ALBANY, N.Y. -- The #8 University of Maine football team defeated Albany 33-27 on Saturday evening at Bob Ford Field as Maine, at 9-1 overall, is off to its best start in school history. The Black Bears, whose win on Saturday clinched at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title, improved to a perfect 6-0 in CAA play.
Marcus Wasilewski (Kulpmont, Pa.) orchestrated the offense as he went 20-for-32 with 231 yards and three touchdowns. The senior quarterback also added 43-yards rushing. John Ebeling (Mahwah, N.J.) was the top target as he snatched six catches for 41-yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the eventual game-winner with 11:16 left in the fourth quarter.
The Black Bear defense came up big when it had to, led by Christophe Mulumba's (Montreal, Que.) career-high 19 tackles while Troy Eastman (Rahway, N.J.) added 11. Michael Mangiarelli (Warren, Ohio) recorded his second interception of the year, which led to a Black Bear touchdown, while Trevor Bates' (Westbrook, Maine) sack fumble with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter sealed the victory.
As they have done so often this season, Maine jumped out to an early lead on Albany, taking the opening drive 66-yards on nine plays over 4:24 for a touchdown. Faced with a fourth and three on the Albany 35, Wasilewski ran a designed draw up the middle for seven yards. Wasilewski kept the ball on the ground, following up with a 20-yard rush down to the Albany 5. Nigel Jones (Pleasantville, N.J.) capped the drive by bouncing outside for a one yard touchdown.
Albany advanced the ball into Maine territory on its opening drive before Khari Al-Mateen (Baltimore, Md.) jammed running back Omar Osbourne up the middle, forcing a fumble, which was pounced on by Patrick Ricard (Spencer, Mass.). Maine took over on the Albany 45 but was only able to advance the ball up to the 30, where Sean Decloux (Ottawa, Ontario) missed short right on a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Albany took advantage of the Maine missed field goal and marched down the field 70-yards on nine plays, ending with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Will Fiacchi.
After the Black Bears were unable to convert on fourth down, UAlbany took over on its own 33. The Great Danes advanced the ball up field and into Maine territory. UAlbany grabbed the lead on the next play as Fiacchi hit Kevin Chillis for a 44-yard strike as the Great Danes led 14-7.
Excessive celebration on the touchdown forced UAlbany to kickoff from its own 20. Damarr Aultman (Wheatley Heights, N.Y.) returned the kick to the 50 and, following a facemask penalty, Maine would start on the UAlbany 35.
Facing a third and long, Wasilewski dumped a pass off to Rickey Stevens (Rochester, N.Y.) as Stevens broke free on a designed screen for a 23-yard gain down to the UAlbany 16. Backed up to the Great Dane 23 after a holding penalty, Wasilewski hit Derrick Johnson (Hempstead, N.Y.) in stride in the right corner of the end zone for a score. Decloux's extra point would knot things at 14-all with 4:41 left in the half.
Maine's defense came up big to start the half as Michael Mangiarelli (Warren, Ohio) picked off Fiacchi at the UAlbany 42 on the Great Danes' second play of the half. Mangiarelli returned the ball all the way to the six. Nigel Jones took the first play from scrimmage, sprinting in untouched, to give Maine a 20-14 lead on his second score of the day.
UAlbany gathered themselves and answered as Fiacchi marched the offense down the field, covering 79 yards on 12 plays, ending with Fiacchi finding Brian Parker for a 16 yard score. A low kick on the point-after try would be blocked as the game remained tied, 20-20.
Wasilewski and the Black Bears took over on offense, moving into UAlbany territory following a pair of pass completions and a 20-yard rush from Stevens. Faced with a third and nine on the UAlbany 41, Wasilewski scrambled to the outside and was hit as he was going out of bounds. A late hit personal foul was enforced, giving Maine first down on the UAlbany 28. Two more completions from Wasilewski moved Maine to the Great Dane 13. Faced again with third down, Wasilewski rolled out to his left, finding John Ebeling (Mahwah, N.J.) in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Decloux's extra point gave the Black Bears a 27-20 advantage with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
The Great Danes once again evened things up as Omar Osbourne rushed in from four-yards out for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Fiacchi highlighted the drive with a 36-yard strike to Chillis. Jake Meek followed with an 18-yard rush to the Maine 26 before Osbourne capped the drive with a score.
Back and forth the second half went as Maine marched right back down the field to once again regain a lead. Wasilewski started things with a 32-yard pass to Sean Reuss (Monticello, N.Y.). Back to back big gains on the ground from Stevens, totaling 30 yards, moved Maine down to the UAlbany four. Wasilewski capped the driving by finding Ebeling in the end zone for the second time on the evening. A failed Decloux extra point left Maine with a 33-27 advantage.
Maine was able to chew up some clock late before a Wasilewski pooch punt found the end zone. UAlbany began its final drive on its own 20. However, on the first play, Trevor Bates (Westbrook, Maine) came off the right edge and was able to strip sack Fiacchi. Jonathan Louis (Taunton, Mass.) was able to fall on the ball as Maine regained possession with 1:43 left. The Black Bears were able to run the clock down, taking a 33-27 victory.
Maine will return home for its final regular season home game on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12:30 PM, as it faces Rhode Island on Senior Day at Alfond Stadium. A win for the Black Bears next weekend will lock up the CAA championship.