ORONO — The University of Maine was already short-handed when its game with Richmond began Saturday. Wide receiver/kick returner Earnest Edwards was out after suffering a fractured nose in the days leading to the game.

Then the Black Bears suffered a second major injury when quarterback Chris Ferguson had to leave in the second quarter with a sprained  right foot. He had X-rays on the foot that were negative.

“He doesn’t have any fracture,” said Coach Nick Charlton. “That’s what I was told.”

And while freshman Joe Fagnano played well in Ferguson’s absence, the Black Bears still suffered a crushing 24-17 loss at Alfond Stadium.

Charlton said neither injury should be long-term.

Ferguson was injured on a quarterback sneak on Maine’s first drive. On a fourth-and-1, he gained two yards, giving the Black Bears a first down at the Richmond 27. But he apparently was stepped on and limped noticeably. Four plays later, Ferguson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jaquan Blair.

Ferguson played one more series, which ended in a missed 46-yard field goal by Kenny Doak. When the Black Bears next got the ball with 9:04 remaining in the half, Fagnano was at quarterback.

“Chris tried to stay in,” said Charlton, “but he couldn’t move around.”

And while Ferguson doesn’t run much, he does move around well in the pocket – important against a potent Richmond pass rush. Ferguson completed 5 of 8 passes for 33 yards. Fagnano completed 10 of 16 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, throwing one interception. Fagnano also rushed for 54 yards.

Charlton said the Black Bears had to change their offense when Ferguson went out.

“No matter the preparation and the time that you spend, as a true freshman quarterback you’ve got to play to his strengths to let him succeed,” said Charlton of Fagnano. “So we did a little bit more quarterback run, obviously. In terms of some of the shots, the actions and the gadgets and things like that, if he doesn’t feel totally comfortable with everything, which no true freshman quarterback is going to, we’re not going to run those plays.

“He’s able to run the majority of the offense and I’m extremely impressed with him. The kid was put into a tough situation.”

Charlton said Edwards “broke his nose during the week. He’s being evaluated. We plan on having him back but he wasn’t out there today, unfortunately.”

Asked how the injury occurred, Charlton said, “I’m not going to get into it.”

Edwards, who leads the Colonial Athletic Association in all-purpose yards (173.2 per game) and has scored six touchdowns and thrown for two, wasn’t at the game.

“He was at home. Just with the injury, we thought that was best,” said Charlton.

RICHMOND WASN’T perfect but nearly so. The Spiders weren’t called for a penalty and didn’t commit a turnover.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” said Charlton.

Richmond Coach Russ Huesman said, “That’s two weeks in a row without a turnover, two weeks in a row with a win.”

 

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