially the fact they limited UNH to one sack.

Speedy Earnest Edwards caught two balls for 24 yards and ran a reverse for nine yards. He also returned three kickoffs for 72 yards.

“He has to play better, too. He made too many mistakes,” said Harasymiak.

UMaine’s defense improved dramatically in the second half, limiting UNH to 92 total yards after allowing 291 in the first half.

UMaine finished with 352 total yards compared to UNH’s 383.

“For the most part, the defensive played really well,” said Harasymiak who was particularly pleased with some of his young defenders. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jaron Grayer had a game-high 10 tackles and sophomores Taji Lowe, a linebacker, and linemen Kayon Whitaker and Charles Mitchell combined for 16 tackles. Mitchell and Grayer had sacks.

Senior cornerback Najee Goode had nine tackles but he also picked up two holding penalties, one which negated an interception, and Harasymiak said Goode has to avoid those.

The team was assessed 10 penalties for 90 yards while UNH had six-for-62.

Senior safety DeAndre Scott sustained a head injury in the first half and is undergoing concussion protocol, according to Harasymiak.

Knight completed 19 of 30 passes for 158 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was the Wildcats’ leading rusher with 79 on 21 carries. Evan Gray had 74 yards on 18 carries and Donovan (6 catches, 45 yards) and Love (5-for-96) were the top receivers. Corner Prince Smith Jr. and linebackers Dean and Jared Kuehl were each in on seven tackles.