Joe Harasymiak could barely hide his disappointment Thursday night after his University of Maine football team lost – again – to New Hampshire, a 24-23 knee-buckler in the season opener.

His mood wasn’t a whole lot better the next day.

“Just extremely disappointing,” he said, when asked for his reflections.

He spoke in measured tones, pointing out that there were a lot of positives to take from the one-point road loss to the 13th-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team in the nation. But he couldn’t hide his distaste for the result, nor the continued lapses in discipline (10 penalties) and the kicking game (two missed field goals and a missed PAT that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter).

Harasymiak surely pointed out all the positive moments and plays when the team met for its film review. But he no doubt also pointed out the mistakes, both mental and physical, that cost the Black Bears another game.

“I guess as a staff and myself, we’re sick and tired of have the same conversation about being close to beating teams,” he said.

And they should be. In Harasymiak’s first year as head coach, the Black Bears lost to Connecticut and New Hampshire on last-second field goals and led eventual national champion James Madison going into the fourth quarter before losing. They finished 6-5, with a last-second 24-21 loss to New Hampshire eliminating them from playoff consideration.

Thursday’s game would have been a huge victory for Maine. New Hampshire has beaten Maine eight consecutive times and 15 of 16. More than that, the Wildcats are one of the premier teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, having been to the playoffs 13 consecutive years.

If Maine is to make its mark in the CAA, it needs to win games like Thursday night. But the Black Bears must stop making the same mistakes they’ve made the last few seasons.

Yes, some of their best players are first- or second-year players, but they have a core of older, more experienced players as well. Those players have to take charge.

As Harasymiak said, “Our older kids have to knock off playing like younger kids.”

He spoke about Najee Goode, the outstanding senior cornerback who had two holding penalties called against him. The first one negated an interception, and UNH immediately scored on a 60-yard pass play. The second one came one play after New Hampshire quarterback Trevor Knight was called for intentional grounding, and kept alive a UNH drive that resulted in its final touchdown.

Goode wasn’t alone – Maine was called for nine holding penalties – but Harasymiak said he needs to be better because he’s one of the team’s leaders.

“Whether they were penalties or not, it doesn’t matter, they were called,” said Harasymiak.

Now, however disappointed the Black Bears are, they’ve got to move forward fast.

They play Bryant University at Alfond Stadium on Saturday. Its a nonconference game, but it looms as a must-win because of a daunting schedule.

“We’ve got to move on, that’s life,” said Harasymiak. “We’ve got 10 games left, but for now we’re just focusing on the next one. That’s the message to the kids: it’s all about Bryant, who came up here last year and nearly beat you. It’s all about how can we get better as a team and get to 1-1.

“We can be 1-1 heading into our bye week, and then … ”

When Maine returns from its bye week on Sept. 23, it will be on the road at James Madison, the preseason No. 1 team in FCS. After that, it’s back on the road for a Sept. 30 game at Central Florida, one of two Football Bowl Subdivision teams Maine plays this year. Then the Black Bears will travel to Villanova to take on another CAA team ranked in the top 10.

Maine just played a nationally ranked team evenly for the most part, pushing the Wildcats until redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson threw an interception on fourth-and-14 from midfield with 25 seconds remaining.

“Because we lost, we’re going to use that as motivation,” said Ferguson, who completed 23 of 44 passes for 239 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his college debut. “And it’s going to be something we look to the whole year and it’s going to keep us going. We’re going to get better every day, every game.

“For the next game, we’re going to be better than we were today. We can improve a lot. The offense did some good things, but we’re a much better offense than that.”

But if they’re going to beat the CAA’s top programs, they have to clean things up.

And Maine needs to get its kicking game figured out. After making just one of seven field goals all last season, the Black Bears brought in freshman Kenny Doak on scholarship. Doak hit his first attempt Tuesday, then missed two (one was low and blocked, the other was wide right). Then, after Ferguson hit Jason Simonovich for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 9:07 left to pull Maine within 24-23, Doak hooked his PAT kick far to the left.

“We’re not going to make any rash decisions,” said Harasymiak. “We’ve got to take our time and look at it. His (misses) get magnified because of the situation. We lost by a point.”

With a roster of rising stars, this is a team that has a lot to build on. But they have to take that next step and win the big games.

“Losing is wrong, losing sucks, it’s awful,” said Harasymiak. “At same time, we’ve got to wake up tomorrow and try to get better. That’s all we can do.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH