NEW LONDON, Conn. — Chalk this up as a valuable learning experience for the University of New England football team.

The Nor’easters, who fielded 33 first-year players, bowed 33-7 to Coast Guard Academy in the nonconference opener for both teams Thursday night.

For UNE, it was the first varsity game since the school added the sport.

“We did some things well and we did some things real poorly,” said Coach Mike Lichten. “That’s part of being a young program and learning how to compete at the right level and hang in a game the right way.

“Our guys have a lot to learn and we have a lot to teach them. I was very happy with their energy and effort. We have to clean up a lot of little things. That’s why you go back to work each week.”

This was the first “real” football game UNE played after eight sub-varsity games last season.

“Awesome,” UNE quarterback Brian Peters said after completing 21-of-35 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown. “It felt great playing in a varsity game, a game that actually matters.

“We learned a lot from this game. I think our talent level is pretty good. We just have to execute better.”

Ryan Jones was 23 for 39 for 336 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another for Coast Guard.

“I think we left a lot of plays out there,” Lichten said. “It wasn’t necessarily plays that Coast Guard forced us to make or not make. We just need to do a better job of executing on our own.

University of New England’s Joe Kucky tackles Coast Guard’s Chip Crowley during Thursday’s night at New London, Conn. Dana Jensen/The Day

“We had dropped passes, dropped interceptions, missed tackles and missed blocks. That’s part of being young. The guys really don’t have a choice. They have to grow up quick.”

UNE’s initial drive stalled on its 29 and Coast Guard countered with Cole Austin’s 36-yard field goal. The Nor’easters managed two first downs on the next series but, again, were forced to punt.

Coast Guard then covered 84 yards in five plays as Jones lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Liam Middleton for a 10-0 lead.

Two plays highlighted each drive.

On the first, Jones completed a 42-yard pass to Justin Moffatt, who finished with nine catches for 157 yards. Jones connected again with Moffat on the second, this time for 41 yards to put the ball on UNE’s 26.

The Nor’easters then reeled off an impressive drive that enabled them to reach the Bears’ 5 early in the second quarter. But when Bob Innis lined up for a 22-yard field goal, a high snap from center prevented the kick.

Coast Guard’s offense clicked again as Jones completed a 49-yard pass to Middleton to UNE’s 24.

Six plays later, Jones ran 6 yards off left tackle for a score that capped an 88-yard drive and gave the Bears a 17-0 lead.

UNE then made history by scoring its first touchdown.

Quarterback Brian Peters (21 for 35, 242 yards) engineered an eight-play, 73-yard drive that culminated with Peters passing 9 yards to Devon Charles for a score midway through the quarter.

Coast Guard threatened again when a pass interference penalty gave it the ball on UNE’s 10. But on fourth-and-1, Riley Ray sacked Jones to keep the Bears’ lead at 17-7.

Jones had a TD pass negated by a holding penalty early in the second half. But four plays later, Jones connected on a swing pass to Chris Gardner, who broke free for a 19-yard TD and a 24-7 lead.

Austin kicked a 22-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter for Coast Guard, which added a TD on a 40-yard by James Duren late in the fourth quarter.