DURHAM, N.H. — And so the season ends.

The University of Maine’s football playoff hopes ended Saturday afternoon as rival New Hampshire clamped down on the Black Bears’ prolific offense in a 28-10 victory at Wildcat Stadium.

Maine had averaged 38 points a game over the last five games, but was unable to get anything going against the Wildcats. The Black Bears gave up five sacks and lost three fumbles, two of which led to scores.

“Our defensive effort has been great all year,” said Ricky Santos, New Hampshire’s interim head coach. “But I think we took it to another level tonight.”

Yes they did. Maine scored on its opening drive, but finished with its lowest point total of the season.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Black Bears, who finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association, and ended any slim hopes they had for a Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth.


“Obviously very disappointed,” said Nick Charlton, Maine first-year head coach. “We didn’t play well across the board, specifically offensively. Hats off to New Hampshire. That’s a great team, that’s a big win and they definitely earned it.

“We just didn’t play well enough to win. We had plenty of opportunities but couldn’t capitalize on them … We just have to play better in big moments and execute. We didn’t do that today.”

New Hampshire finished 6-5 and 5-3. Will that be enough to get the Wildcats a playoff berth? “We’ll see,” said Santos.

Maine has not won a game in Durham since 2001, a streak that includes nine losses.

Last season, the Black Bears advanced to the national semifinals after two wins in the FCS playoffs. On Saturday, New Hampshire doused Maine’s playoff hopes in the final two minutes.

The Wildcats drove 92 yards in seven plays, taking a 21-10 lead when Gunnar Gibson, a defensive end playing fullback, scored on a 4-yard pass from Max Brosmer with 1:49 remaining. New Hampshire broke two big plays on the drive: a 36-yard pass to Malik Love (11 catches, 115 yards) and a 34-yard run by Dylan Laube.


“They outplayed us at the end of the game and finished strong,” said senior linebacker Taji Lowe, who led Maine with nine tackles. “They just out-executed us.”

Then, on Maine’s first play after the kickoff, Joe Fagnano was sacked from behind by Josh Kania and fumbled, with Prince Smith Jr. scooping the ball up at the 30 and running in for the touchdown to seal the victory with 1:36 remaining.

Maine fell behind quickly when Devin Young fumbled on its first offensive play of the game, the ball recovered by New Hampshire’s Pop Bush at Maine’s 35. That led to a 35-yard touchdown pass from Brosmer to Laube on a third-and-10 screen pass just 32 seconds into the game.

Maine came back to get a 16-yard touchdown pass from Fagnano to Earnest Edwards on the next series but struggled after that.

Asked if this was the toughest game he’s played in this year, Fagnano said, “I think it’s fair to say it was. All Division I games are big games. But this was a big one and unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”

Maine’s defense kept the Black Bears in the game: Shaquille St. Lot recovered a fumble at the Maine 25 to stop one Wildcats drive; Adrian Otero recovered another fumble at the Maine 13 late in the second quarter; and St. Lot intercepted a Brosmer pass at the Maine 2 in the third to stop another drive.

But Maine’s only other points came on a 45-yard field goal by Kenny Doak that brought the Black Bears within 14-10 with 7:55 remaining.

“We had a lot of adversity this year, but to the end of this game we were fighting,” said Lowe. “We didn’t get the win, but we gave it our all.”

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