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College Football: Wildcats mauled in season opener

Staff report
August 30. 2018 10:47PM
UNH players and coaches get ready for the opening kickoff on Thursday night against Maine in Orono, Maine. (COURTESY ALLEN LESSELS/UNH)

The University of Maine football team opened its season by forcibly ripping the Brice-Cowell Musket away from archrival University of New Hampshire Thursday night at Alfond Stadium in Orono, Maine.

The Black Bears scored the game’s first 29 points en route to a 35-7 victory over UNH, ending their eight-game losing streak against the Wildcats.

The loss marked UNH’s second in its last 17 games against the Black Bears.

Maine (1-0) recorded 450 yards of total offense. The No. 7 Wildcats (0-1) finished with 116 yards of total offense, 62 of which came on backup quarterback Christian Lupoli’s 62-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Washington Jr.

UNH starting quarterback Trevor Knight, an Amherst resident, left the game in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury, according to the Portland Press Herald. Lupoli (5 of 13, 98 yards) replaced Knight (3 of 8, 25 yards) under center.

Lupoli came in for an injured Knight in UNH’s victory over Central Arkansas in the second round the FCS playoffs last year.

UNH went three-and-out four times and entered Maine territory on five of its 14 drives. The Black Bears’ defense recorded six sacks and recovered one of the three fumbles it forced.

Maine took a 22-0 lead into halftime behind two passing touchdowns, a rushing TD and a safety.

Black Bears quarterback Chris Ferguson opened the game’s scoring when he capped a 12-play, 88-yard drive with a 6-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Micah Wright on the first play of the second quarter. Ferguson (21 of 31, 199 yards) also connected with Earnest Edwards for an 11-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half to build a 22-0 Maine advantage. Ferguson’s second TD pass finished off an eight-play drive that started at Maine’s 1-yard line.

A 17-yard TD run by Edwards and a point-after kick from Kenny Doak with 6:14 remaining in the half created a 16-0 Maine lead. The Black Bears recorded their safety with 9:27 left when they downed UNH punter Drew Sanborn, of Amherst, in the end zone following a snap that went over Sanborn’s head.

Drew Belcher, who is listed as a tight end/quarterback on Maine’s roster, hit Jaquan Blair for a 52-yard touchdown on a trick play with 10:43 left in the third quarter to help create a 29-0 Black Bears cushion. Maine running back Joe Fitzpatrick’s 14-yard TD run with 2:04 remaining capped the game’s scoring.

Lupoli’s 62-yard touchdown pass to Washington Jr. and an ensuing PAT kick from Atkinson’s Jason Hughes with 12:47 remaining cut Maine’s lead to 29-7.

The Wildcats open their home season on Saturday, Sept. 8, against Colgate.