University of Maine quarterback Joe Fagnano in the home opener against Colgate at Alfond Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine’s football team is better than its 0-3 record, and it is improving with each game.

Two of the three losses have come at the hands of Football Bowl Subdivision teams New Mexico (41-0) and Boston College (38-17). They sandwiched a 21-18 loss to FCS team Colgate University.

FBS schools have 22 more scholarships and far more resources than Football Championship Subdivision schools like UMaine, which is now 4-25 all-time against FBS schools.

In the losses to Colgate and BC, UMaine fell behind in the first half and rallied in the second half to put itself in position to win or tie but couldn’t get the job done in crunch time. During those two games, UMaine failed to convert on three crucial fourth-quarter drives — once in the final drive against Colgate and twice at BC.

UMaine has probably dug itself too big a hole to crawl out of when you talk about the playoffs but it is still possible. And stringing together a strong eight-game finish will create momentum and buzz for future campaigns.

Trailing 21-18 against Colgate, UMaine had the ball at the Colgate 31-yard line with just under a minute left. The Black Bears had one timeout. But three plays produced just 2 yards and Cole Baker’s 47-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game fell short.

At BC, UMaine was down 31-17 and marched from its own 7-yard line to BC’s 11 and was facing a second-and-three. But an incompletion and two runs, with a lost fumble coming on the fourth-down run, failed to pick up the first down with 9:03 left.

On its next drive, just over two minutes later, UMaine quarterback Joe Fagnano threw an interception on a second-and-two at the BC-39.

The home loss to Colgate is one that could come back to haunt UMaine.  It was a game the Black Bears should have won and needed to win.

UMaine was the better team but the Black Bears played poorly for two and a half quarters and their rally fell short.

The loss to Colgate means UMaine is going to have to win at least six of its eight Colonial Athletic Association games to even be considered for a postseason berth.

And its conference opener is against CAA preseason favorite Villanova on Oct. 1 in Orono.

Former UMaine All-CAA defensive end Jordan Stevens from Temple and Farmington’s Mt. Blue High School is UMaine’s third head coach in five years.

There is always going to be an adjustment period under a new head coach but you can already see some of his ideologies being implemented successfully.

He believes strongly in the establishment of a consistent and aggressive pass rush and the Black Bears already have nine sacks this season after posting only 12 in 11 games a year ago.

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Senior defensive tackle Justin Sambu has three of those sacks.

For the most part, the defense has played well, considering that the offense scored only three points over the first seven quarters of the season. That meant the defense was spending way too much time on the field.

Linebackers Adrian Otero and Brian Lee Jr. lead the team in tackles with 24 and 21, respectively, and cornerback Kahzir “Buggs” Brown and defensive tackle Raffaele Salamone from Portland each have 17.

The defense is going to have to do a better job limiting big plays.

Opponents have gained 10 or more yards 36 times through three games. They have had 13 of those plays go for at least 20 yards.

The defense has allowed 189.7 rushing yards per game. Only 32 of the 123 FCS teams have allowed more.

The expectation is for that positive trend to continue for the Black Bears.

The offense has made significant strides over the past five and a half quarters.

After averaging only 1.7 yards per play on first down against New Mexico, they have averaged 4.7 yards per play on first down in their last two games.

The Black Bears do need to do a better job establishing the run game. UMaine’s 75.7 rushing yards per game is 110th in the FCS.

If you can’t run the ball effectively, that makes your offense predictable and easier to defend with a variety of pass defense schemes.

UMaine must also do a better job on third and fourth-down and short yardage situations as it is just 3-for-7 when facing third or fourth and 2 yards or less.

And more trick plays like flea-flickers and reverses would also help, as it would keep the defenses guessing and uncomfortable.

Their offensive line has been hampered by injuries to starting left tackle Tyrie Francois and left guard Tyler Royal. Francois was able to play against BC but Royal was out.

Freddie Brock, who suffered an ankle injury at the end of last season, will also benefit from the week off and should take on a more prominent role after only 14 carries for 51 yards to date. Elijah Barnwell (28 carries-88 yards) is their leading rusher and Tavion Banks has gained 60 yards on 12 carries.

Fagnano has rebounded from a 12-for-27, 96-yard showing at New Mexico to complete 46 of 82 passes for 535 yards in the Colgate and BC games.

He is still getting used to having Zavier Scott (13 catches-175 yards) and Montigo Moss (12-for-98) as his top two wide receivers after the departure of All-CAA receivers Devin Young and Andre Miller.

Scott and Moss have been pleasant surprises in their elevated roles this season.

Fagnano will need to be more consistent throwing the ball. He has been intercepted three times after being picked off just six times in his first 16 career games. But he is trending in the right direction and is capable of being one of the CAA’s elite quarterbacks.

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Fagnano has become more of a running threat this season and even though he will never be considered fleet-footed, he has been churning out some productive yards and picking up first downs and it is important for him to continue doing so.

UMaine is averaging just under eight penalties per game, many of which have been false starts, and that has to change.

Punter Brian Cooey (43.36 yards per punt) and placekicker Cole Baker (2-3 in field goals, 3-for-3 in extra points) have been good.

The Black Bear start has to be tempered by the fact they have played two FBS schools.

UMaine is one of the few FCS schools that plays two FBS games instead of one.

BC paid a $400,000 guarantee and New Mexico gave $350,000. The program needs the money because the school is always financially-strapped.