ORONO — Everything that has made it difficult for the University of Maine football team to win games this season was on display Saturday afternoon at Morse Field.

The Black Bears’ defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing Elon to convert 12 of 16 third-down attempts and control the ball for just under 38 minutes. Maine couldn’t convert enough of its own offensive chances. Most frustratingly, the Black Bears continued to take penalties, six for 78 yards, including three major penalties in the third quarter alone.

All that added up to a 33-23 Elon win. Maine is now 1-4 overall, 0-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association, while Elon is 3-3, and 2-1.

“I’m a little aggravated right now because I just feel like we left one out there,” said Maine Coach Nick Charlton. “At the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to make sure we execute, and we didn’t do that today. There was just too many areas we left plays out there. We had the ability to win the game and did not do that.”

Despite the problems Maine’s defense had getting off the field on third down, the Black Bears were still very much in the game when Zavier Scott scored on an 8-yard run with 31 seconds left in the third quarter, cutting Elon’s lead to 26-23.

An unnecessary roughness penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave the Phoenix the ball at their own 40 rather than the 25.

Elon then converted two long third downs – third-and-13 and third-and-12 – and McKinley Witherspoon scored on a 1-yard run to push the lead back to 10 points, 33-23.

“We preach every week, it’s not about what they do, it’s about us. It’s really about execution,” said Elon quarterback Davis Cheek, who completed 29 of 37 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns while also running for a score.

Maine defensive back Rich Carr said Elon’s success on third down throughout the game was the result of self-inflicted mistakes, missed tackles and missed assignments in coverage.

“Effort wasn’t there today like it usually is,” Carr said.  “We gave (Cheek) a lot today, and he was taking what we were giving.”

Charlton said he didn’t see two of the three 15-yard penalties committed by the Black Bears in the third quarter, as he was talking with quarterback Derek Robertson when they occurred. Charlton said those mistakes can’t happen.

“Those are critical penalties. They matter, especially in close games. Regardless of whether it was right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. It was a penalty,” Charlton said.

Robertson had his best game since stepping in for injured starter Joe Fagnano in a Week 2 loss at James Madison. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 283 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Bowman with 35 seconds left in the first half to cut Elon’s lead to 19-10.

Old Town native Andre Miller, a senior, set a career-high with 176 yards receiving on eight catches, including deep balls of 47 and 55 yards.

Miller said the offense needs to do better right from the first snap, and took too long to find a rhythm.

“Another kind of slow start for the offense. We need to put more plays together to keep the defense off the field,” Miller said.

In the second half, Maine came up empty on two drives deep into Elon territory. Jonny Messina missed a 37-yard field goal try early in the third quarter and had a 34-yard attempt blocked with just under five minutes remaining in the game.

Cheek’s 1-yard touchdown run gave Elon a 26-10 lead with 3:18 left in the third quarter. The Black Bears answered with Trevin Ewing’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown but missed a 2-point conversion attempt.

“We gave up some explosive plays on special teams and defense, and we had to rally back and recover from those oh no moments,” Elon Coach Tony Trisciani said. “Miller’s a really good player. He’s going to go up and get balls. He’s going to get his catches. That kickoff return … that’s going to affect the scoreboard in a hurry.”

Cheek completed passes to nine receivers, including one to himself on a ball tipped at the line. Jackson Parham led the Phoenix with six catches for 71 yards.


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