Three if by land

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Michael Phillis/Collegian

ORONO, Maine – This is how bad it was for Maine against the Massachusetts football team on Saturday afternoon. After two minutes and two seconds – and just three UMass offensive plays – the Black Bears trailed 14-0.

But then it got worse.

Down 24-0 with 40 seconds remaining in the first half, Maine lined up to kick a 25-yard field goal in an effort to salvage the half with some points on the board. But they botched it.

The Black Bears botched just about everything on their home turf Saturday, losing to the No. 3 Minutemen, 38-7. Tailback Matt Lawrence torched a typically sound defensive team for a career-high 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Backup running back Tony Nelson had 104 yards of his own, as the Minutemen totaled 289 yards on the ground.

“First and foremost, they came in here like a defending champion and they played like it,” said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove. “Lawrence impressed the heck out of me today. I think they have a shot to be better than last year, I really do.”

“We came into the game with the thought process that we were going to mash the ball,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “To think that you’re going to mash the ball for 289 yards and have two guys over 100, I didn’t know if we would be that successful.”

The Minutemen (4-0, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) were particularly successful in the first two minutes of the game – scoring on a 62-yard run from Lawrence on their second play from scrimmage, and scoring again 15 seconds later on a 2-yard touchdown pass following a Maine (1-3, 0-2 CAA) fumble.

After Coen completed a 15-yard pass to J.J. Moore, Lawrence busted through the line on the next play, breaking a number of tackles en route to the end zone and a career-long 62-yard run.

On Maine’s first play from scrimmage following the Lawrence touchdown, tight end Matthew Mulligan fumbled the ball after being hit by safety Jeromy Miles. The ball fell right into the hands of fellow safety, Michael Meggett, as he returned the ball to Maine’s 2-yard line.

“I just came off the field and I was like, here we go again,” said Lawrence, referring to the big defensive play. “They go hard, they give 100 percent. That’s all you can ask of your teammates.”

Coen – who Brown wasn’t sure would play due to a left knee injury – gave his team a 14-0 advantage on the next play, completing a pass to the wide open Chris Zardas for the touchdown. Wearing a knee brace, Coen finished the afternoon with 142 yards passing and completed 15-of-19 – including one touchdown and one interception.

Following Coen’s touchdown pass, Maine’s drive went backwards and they were forced to punt. The Minuteman offense went right back to work, as Rasheed Rancher caught a 29-yard pass and Lawrence totaled 23 yards of offense in a drive that resulted in his second touchdown run of the game.

Lawrence added his third touchdown of the afternoon in the third quarter – a 1-yard run that gave the Minutemen a 31-0 lead.

The Black Bears had trouble sustaining any drives on offense, particularly through the air, as quarterback Adam Farkes threw for 67 yards on 6-of-15 passing. Maine had some success on the ground, with 176 yards rushing – but the majority of those yards came deep within its own territory. Three Black Bears ran for over 50 yards (Farkes, tailback Jhamal Fluellen and fullback Anthony Cotrone) but none of them topped 60 yards.

“I thought we did extremely well,” Brown said, referring to his defense. “When [Farkes] did try to throw, he had no time. They made their yards, but we never fell out of a comfort zone.”

Maine finally broke through offensively in the fourth quarter, when Farkes hit a wide open Mulligan for an 18-yard touchdown. It was his first-career touchdown pass, and the first that Maine had thrown this season.

That was the lone bright spot for the Maine offense, specifically in the passing game as Farkes got little help from his receivers. Of the six times Maine receivers got open and caught a pass, they fumbled and turned the ball over twice. In fact, they fumbled the football on each of their first two completed passes.

“They can reduce the field to 9-on-9 with those corners,” Cosgrove said. “We’re not good enough to challenge [UMass cornerback Sean] Smalls.”

“Our thought process all week was to play a 60-minute football game,” Brown said. “It was really a 60-minute effort. We were quality in all three phases.

UMass capped its scoring in that 60th minute, when fullback Breyone Evans pounded the ball into the end zone on a 5-yard run.

Game notes

After struggling with penalties in the first three games, UMass was flagged just four times for 20 yards