ORONO — With so much on the line, the University of Maine football team was turned back by New Hampshire again Saturday.

When Morgan Ellman kicked a 21-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining, the Wildcats did more than just defeat the Black Bears for the seventh consecutive game and bring the coveted Brice-Cowell Musket back to Durham, New Hampshire – they ended Maine’s season.

Ellman’s kick gave New Hampshire a gut-wrenching 24-21 win at Alfond Stadium and likely lifted the Wildcats into the NCAA playoffs. The teams entered the game with identical records, knowing the winner likely would get a berth and the loser would not.

The Wildcats will find out at 11 a.m. Sunday if their 7-4 overall record, 6-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association, is good enough to get in the tournament for the 13th consecutive year. The selection show will be on ESPN3.

“We should be in the playoffs,” said UNH Coach Sean McDonnell. “We’re a good team.”

Maine finished its first year under Joe Harasymiak with a 6-5 record, 5-3 in the CAA – huge improvements over the 3-8, 3-5 records of 2015.

Harasymiak said the Black Bears simply made too many mistakes.

“You can’t do that in November games. We didn’t play awful,” said Harasymiak. “You’ve got to give them credit, they executed, they played better than we did. I don’t want to take anything away from them. But I wish we could have done a couple of things better.”

Maine controlled the first half, leading 14-7 and setting a physical tone. But the second half was completely opposite.

New Hampshire put up 230 yards in the second half – compared to 160 in the first – while holding Maine to 125 yards in the second half after Maine put up 214 in the first. Much of that was on the ground, where the Wildcats outgained the Black Bears 108-20 in the second half.

“They made some adjustments,” said Dan Collins, Maine’s senior quarterback. “They kind of tempted us to throw the ball more.”

And the Black Bears couldn’t stop Dalton Crossan of UNH in the second half, when he gained 102 of his 163 rushing yards. His shifty 35-yard touchdown run with 5:31 left in the third quarter – eluding four tacklers – helped make it 14-14 entering the fourth.

“Second half we were just undisciplined, not doing our jobs,” said Pat Ricard, Maine’s senior defensive tackle. “We knew (Crossan) was a shifty guy, he makes people miss. That’s what he did.”

New Hampshire took a 21-14 lead with 12:22 left as Adam Riese – who entered in the first quarter when starting quarterback Trevor Knight was injured – threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Neil O’Connor.

Still, the Black Bears put together one final drive, capped when, on fourth-and-8 from the New Hampshire 27, Collins threw across the field to the right pylon and Micah Wright leaped over Isiah Perkins to somehow make the catch and land in-bounds for the touchdown. Brandon Briggs, who won a spot on the roster during an open tryout in late September, kicked the PAT to make it 21-21 with 5:02 remaining.

New Hampshire owned the rest of the game.

The Wildcats drove downfield, jump-started by a 28-yard completion to a wide-open Kieran Presley – his fifth catch of the year. “A blown coverage,” said Harasymiak.

With 24 seconds left and the ball at the Maine 10, O’Donnell said he started thinking field goal.

“We want to score touchdowns,” he said. “But at that point I thought, ‘Let’s put the ball in the middle of the field.’ ”

So on fourth down from the 5, Ellman and put the ball through the uprights to end Maine’s hopes.

“We just didn’t play disciplined enough,” said Harasymiak. “They did. So they won.”


Comments are not available on this story.