The University of Maine’s football team has now lost three games in a row by a total of 15 points.
Last Saturday’s 26-22 loss to the University of Rhode Island’s 23rd-ranked Rams followed a 31-21 loss to No. 17 Richmond and a 28-27 loss to Stony Brook.
They could have won all three games in the fourth quarter with some timely stops on defense and more offensive production.
But UMaine first year head coach Jordan Stevens pointed out that it is the second and third quarters that have been more problematic — especially the third period — and that has resulted in his team being involved in games that have been decided in the fourth quarter rather than being in a comfortable position to pick up the win.
The Black Bears have been outscored 80-37 in the third quarter and 77-55 in the second period for an aggregate of 157-92.
So even though the Black Bears have outscored their opponents 55-52 in the fourth quarter, they find themselves staring at an overall record of 2-7 and a 2-4 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association entering Saturday’s noon game at the University at Albany.
UMaine has lost four games by 10 points including three by four or less. Albany, which is 2-7 and 1-5, respectively, has had an even more frustrating season, with five losses by seven points or fewer including three decided by three or less.
“We have to do a better job sustaining throughout the game. We did have a good plan against Rhode Island, but we weren’t able to be in position to pull away with a win,” said Stevens. “We have to close out games and put teams away.”
One of the issues that cost the Black Bears in the loss at URI was the team’s inability to finish drives with touchdowns rather than field goals.
They had first and 10 at the URI 13-yard line in the first quarter but had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Portland State transfer and two-time All-Big Sky Conference third team kicker Cody Williams, who replaced Cole Baker as the field goal kicker a week ago.
He added a 46-yarder in the second period and a 39-yarder in the fourth that supplied UMaine with a 22-20 lead.
“We weren’t able to score touchdowns to give ourselves enough of a lead so we would be in position to win at the end. That is going to be a focus of ours. We have to get past that threshold and punch it in. But Cody [Baker] did a nice job making those kicks,” said Stevens.
Baker was 6-for-9 in field goals but missed a potential game-tying 47-yarder with 25 seconds left in a 21-18 loss to Colgate and a go-ahead 46-yarder in a 28-27 loss to Stony Brook.
Williams missed his only previous attempt a week against Richmond, a 42-yarder, that would have pulled UMaine 31-24 with 2:01 left in the contest.
Baker has converted all 20 of his extra-point kicks and he will remain in that capacity.
“Both guys have handled it in a mature way and I expect them to continue to come through for us,” said Stevens.
Big plays continue to be a major issue as the Black Bears surrendered five plays of 20 yards or more and all were pivotal in URI’s win. That brings the season total to 41.
UMaine has given up 123 plays that have been good for at least 10 yards.
Despite the fact UMaine hasn’t turned the ball over in four games, the Black Bear defense has forced just one during its three-game losing streak.
During UMaine’s back-to-back wins over Hampton and Monmouth, they forced three in each game.
“I’m proud of how well we’ve taken care of the ball but we have to create momentum by getting some takeaways,” said Stevens.
Albany coach Greg Gattuso said Saturday’s game with UMaine will be decided by turnovers.
“When you turn the ball over multiple times, it’s the kiss of death in a CAA football game,” said Gattuso, whose team turned the ball over three times (2 fumbles, 1 interception) in a 27-3 loss to Elon last Saturday. “When you look at the difference in a game, check the turnover department.”