DURHAM, N.H. – This time, the other team played catch-up in the fourth quarter and won.

The University of New Hampshire followed two Maine turnovers with touchdowns 15 seconds apart to beat the Black Bears 30-27 Saturday before 8,536 at Cowell Stadium.

The loss ruined Maine’s chance to share the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Black Bears (8-3, 6-2 in the CAA), dropped into a three-way tie for second place with UNH (8-3, 6-2) and Old Dominion (9-2, 6-2) — behind champion Towson (9-2, 7-1).

Those four CAA teams are expected to receive NCAA tournament invitations, which will be announced at 10 a.m. today.

Maine, ranked 11th, likely saw its hopes for a first-round bye disappear with the loss.

“We’ll wait and see the cards we’re dealt,” said Maine quarterback Warren Smith, who threw for 200 yards.

It was a turnover-filled game — each team with three interceptions and a lost fumble. At one time, three straight plays resulted in turnovers. The Wildcats capitalized the most.

Smith’s second interception gave UNH the ball on Maine’s 18. The Wildcats scored five plays later on third down, with a 5-yard pass from Kevin Decker to R.J. Harris that gave UNH its first lead, 23-20, with 13:41 left in the game.

On the kickoff return, Kendall James tried to cut back and fumbled at the 18.

On the next play, running back Nico Steriti (151 yards) scored for a 30-20 UNH lead with 13:26 remaining.

Smith, who has engineered a number of comebacks, drove the Black Bears 65 yards, finding Damarr Aultman alone in the end zone for a 10-yard pass that closed Maine to within 30-27 with 9:23 left.

The Black Bears got the ball back at their 35. But Smith threw three straight incompletions.

“We just didn’t execute,” Smith said tersely.

Maine got the ball back again with 2:05 to go. But a fumbled shotgun snap on third down at Maine’s 31 was followed by Smith’s third interception, ending the game.

Maine scored first after linebacker Troy Russell intercepted a pass at the Wildcats’ 36. Pushaun Brown scored on a 33-yard run.

UNH drove back. On fourth down from the 34, Decker lofted a scoring pass to Harris, tying the game.

Smith capped a 60-yard drive with a 2-yard run for a 14-7 lead.

UNH drove to Maine’s 6. But the Wildcats were penalized 15 yards when UNH Coach Sean McDonnell ran into an official on the sideline. A Michael Cole sack of Decker knocked UNH out of field-goal range.

Maine followed with another drive that ended in a 41-yard Brian Harvey field goal for a 17-7 lead.

With three minutes to go in the half, UNH got one last chance because of a huge Maine mistake.

The Wildcats had just thrown an incompletion and faced a third-and-18 from their 5 when Maine defensive back Jerron McMillian slapped UNH’s Harris in the helmet on the way back to their huddles.

UNH got a first down on the penalty and then drove down for a field goal.

“Very undisciplined,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said of the personal foul. “I’m thinking we can go 2-minute drill and add to the total. And we’re dumb on their sideline. It cost us three points. What was the final score?

“I’m not happy about that. (McMillian) is in trouble with me.”

Decker called the penalty and eventual field goal “huge. It gave us a good feeling at halftime.’

UNH closed to 17-16 in the third quarter on a quick drive but missed the extra-point try. Harvey’s 22-yard field goal made it 20-16.

Steriti followed with a 71-yard kickoff return to Maine’s 21. But UNH fumbled.

But more mistakes followed — mostly by Maine — and the Wildcats pounced.

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH