Junior linebacker Deshawn Stevens, shown during Maine’s first preseason practice, left during the first half’ of Friday’s season opener with a possible Achilles tendon tear. Stevens had a team-high 120 tackles last season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

ORONO — The University of Maine put on an impressive offensive show Friday night in its season-opening 42-14 victory against Sacred Heart at Alfond Stadium, but the win may be overshadowed by an injury to one of its top defensive players.

Junior linebacker Deshawn Stevens was still being evaluated Saturday for a possible Achilles tendon tear, according to Coach Nick Charlton.

Stevens led Maine in tackles a year ago with 120 and was named to the STATS FCS preseason All-America third team, and to the Colonial Athletic Association preseason first team.

He was injured with 10:47 remaining in the second quarter while rushing quarterback Logan Marchi. Stevens stayed on the ground for several minutes, then appeared to favor his right leg while being helped off the field. He was later taken to the locker room on a cart.

Stevens was in on five tackles at that point.

Charlton said Saturday he was meeting with the team training staff and medical personnel to discuss the injury. If Stevens is sidelined, Charlton said, “It’s next man up and that would go for any position. We did it last year for quarterback. Deshawn is a leader and he will continue to be so, whether he’s on the field or not. He’s an inspirational figure on the team and we’re going to take care of him no matter what.”

Quarterback Chris Ferguson said Stevens joined the team in the weight room Saturday morning to discuss his injury. “It was an emotional moment,” said Ferguson, who missed two full games and parts of two others with a shoulder injury last year. “You have to stay optimistic in these moments. He showed some emotion and that’s all right. You’ve got to stay positive for the guys around you … I think everybody knows what our leader of defense means to us. We know his passion for the game.”

Sophomore Adrian Otero of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and junior Owen Elliott of Saco and Thornton Academy stepped in Friday. Otero had four tackles and Elliott three.

Otero started for senior Taji Lowe, who was suspended for a violation of team rules. Charlton said Lowe will be back next Saturday when Maine plays at Georgia Southern, the first of two games the Black Bears have against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

The Black Bears wrapped up Friday’s win with meetings Saturday morning. “We will build on the positives of Friday night,” said Charlton. “There were some negatives that we have to clean up, and we have to make sure the guys understand that. Then we turn to Georgia Southern.

“This is going to be a big, big challenge. We just played a good football team but the team we’re playing next is at LSU (on Saturday night). That’s another level.”

Jaquan Blair caught seven passes for 140 yards and scored a touchdown Friday night in Maine’s 42-14 victory over Sacred Heart. The Black Bears scored touchdowns on their first six possessions. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine’s defense, which often carries the team, was overshadowed by an offensive performance that was spectacular at times. Maine scored touchdowns on its first six possessions and put up 582 yards. Ferguson completed his first 11 passes and finished 23 of 29 for a career-high 423 yards with three touchdown passes.

“I knew he would play well based on his preparation,” said Charlton, “but that was probably one of the best, if not the best, performances of a quarterback that I have seen.”

Wide receiver Devin Young, who caught four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, said Ferguson was spot-on in every phase of his game. Several completions were into tight spaces, the ball placed only where the receiver could make the catch.

“He’s grown,” said Young. “He knows what he sees on the field, he knows what’s going to be open. He looks around and knows if this guy’s not open, this one will be. He sits in the pocket, makes the right reads, then makes the throws.”

Ferguson said he appreciated what the offense did Friday night but he already was thinking about Georgia Southern. “Good games or bad games,” he said, “it doesn’t matter. You learn from it and move on.”

Maine will need to address one thing in particular this week: penalties. It had 13 penalties for 172 yards Friday night, including three 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Maine led the CAA in penalties (120) and penalty yards (1,120) last year.

“That’s on me,” said Charlton. “We are having that conversation. Yes, we beat this opponent handily, but that’s not going to fly in FBS games, it’s not going to fly if we want to go deep in the playoffs. We have to clean it up and we will.”

Earnest Edwards got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after scoring Maine’s first touchdown, spinning the ball in the direction of a Sacred Heart player. Charlton benched him for the rest of the first quarter.

“We know we’ve got to clean up on the penalties,” said Young. “I feel we played great on both sides, with a few mistakes. But we’ve  got to stop hurting ourselves.”

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