EVANSTON, Ill. -- The #25 University of Maine football team (3-1, 0-0 CAA) held tough against the Football Bowl Subdivision's (FBS) #18/16 Northwestern Wildcats (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) but fell in the end by a score of 35-21 on Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field. The Black Bears outgained Northwestern 379-373 and were led on offense by senior tight end Justin Perillo (Wilmington, Del.) who hauled in eight catches for 81 yards and a score.
Marcus Wasilewski (Kulpmont, Pa.) went 25-for-40 with 237 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Nigel Jones (Pleasantville, N.J.) led the rushing efforts for Maine with 73-yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. In total, Maine rushed for 107 yards and threw for 272 more for a total of 379 yards on the day.
Maine's defense put forth a great effort, holding the Wildcats to season lows in both points and total passing yards, led by Cabrinni Goncalves (Taunton, Mass.) 11 tackles, including a sack, and senior linebacker Troy Eastman's (Rahway, N.J.) six tackles.
Northwestern was quick out of the gate after forcing Maine to punt on its opening drive, the Wildcats moved down the field and capped its opening drive with a 27-yard dump and run from quarterback Kain Colter to Tony Jones resulting in the game's first score. A Jeff Budzien extra point gave the Wildcats an early 7-0 edge.
Maine look ed for an immediate answer as it put together a lengthy 10 play, 49-yard drive highlighted by an 18-yard pass from Wasilewski to Justin Perillo (Wilmington, Del.). However, the Black Bears effort would come up empty as Sean Decloux's (Ottawa, Ontario) 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
The Black Bears put together another solid drive early in the second quarter as they marched 59-yards in 5:30 on 13 plays. Wasilewski and the Black Bears picked up a pair of deep third down conversions to keep the drive alive starting with a 19-yard completion to John Ebeling (Mahwah, N.J.) and later a 21-yard strike from Wasilewski to Perillo for 21-yards. However, the drive ended when Decloux missed wide with a 38-yard field goal try.
Northwestern looked to add to its lead as it quickly marched down the field and into Maine territory. However, after Darius Greene's (Medford, N.Y.) first career sack for a loss of 11 back the Wildcats up, Axel Ofori (Gaithersburg, Md.) was able to snatch a tipped ball out of the air for his first interception of the season.
Maine's following drive would be short lived as a Wasilewski pass was intercepted by Damien Proby and returned 49-yards for a touchdown. Budzien would add the point after as Northwestern took a 14-0 lead with 1:41 left in the opening half.
The Wildcats tacked on a touchdown early in the second half when Wasilewski was rushed out of the pocket and forced to flip a short pass. The pass was brought in by Northwestern's Dean Lowry who scampered in from 19-yards out as the Wildcats stretched their lead to 21-0.
Maine's defense kept up its solid play as Trevor Bates (Westbrook, Maine) and Goncalves each came up with sacks leading to a Northwestern punt. The Black Bear offense took over as Wasilewski rushed for 15-yards. A Wildcat 15-yard personal foul for the hit on Wasilewski moved the ball to the Northwestern 41. Ebeling took over at quarterback and moved the Black Bears up to the 11-yardline before Wasilewski returned and hit Perillo for an 11-yard score. Maine would trail 21-7 after a Decloux extra point. The catch for Perillo was the 101st of his career while the 11-yards put the senior tight end over 1,000-yards receiving for his career.
Northwestern added to its lead early in the fourth quarter, capping an eight play, 74-yard drive with a seven yard Mike Trumpy rushing touchdown.
The Black Bears refused to quit as a 59-yard pass to Derrick Johnson (Hempstead, N.Y.) gave Maine first and goal. Two plays later Wasilewski would find Ebeling in the back of the endzone for the touchdown as the Black Bears trailed 28-14 with 11:06 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats would answer with a five-yard rushing score from Colter to run its lead to 35-14 with 7:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Maine closed out the scoring when Jones finished off an eight play, 49-yard drive with his first rushing touchdown of the season. However, it would be too little too late as the Black Bears fell 35-21 to Big Ten Conference member Northwestern.
Maine opens Colonial Athletic Association play next weekend when it travels to take on Richmond live on Comcast Sportsnet. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 PM.