ORONO — Jacob Hennie had only two catches for 23 yards for the University of Maine coming into Saturday’s game against Rhode Island at Alfond Stadium.

He left with seven – and a big role in the Black Bears 34-30 comeback victory over the Rams that kept Maine in contention for an FCS playoff spot.

Playing because senior Jaquan Blair was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules and junior Andre Miller has a sore knee, Hennie stepped up and made five catches for 52 yards. His last reception, a 15-yarder, set up Joe Fagnano’s game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Earnest Edwards.

“He’s one of my main guys in practice and getting in routes,” said Fagnano. “He works extremely hard and he had that next-man-up mentality. He knew he was going to get some reps this week and he wanted to make the most of it. And I feel he did that.”

Hennie, a sophomore from Corona, California, had played in only seven games for Maine this year, but Saturday he came through repeatedly. He had another catch in the fourth quarter that started the drive that tied the game.

“He did a nice job,” said Maine Coach Nick Charlton. “He was at some different spots. We moved him around. (Edwards) and (Devin Young) were the guys we were trying to shoot the ball downfield a little bit and Joe does a nice job coming down on his check-downs. And Jake made a lot of plays that way.

“He came up with a couple big plays at  the end, like on the last drive. That was Joe’s second read and he got the ball to him and that put us in position to win.”

BLAIR, WHO LEADS the Black Bears with 57 catches and is second on the team with 748 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions, will be back for next week’s game at New Hampshire.

His absence also meant that only one of Maine’s four captains (defensive end Kayon Whitaker) was on the field Saturday. Linebacker Deshawn Stevens and quarterback Chris Ferguson are both out with injuries.

MAINE WAS FURTHER short-handed at wide receiver for the final 9:22 of the third quarter when Devin Young received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after he scored a 19-yard touchdown on a pass from Fagnano. Young and Rhode Island’s Rashod Dickerson got into a tussle in the end zone after the play and Young had to be carried away by teammate Michael Gerace.

Charlton has a strict rule: if you receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, you sit the rest of the quarter. So Young sat.

“I spoke to him at length about it,” said Charlton. “What Devin did was not right.”

MAINE WAS 0-for-8 in third-down conversions. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a win,” said Charlton.

MAINE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR Ken Ralph said the Black Bears have put in a bid to host a Football Championship Subdivision first-round playoff game if they get in.

Of course, Maine still has to win next week at rival New Hampshire and then have the FCS selection committee deem it worthy of one of its 24 selections, 14 of which are at-large bids. The selection show is at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 24.

 

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