ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team’s Football Championship playoff hopes are virtually gone now.
University of Richmond redshirt junior quarterback Joe Mancuso threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Keyston Fuller just 15 seconds after UMaine backup freshman quarterback Joe Fagnano tossed an 87-yard TD pass to Andre Miller and that gave the Spiders the lead for good en route to a 24-17 victory over the Black Bears at Morse Field Saturday afternoon.
Richmond improved to 3-3 overall, 2-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association while the defending CAA champion Black Bears, who reached the FCS semifinals for the first time in program history last year, fell to 2-4 and 0-3.
The day got off to a rocky start for the Black Bears when it was announced that All-Colonial Athletic Association wide receiver and kickoff returner Earnest Edwards would miss the game due to a fractured nose. UMaine head coach Nick Charlton didn’t elaborate on the circumstances resulting in the broken nose.
Things got worse when junior quarterback Chris Ferguson left the game with a sprained right foot in the second quarter. X-rays were negative but he didn’t return.
And UMaine All-CAA cornerback Manny Patterson was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter for a targeting infraction. He will have to miss the first half of next Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Football Bowl Subdivision team Liberty University (Va.).
Charlton said he thought his Black Bears were in good shape when Fagnano found Miller to make it 17-14 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
But Mancuso answered immediately by spotting the unattended Fulton down the left side of the field and he caught the ball and scampered into the end zone untouched.
“It was just bad coverage, bad communication. That’s what happens when you don’t communicate out there,” explained UMaine senior safety Josh Huffman.”They ran a lot of switches at us in the second half.”
“This was a very, very disappointing loss,” Charlton said. “The guys fought really, really hard but we didn’t do enough to win. Hats off to Richmond. They didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t get any penalties. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.”
Jake Larson expanded the lead to 24-17 with a 26-yard field goal with 6:46 left.
The Black Bears had two golden opportunities to tie the game but the Spider defense came up with timely plays to thwart the Black Bears and claim the triumph.
UMaine moved the ball to the UR-25 with three minutes left but All-American defensive end Maurice Jackson sacked Fagnano to create a fourth-and-14 and Fagnano’s fourth-down pass to Miller came up up two yards shy of the first down with 2:25 left.
It was the fourth time Fagnano was sacked.
UMaine stopped Richmond and used its time-outs and Jaquan Blair returned a Larson punt 30 yards to the UR-17 with still 1:57 left on the clock.
UMaine reached the six yard line but, on first down, Fagnano, lined up in the shotgun formation, bobbled the snap and took a four-yard loss.
“It was a good snap, I just dropped it,” Fagnano said.
Two plays later, facing third and goal from the 10, Fagnano’s pass intended for Blair landed in the arms of senior safety Daniel Jones at the one-yard line with 26 seconds left to clinch the win.
Fagnano completed 10 of 16 passes for 157 yards.
“Joe did a really good job handling himself in a really big spot,” Charlton said. “I was really impressed with him.”
Charlton was also pleased with his team’s rush defense as it allowed just 72 yards on 27 carries.
“But they hit some big plays, specifically in the air,” Charlton said.
Mancuso gave Richmond its first lead of the game with a one-yard plunge with 6:22 left in the third period.
Fagnano answered with the pass to Miller but it was short-lived.
UMaine led 10-7 at the half and could have been up by more but Kenny Doak missed a pair of field goals from 46 and 37 yards, which changed the complexion of the game.
The 46-yarder was wide left and the 37-yarder, on the last play of the half, was wide right.
“The first one was going right down the middle but the wind took it and it sailed [directly] over the upright. I thought it was good,” Doak said. “Our timing was off on the second one.”
UMaine scored on its first drive of the game when Ferguson threw a 21-yard pass to Blair on third-and-15.
Mancuso tied it with a our-yard run to finish off a 14-play, 71-yard drive in the second quarter.
Doak’s 25-yard field goal gave UMaine a 10-7 lead with 4:56 left in the half after UMaine failed to capitalize on a first-and-goal at the R-9.
Mancuso completed 14 of 24 passes for 226 yards and rushed for 28 on 12 carries. Charlie Fessler had four catches for 47 yards. Jackson had two sacks to complement Dressler’s 20 tackles.
UMaine’s Joe Fitzpatrick gained 93 yards on 19 carries. Blair caught six passes for 56 yards. Linebacker Taji Lowe had a team-high 10 tackles and Chuck Mitchell had three tackles for loss.