The University of Maine football home opener was spoiled on Saturday afternoon at the hands of the No. 7 James Madison University (JMU) Dukes, with a final score of 31-20. The Black Bears drop to 0-3 overall on the young season, as the Dukes improve to 3-1.
The Maine defense couldn’t stop the JMU running game the entire game. It was two long touchdown runs by fourth-year running back Khalid Abdullah and third-year running back Cardon Johnson that ultimately propelled the Dukes to victory.
“Both of them are really good running backs. I have a lot of respect for them, but we have to come out here and make plays. There was a couple times we had them wrapped up and then didn’t finish the tackles,” Maine’s second-year linebacker Sterling Sheffield said.
“Each week we just come out here and try to get better. I think we have put the nation on notice we at least have a decent backfield. It’s always a competition between us and that’s what pushes us to excel,” Johnson said.
Abdullah ran loose for a career-high 174 yards on 22 carries and plugged in two touchdowns. Johnson scampered for 110 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
“I just think score. When you get some daylight you just want to run hard, dig your feet in the ground, put some power in the dirt and just try to get to the end zone,” Johnson said.
Maine’s offense was able to muster up a good number of yards through the air, but a couple ill-advised throws by fourth-year quarterback Dan Collins really did the Black Bears in on Saturday. Collins completed 13-of-22 passes for 238 yards and three interceptions.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a mental thing. I didn’t execute at all in the second half. I just got to execute a lot better and make the plays down the stretch,” Collins said. “They were coming after us all game. Our offensive line did a pretty good job of sticking with them.”
None of Collins’ interceptions were as crucial as the last one he threw, when he hurried it to third-year wide receiver Jared Osumah into double coverage around the 50-yard line with the game coming to a close and the Black Bears down just four. The very next play was when Johnson took it 52 yards to the house and sealed the deal for the James Madison Dukes.
“Jared had his man beat, but I didn’t put it out there far enough,” Collins said.
Maine’s second-year running back Darian Davis-Ray led the Black Bears in rushing with 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Davis-Ray also hauled in two catches for 33 yards.
Second-year wide receiver Micah Wright had three receptions for 84 yards, one of them being a deep 40-yard snare. Third-year wide receiver Marquise Adams caught 3-of-3 targets for 44 yards.
Fourth-year linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga had a game-high 14 tackles and two sacks. Sheffield was all over the scene as well with nine tackles and a sack.
“First half we battled. Came right down the field and held them to just 10 points in the first half. We’re a team that’s struggling to make plays in the second half. If you look at the UConn game and today’s game we are just not the same team in the second half,” Harasymiak said.
This game moves Maine to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play while JMU moves to 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in conference play.
Maine will be looking to get themselves in the win column Saturday, Oct. 1 when they play host to the Bryant Bulldogs with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. James Madison will return to play on Oct. 1 against University of Delaware in Harrisburg, Penn.