The University of Maine football team’s unique spring football season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start when University of Delaware senior Dejoun Lee returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
And things didn’t get any better.
The 25th-ranked Blue Hens built a 17-0 lead in the first half while holding the Black Bears to just 55 total yards and two first downs Saturday afternoon and they went on to post a convincing 37-0 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the Black Bears at Tubby Raymond Field in Newark, Delaware.
It was UMaine’s most lopsided loss since a 45-3 setback at Football Bowl Subdivision Toledo on Sept. 10, 2016. It was the first time UMaine has been shut out since a 31-0 loss at Villanova on Oct. 7, 2017.
It was the teams’ mutual season opener after the Football Championship Subdivision fall season was pushed to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delaware, which returned seven offensive starters and eight on defense from its 2019 team, held UMaine to six first downs and a meager 112 total yards.
Delaware totaled 370 total yards.
“This was one of the toughest losses of my career,” UMaine second-year head coach Nick Charlton said. “We weren’t prepared enough to win this game and Delaware is a good football team. Credit to them and Coach [Danny] Rocco.
UMaine finished with just 51 yards rushing on 24 carries and 61 passing yards. The Black Bears averaged just 2.7 yards per play on first down and that contributed to them needing to pick up at least six yards on third down seven times.
The inability of the offense to move the ball — UMaine’s David Gelb punted 10 times — forced the defense to spend too much time on the field said Charlton.
Delaware ran 75 plays to UMaine’s 47.
“We’re better than what we put on the field today. We have to play much better against a good Albany team next weekend,” Charlton said.
Delaware rushed for 224 yards on 47 carries.
“We have to stop the run better. That’s the hallmark of our defense,” Charlton said.
UMaine fifth-year senior linebacker and co-captain Deshawn Stevens said the defense had had a good game plan and the right mindset “but we had some miscommunications on all three levels [line, linebackers and secondary], myself included. We can obviously do better. We executed the best we could but there are some things we need to clean up and learn from.”
Ryan Coe kicked a 38-yard field goal with 10:45 left in the second period and Nolan Henderson capped a seven play-75 yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Gene Coleman 5:03 later.
The drive was jumpstarted by wide receiver Jourdan Townsend’s 37-yard run. He fumbled, but the Blue Hens recovered it.
Henderson completed a 14-yard pass to Khoury Spruill and Spruill ran for eight more yards before Henderson found a wide-open Coleman for the TD.
The Blue Hens capitalized on two short Gelb punts to expand the lead to 27-0 in the third period.
Coe kicked a 45-yard field goal six plays after Gelb’s 23-yard punt and Lee finished off a nine-play 48-yard march following Gelb’s 19-yard punt to make it 27-0 as he cashed in with a 12-yard run.
Coe added a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter before Henderson made it 37-0 on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 11:12 left in the game after UMaine’s Andre Miller fumbled a punt and Jake Reed recovered it at the 1-yard line.
Lee carried 14 times for 90 yards and Spruill finished with 120 on 49 attempts. Henderson completed 16 of 24 passes for 146 yards and a TD and Coleman caught five passes for 48 yards.
UMaine sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano completed 10 of 23 passes for just 61 yards. Miller had a team-high three catches for 32 yards.
“We didn’t execute. We didn’t run the ball the way we needed to, we didn’t throw and catch the ball and we had too many penalties (7 for 71 yards),” Charlton said. “To be honest, that’s the worst offensive output I’ve been involved with and, ultimately, that’s my responsibility.”
Linebackers Adrian Otero and Stevens were in on 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, to led the Black Bears.
UMaine is scheduled to host Albany, a 24-20 winner over New Hampshire on Friday night, at noon on March 13.