The University of Maine’s football team, in its third game this year, took its first two leads of the season in Saturday night’s game against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
But after Cole Baker’s 45-yard field goal staked the Black Bears to a 3-0 lead and Joe Fagnano’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Bowman answered a 51-yard TD pass from Phil Jurkovec to Zay Flowers, the Eagles rattled off 24 unanswered points and then their defense made two crucial stops in the fourth quarter to stunt a UMaine rally and earn a 38-17 victory at Alumni Stadium.
The win for BC, which plays in higher-level Football Bowl Subdivision and Atlantic Coast Conference, was its first of the season after two losses, while Football Championship Subdivision team UMaine fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2016.
BC outgained UMaine 431-378 over the 60 minutes.
Trailing 31-17, the Black Bears drove 74 yards to the BC-10 with 9:03 left in the game but failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-two when Elijah Barnwell was stacked up at the line of scrimmage and fumbled. BC’s Josh DeBerry recovered it.
“We had the play (to pick up the first down) but Elijah never really had the ball secured so he couldn’t just run downhill,” said UMaine head coach Jordan Stevens.
Following a BC three-and-out, UMaine took over possession off a BC punt at BC’s 47-yard line and a Fagnano pass to Montigo Moss moved the ball to the BC-39.
But Fagnano’s next pass was intercepted by BC linebacker Kam Arnold and he returned it 49 yards to the UMaine-20 with 6:47 left and that sewed up the win.
“Joe fought all game long. He has taken a lot of hits over three games. He needs the bye week to get healthy,” said Stevens.
UMaine has next weekend off.
Pat Garwo III capped the scoring with a 30-yard run with 1:48 to go after UMaine had turned the ball over on downs.
The Eagles, who had averaged 233.5 yards of total offense in losses to fellow FBS teams Rutgers (22-21) and Virginia Tech (27-10), racked up 253 yards of offense in the first half alone thanks to seven plays of at least 11 yards, including two in excess of 50 yards.
Following Bowman’s TD, the Eagles took the lead for good 2:21 later on Jurkovec’s 2-yard TD pass to 6-foot-6 tight end and Notre Dame transfer George Takacs. A 53-yard pass from Jurkovec to Jaden Williams had set up the TD.
Williams scored on a 9-yard run around the right end to extend the lead to 21-10 just 2:56 into the second quarter, completing a 6-play, 46-yard drive.
All-ACC running back Garwo III closed out the first-half scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run to finish off an eight-play 71-yard drive with 1:08 left in the half.
A 12-yard pass from Jurkovec to Takacs on a third-and-four at the UMaine-13 preceded the TD run.
Connor Lytton kicked a 46-yard field goal 3:46 into the second half but UMaine cut the lead to 31-17 later in the third period when the Black Bears strung together an 8-play, 75-yard drive that produced a 4-yard TD pass from Fagnano to Moss.
A 49-yard pass from Fagnano to Zavier Scott and a 17-yarder to Bowman were key plays on the drive.
But UMaine couldn’t get any closer.
Jurkovec finished with 25 completions in 37 attempts for 320 yards and two TDs. Two-time All-ACC wide receiver Flowers caught eight passes for 89 yards and Takacs snared seven for 66 yards. All-ACC running back Garwo rushed for 78 yards on 17 carries and two TDs and the defense was paced by linebacker Vinny DePalma (8 tackles), safety Jaiden Woodbey (7) and cornerback DeBerry (7).
Fagnano completed 21 of 43 passes for 289 yards and two TDs with two interceptions. Scott caught a career-high eight passes for 135 yards and Moss had a career-high six catches for 43 yards. Tavion Banks led the rushers with 34 on six carries. Cornerback Kahzir “Buggs” Brown was involved in a game-high 11 tackles, linebackers Adrian Otero and Brian Lee Jr. had 10 and 8, respectively. Defensive tackle Raffaele Salamone from Portland had seven.
Stevens felt his team’s performance was its best of the season against its best opponent to date, although he noted that New Mexico is also a very good team. FBS team New Mexico beat UMaine 41-0 in the opener.
“I am really encouraged. A lot of guys did a lot of good things,” he said. “We’re improving every game. We’ve got to close out games better. That’s the next step.”
Pivotal plays: UMaine’s inability to pick up a first down after being second-and-three at
the BC-11 when BC stopped Barnwell’s fourth-down run was the first game-changing play and then Arnold’s interception and return was the second one. Those plays enabled the Eagles to hold off the Black Bears, who moved the ball effectively in the second half but couldn’t turn those two fourth-quarter drives into points.
Takeaway: UMaine has something to build on and will have a week off to prepare for the Oct. 1 visit of Villanova in its Colonial Athletic Association opener. But the Black Bears have to run the ball more effectively, finish drives and be able to convert on short yardage situations on third and fourth downs.
What’s next: UMaine hosts Villanova on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m while BC travels to Florida State for a game next Saturday night at 8.