BOWLING GREEN, KY – Trailing 21-0 just 5:03 into first quarter, the University of Maine Black Bears (2-0) rallied by outscoring Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) foe Western Kentucky (0-2) by a mark of 31-7 the rest of the way to pick up their second win of the season and third-win in program history over an FBS school.
With the Black Bears leading 31-28 and 47-seconds remaining in regulation, Western Kentucky's (WKU) special teams unit came on to attempt a 48-yard field goal to tie the game. However, Jordan Swann was able to come off the edge and block the try, giving the ball back to Maine and sealing the victory.
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"These kids are unbelievable," said head coach Joe Harasymiak. "To be down 21-0 like that quick, I think in like four minutes, for an FCS team to just stick with it and to fight back, it's all about them. They're just an unbelievable group of kids. Our culture is awesome and there's no other way to show that than what we did tonight."
Micah Wright matched his career-high with two touchdown catches. Joe Fitzpatrick carried the ball 21 times for 82-yard while Ramon Jefferson added 12 touches and 63-yards. Jefferson also hauled in a 51-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
Maine's Black Hole defense again turned in an impressive effort. The unit held WKU to just 42-yards on the ground, limited the Hilltoppers to just 3-of-16 on third down and tallied six sacks. In the first two weeks of the season, the Black Bears have tallied 19.0 tackles for loss.
Kenny Doak's 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as he was able to convert the attempt with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
On the first offensive play of the game, Drew Eckels connected with Lucky Johnson for a 66-yard touchdown just 18-seconds into the first quarter.
The Hilltoppers extended their lead to 14-0 when Devon Key picked off a pass which tipped off the hand of Earnest Edwards. Key returned the interception 45-yards for a score.
Eckels again found Johnson, this time for a 32-yard score, with 9:57 left in the first quarter.
The Black Bears got on the scoreboard with 10:20 left in the second quarter when Ramon Jefferson tallied his first career touchdown. Ferguson hit Jefferson with a short pass before Jefferson broke an early tackle and sprinted down the sideline for the 51-yard score. 83 yards, 6 plays, 3:03
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Maine cut the WKU lead to 21-14 with an efficient three play scoring drive, covering 59-yards in just 22-seconds. Ferguson marched Maine deep into WKU territory with a lob to Julian Dunn, covering 32-yards. Moments later, Ferguson worked off play action, this time finding Micah Wright in the end zone for the 32-yard touchdown reception.
We prep, you perform. pic.twitter.com/oiVmFYLJyD— Maine Equipment (@MaineEquipment) September 8, 2018
A defensive score tied the game at 21-21 as the Black Bears were able to scoop a fumble and score from 50-yards out. Sterling Sheffield provided a heavy edge rush and was able to strip Eckels. Stevens grabbed the fumble and raced down field, covering 50-yards into the end zone as the Black Bears erased a 21-0 deficit, battling all the way back to knot the score.
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Maine's Black Hole defense once again came up with a huge play, shutting down WKU on a fourth and one attempt. The stop gave the ball back to Maine with tremendous field position, at the WKU 15-yard line. On Maine's first play of its drive, Ferguson found Wright at the 1-yard line. Wright extended to make the catch, falling into the end zone for the score, giving Maine a 28-21 lead with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
The Black Bears extended their lead to 31-21 with 7:11 left in regulation. Five-straight carries from Fitzpatrick, including a 22-yard gain on third and two, moved Maine down to the WKU 20-yard line. Kenny Doak's 37-yard field goal completed the drive to give Maine a 10 point edge.
🇫🇷 TOUCHDOWN TOPS 🇫🇷— WKU Football (@WKUFootball) September 9, 2018
Garland LaFrance says "SEE YA! 👋” and trots into the end zone on a 75-yard catch-and-run out of the backfield!! pic.twitter.com/LG1xaBVfZl
The Hilltoppers immediately responded when Eckels hit Garland LaFrance for a 75-yard touchdown with 7:00 on the clock, bringing WKU back within three, 31-28.
The Black Bears will have a bye next week before traveling to take on another FBS opponent, Central Michigan, Sept. 22.