Colgate University sophomore quarterback Michael Brescia was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year last season.
And he showed why on Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
Brescia burst up the middle for a decisive 68-yard touchdown run with 6:24 left in the game, his third TD run of the afternoon, and the Raiders held on for a 21-18 victory in front of 5,295 on a warm, sun-drenched day.
Brescia, who rushed for a game-high 87 yards on 15 carries, scored on touchdown runs of one and two yards in the second and third quarters to stake the Raiders to a 14–0 lead.
UMaine was finally able to score its first points of the season when Cole Baker hit a 33-yard field goal with 3:49 left in the third period to reduce the lead to 14-3.
That finished off a 10-play, 60-yard drive.
UMaine quarterback Joe Fagnano cut the lead to 14-10 with a six-yard run 1:19 into the fourth quarter.
Two passes to tight end Shawn Bowman for 39 yards set up the TD.
But UMaine failed to move the ball on its next two drives and Brescia made them pay with his 68-yard scamper.
“He is a special player,” said Colgate coach Stan Dakosty. “He is such a physical runner. We try to keep a pitch count on the number of hits he takes but when it is go time and we need stuff to get done, he’s a guy who will take the ball and make things happen.
“(Offensive coordinator Brent Bassham) made a great call. We went empty backfield and spread everybody out and Michael was able to hit it up inside. And he’s a fast kid who was able to run away from some people,” he added.
That appeared to be the clincher but the Black Bears were resilient and rallied impressively.
Fagnano engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took just 2:22, completing a 29-yard pass to Tavion Banks that set up Fagnano’s seven-yard TD pass to Montigo Moss with 4:02 remaining. Fagnano then threw to Zavier Scott for the two-point conversion to make it 21-18.
After forcing a three-and-out, UMaine took over at its own 14-yard line with 2:15 left.
Fagnano completed five consecutive passes for 46 yards and ran for five yards to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-two.
With first down at the Colgate 31-yard line and 40 seconds left, Elijah Barnwell ran for two yards.
But two short passes into the left flats fell incomplete so Cole Baker was left with a game-tying 47-yard field goal attempt with 25 seconds left and it fell short.
Fagnano explained that they decided to throw the flat passes instead of a pass down the middle to potentially shorten the field goal attempt because they were out of timeouts and the receivers could get out of bounds and stop the clock.
“We were in a soft zone (defense) and we weren’t expecting (the flat passes). But we were ready for them,” said Colgate standout senior linebacker Tyler Flick, who was involved in a game-high 15 tackles and forced a fumble.
UMaine outgained Colgate 362-253 over the 60 minutes and had 21 first downs to Colgate’s 10.
Brescia, who rushed for a team-leading 568 yards last season, completed just 4-of-11 passes for 28 yards. Max Hurleman gained 59 yards on 15 carries and Jaedon Henry had 42 more on seven carries.
Fagnano completed 25 of 39 passes for 246 yards and a TD. Barnwell rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries and Freddie Brock had 35 on nine. Bowman caught five passes for 73 yards, Barnwell had five for 31 and Moss and Brock each had four receptions for 36 and 6 yards, respectively.
Arthur Hamlin was second in tackles for the Raiders with seven while Adrian Otero led UMaine with seven and Kahzir Brown, Robbie Riobe, Raffaele Salamone and Xavier Mitchell had six each.
After managing a meager 118 total yards in last weekend’s 41–0 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision team New Mexico, UMaine’s offensive woes continued in the first half.
UMaine penetrated Colgate territory on two occasions but a fourth-and-one run by Barnwell at the Colgate 41 was stuffed by Flick and a host of his teammates.
On their next series, UMaine marched to the Colgate-48, but the Black Bears’ third false start penalty of the half put them in a first-and-15 situation and the drive stalled.
In between the two series, Colgate used the momentum from the fourth-down stop to manufacture an 11-play, 59-yard drive that produced the only points of the half.
The Raiders were faced with a fourth-and-four situation at the UM-26 and Brescia was able to convert it with a keeper to the left side that gained just over four yards.
Dakosty said the fourth-down-stop followed by their fourth-down conversion were “huge.”
An illegal substitution penalty on UMaine after UMaine had stopped a third-down run at the four-yard line helped Colgate finish off the drive on Brescia’s one-yard run rather than having to settle for a field goal.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, offensively, with our mistakes. I was proud of our players and coaches for their fight in the second half. We came up short but we can take a lot of positives from the second half,” said UMaine head coach Jordan Stevens.
“The second half showed us we can be as good as we want to be when we’re all on the same page and we’re all clicking,” said Fagnano. “That was good to see. That was a positive takeaway from this game. But 18 points is not good enough. We’re just looking to improve.”
“This was a big-time program win,” said Dakosty.
Pivotal play: Brescia’s 68-yard TD run, on which he was virtually untouched, proved to be too much to overcome. It made it 21-10 when UMaine appeared to have all the momentum.
Takeaway: UMaine’s offense finally came to life in the second half and the defense turned in a commendable performance. But the UMaine offense repeatedly shot itself in the foot with false start penalties (four) and other infractions and that has to be eradicated. The play selection could be a little more imaginative to keep opposing defenses guessing a little more.
Next week: UMaine travels to Boston College for a 7:30 game against the Football Bowl Subdivision team on Saturday while Colgate goes to the University of Pennsylvania for a 1 p.m. contest.