OGDEN, Utah — The University of Maine football team earned a berth in the national semifinals for the first time in program history with a tense 23-18 victory at Weber State University on Friday night.

The Black Bears (10-3) came up with four second-half interceptions after building an 11-point lead early in the third quarter to advance to a Football Championship Subdivision semifinal next weekend.

Ramon Jefferson helped to secure the Maine victory with a 45-yard touchdown run with 2:56 to go, and Kenny Doak clinched it with a 46-yard field goal with 1:34 remaining.

The Maine defense – led by defensive end Kayon Whitaker and linebackers Deshawn Stevens and Sterling Sheffield – shut down the Wildcats’ running game and put repeated pressure on quarterback Jake Constantine. Maine’s Jeffrey DeVaughn had two interceptions.

The Black Bears, who entered the game ranked second in the nation against the run, held Weber State (10-3) to minus-1 yard rushing on 25 carries.

Holding a 7-3 lead at halftime, Maine scored just three plays into the third quarter when Chris Ferguson threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Earnest Edwards. Doak’s PAT gave the Black Bears a 14-3 lead with 13:32 to go in the third.

Then the game almost turned on a controversial ruling late in the quarter.

Down by eight points and facing a fourth-and-12 from the Maine 33, Constantine heaved a pass into a scrum of players that was ruled an interception by DeVaughn in the end zone. But after a review, the Wildcats’ Devon Cooley was awarded a touchdown.

Weber State missed the extra point, and from there Maine clung to a two-point lead until the final minutes of the game. Ferguson was under constant pressure from the Wildcats’ defense. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 170 yards and threw two TD passes with an interception.

The Black Bears struggled to get anything going offensively before putting together a nine-play, 47-yard drive late in the second quarter. Ferguson capped the drive with a 9-yard pass to Jaquan Blair, who lunged over the goal line for the touchdown. Doak’s PAT gave Maine a 7-3 lead with 2:05 left in the half.

Jefferson was Maine’s leading rusher with 88 yards on 15 carries. Edwards caught three passes for 71 yards and rushed for 13 more.

The Black Bears will travel back west next weekend. They will play the winner of Saturday’s game between Eastern Washington and the University of California at Davis. Both of those teams are from the Big Sky Conference, as is Weber State.

Maine had played in the national quarterfinals three times previously (2001, 2002 and 2011) but had been unable to advance to the semifinals.




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