DURHAM, N.H. — This time, the other team played catch-up in the fourth quarter and won.

The University of New Hampshire followed two Maine turnovers with two touchdowns 15 seconds apart to beat the Black Bears 30-27 before 8,536 at Cowell Stadium.

The loss ruined Maine’s chance to share the Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Black Bears (8-3 overall, 6-2 in the CAA), dropped into a three-way tie for second place with UNH (8-3, 6-2) and Old Dominion (9-2, 6-2) behind champion Towson (9-2, 7-1).

Those four CAA teams are expected to receive NCAA Tournament invitations, which will be announced at 10 a.m. today.

Maine, 11th-ranked, likely saw its hopes for a first-round bye disappear.

“We’ll wait and see the cards we’re dealt,” said Maine quarterback Warren Smith, who threw for 200 yards.

It was a turnover-filled game, as each team threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. At one time, three straight plays resulted in turnovers. The Wildcats capitalized the most.

Smith’s second interception gave UNH the ball on the Maine 18. The Wildcats scored five plays later on a third-down, 5-yard pass from Kevin Decker to R. J. Harris for UNH’s first lead, 23-20, with 13:41 left in the game.

On the kickoff return, Kendall James tried to cut back and fumbled it away at the 18.

On the next play, running back Nico Steriti, who finished with 151 yards, scored. UNH led 30-20 with 13:26 remaining.

Smith, who has engineered a number of comebacks, drove the Black Bears 65 yards, finding Damarr Aultman alone in the end zone for a 10-yard pass that brought Maine within three at 30-27 with 9:23 left.

The Black Bears got the ball back at their own 35. But Smith threw three straight incompletions.

“We just didn’t execute,” Smith said tersely.

Maine got the ball back once more, with 2:05 to go. But a fumbled shotgun snap on third down at the Maine 31 was followed by Smith’s third interception, ending the game.

Maine scored first after linebacker Troy Russell intercepted a pass that the UNH receiver bobbled at the Wildcats 36. Pushaun Brown scored on a 33-yard run.

UNH drove back. On fourth down from the 34, Decker lofted a scoring pass to Harris, tying the game.

Smith capped a 60-yard drive with a 2-yard run for a 14-7 Maine lead.

UNH drove to the Maine 6. But the Wildcats were penalized 15 yards when UNH head coach Sean McDonnell ran into an official on the sideline. A Michael Cole sack of Decker put UNH out of field goal range.

Maine came with another drive, to the UNH 24, ending in a 41-yard Brian Harvey field goal for a 17-7 lead.

With three minutes to go in the half, UNH got one last chance because of a huge Maine mistake.

The Wildcats had just thrown an incompletion and faced a third-and-18 from their own 5 when Maine defensive back Jerron McMillian slapped UNH’s Harris in the helmet on their way back to their huddles.

UNH got a first down and then drove down for a field goal with 18 seconds left, closing to 17-10.

“Very undisciplined,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said of the personal foul. “I’m thinking we can go two-minute drill and add to the total. And we’re dumb on their sideline. It cost us three points. What was the final score?

“I’m not happy about that. (McMillian) is in trouble with me.”

Decker called the penalty and eventual field goal “huge. It gave us a good feeling at halftime.”

UNH closed to 17-16 in the third quarter on a quick drive and missed extra point. Harvey’s 22-yard field goal made it 20-16.

Steriti followed with a 71-yard kickoff return to the Maine 21, but UNH fumbled.

But more mistakes followed — mostly by Maine — and the Wildcats pounced.


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