PHILADELPHIA — The University of Maine’s football postseason aspirations ended with an ugly display of offensive futility, missed field goals and defensive breakdowns Saturday night.

Villanova walked away with a 13-3 victory before an announced crowd of 4,309 at Villanova Stadium. Maine limped away with a 3-5 record, 3-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association, and the sinking feeling of what could have been.

The Black Bears ran 18 plays inside the Villanova 20 and gained a total of 19 yards, plus two missed field goals by Sean Decloux.

“I’ve got to do a better job of being a leader, getting us in the right plays, executing the plays,” quarterback Drew Belcher said. “That’s on me.”

Belcher, making his first start of the season, went the distance. He finished with 97 yards rushing and 180 through the air. But he threw an interception at the Villanova 26 on the opening drive of the second half with his team behind only 6-3, and later lost a fumble after being sacked.

There were big plays for Maine, notably passes of 40 yards to Nigel Beckford and 43 to Jordan Dunn. But Decloux missed field goals from 35 and 27 yards, the 27-yarder with a chance to pull Maine within 13-6 with 9:07 left.

When Belcher led Maine to the Villanova 10 three minutes later, Coach Jack Cosgrove was so disgusted that he opted to leave Decloux on the sideline and went for it on fourth-and-5. Belcher’s pass sailed over Jeremy Salmon’s head and out of the end zone with 6:16 left.

“I had Jeremy on a corner route,” Belcher said. “I’ve got to get the ball a little bit lower, give him a chance to catch the ball on fourth down.”

Villanova (4-4, 3-2) then ran out the clock.

“It’s Division I. You’re supposed to be making field goals,” Cosgrove said after Villanova kicker Gerard Smith also missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked on a windless evening.

Still, Cosgrove second-guessed himself for not letting Decloux attempt one more 27-yarder to try to cut the deficit to seven points.

“That’s bad football on my part,” he said. “You should be kicking the field goal there, but we missed two and we weren’t even close.”

The Wildcats, meanwhile, converted on just one of their five trips into the red zone. But that touchdown was the back-breaker.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Bednarczyk was able to get loose in the middle of the Black Bear defense all game. In the first quarter he snaked free on a third-and-9 play and found wide receiver Aaron Wells over the middle. Wells raced toward the Maine sideline, then bowled over three would-be tacklers en route to a 64-yard touchdown.

A Decloux 27-yard field goal made it 6-3 at halftime.

That’s how it remained until early in the fourth quarter, when Bednarczyk avoided a sack on third-and-11, then skittered through the teeth of the defense for a 14-yard touchdown. He finished with a career-high 123 yards on 18 carries with no turnovers.

“I’ll give him credit. He makes people miss,” Cosgrove said. “But I thought we were a better tackling team than this. This is probably as poor a night of tackling as we’ve had all year.”

Maine only sacked Bednarczyk once, and there were plays when the defensive linemen looked cartoonish as they chased him behind the line of scrimmage, only to see him elude their grasp.

“I just think we were undisciplined in our rush lanes and we didn’t finish how we should have, and it hurt us,” Maine defensive end Trevor Bates said after recording only two tackles. “I put that on the defensive line.”

There won’t be much on the line for Maine in its final three games. The Black Bears needed to win out to have a shot at the playoffs.

NOTES: Maine learned this week that receiver Jared Osumah, who was injured in the loss to Yale, is out for the season. … Cosgrove celebrated his 60th birthday Friday. … There were seven NFL scouts in attendance. Of the Maine seniors, Bates and center Bruce Johnson are drawing the most interest.

 


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