BOSTON — The setting of Fenway Park was surreal. The atmosphere, from the time the University of Maine players stepped onto the field for warm-ups, was electric.

But the result was all too familiar for the Black Bears. Too many penalties, too many breakdowns and another loss.

Junior quarterback Andrew Ford threw four touchdown passes, three to Andy Isabella, to lead the University of Massachusetts to a 44-31 victory over the Black Bears Saturday night at Fenway Park. Ford threw three of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, to help the Minutemen to a 21-7 lead, and then gave UMass the lead for good with his final touchdown pass to Isabella late in the third quarter.

“At the end of the day, it was too much to overcome and we made too many mistakes,” said Joe Harasymiak, Maine’s head coach. “And we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”

It was Maine’s second loss in a row, dropping the Black Bears to 4-5 overall. Massachusetts, a Football Bowl Subdivision team with more scholarships, more financial support and a deeper, more talented, roster, improved to 3-7 with its third win in four games.

“It was a good win for us, no question,” said Mark Whipple, Massachusetts head coach. “Give credit to Maine. They played hard and were more physical than us up front, especially on offense.”

But Maine couldn’t overcome its 12 penalties for 124 yards and going 1-for-14 on third down. “We were probably third-and-long a bunch,” said Harasymiak.

Its biggest penalty came late in the fourth quarter with the Black Bears trailing 37-31. Facing a third-and-29 from its 12, Chris Ferguson hit Jaquan Blair for 23 yards, setting up a fourth-and-6. But the Black Bears were called for an illegal shift on the fourth-down play – another pass to Blair which would have resulted in a first down. UMass was also called for a penalty on the play – a targeting penalty resulting in the disqualification of linebacker Jarell Addo – but the penalty on Maine resulted in off-setting penalties and replaying fourth down.

This time, Ferguson’s pass was knocked down by linebacker Colbert Calhoun, giving the ball back to the Minutemen on Maine’s 35. Two plays later, Marquis Young (123 rushing yards) ran for a 33-yard touchdown to clinch the win.

Harasymiak said the trip to Fenway was memorable for the Black Bears, but the result wasn’t.

“It was a great day for the university and our program, being on a stage like this,” he said. “And that’s why these kids came to Maine, to have this opportunity … But we’re here to win. That’s my job. That’s what these kids have got to understand.”

Maine’s pass defense, which had played so well in the last three games, couldn’t keep up with the Minutemen’s speedy receivers. Ford was 21-for-39 for 355 yards and the four touchdowns of 33, 69, 12 and 14 yards. Isabella caught eight passes for 152 yards and the three scores. “We had some match-ups we thought could take advantage of,” said Ford. “And we came out with a fast tempo that put them on their heels.”

Maine clawed back behind a defense that sacked Ford five times, including a safety by Connor Walsh late in the second quarter that made it 24-16. Then the Black Bears tied it on a 1-yard plunge by Josh Mack (110 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and the PAT kick by Brandon Briggs on the first drive of the third quarter.

But Ford responded with his 14-yard touchdown pass to Isabella, a nice fade into the left corner where Isabella made a leaping catch in the corner despite good coverage, with 2:42 left in the third to make it 31-24. Just 96 seconds later, it was 37-24 after Lee Moses returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown.

Mack would get Mack back in it with a 37-yard run – set up by a 48-yard completion from Chris Ferguson to Drew Belcher – and it was 37-31 with 6:46 remaining. But Maine couldn’t make the next play when needed.

“It’s the same story,” said Belcher. “We’ve been in position to win games but we’re not making plays. We’ve just got to get over that hump.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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