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The Sports Edge - Some big game #Hunters

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Not long after becoming the youngest Division I head football coach in America, Joe Harasymiak began using the #Hunters hashtag in social media conversations about his Black Bears team. More than just a slogan, it was a way of doing business for coaches and players alike, with the clear message that they had specific goals in mind and would be determined in that quest.

A 24-21 loss in their opener at Connecticut helped energize fans, as Maine arguably outplayed their FBS-level opponents and were a missed field goal away from pulling the upset in Coach H's debut. A week later, the Bears were lambasted by Toledo, but subsequent games revealed there was no shame in that; the Rockets have proven to be an offensive juggernaut, putting lots of points on the board against all competitors.

In Week 3, the Black Bears squandered a fourth-quarter lead and ended up losing to high-powered James Madison University to drop to 0-3; it appeared a long season could be in the offing. Things were looking especially bleak when visiting Bryant took a 21-0 lead at Alfond Stadium with less than a minute to go in the first half. Sometimes a game turns on a single play and, in this case, a whole season may have swung in a different direction, as the Bears got inside the Bryant 5-yard line with seconds to go. With everyone in the stadium expecting quarterback Dan Collins to spike the ball and stop the clock, he stepped back and lofted a pass into the waiting hands of Micah Wright in the end zone, and the Bears had swung momentum their way heading into the locker room. From there, Maine staged a furious second half rally and grabbed an electrifying 35-31 win to improve to 1-3and begin one of the most remarkable stretches in Black Bear history.

At Delaware, linebacker Austin Brown scooped up a fumble and took it to the house to give Maine a 28-21 win. The next week, a record crowd of 10,443 cheered a key sack by Sterling Sheffield late in the game that helped secure a 20-16 victory over an Albany team that was ranked #17 in the nation and suddenly Maine was 3-3. A week later at Rhode Island, Jason Matovu intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone to preserve a 28-21 win, and then this past Saturday, it was Matovu again, this time grabbing a fumble to save a 35-28 victory at William & Mary.

That gives the Black Bears five straight wins, all by seven points or less, something that has never happened in the history of a football program that dates to the Benjamin Harrison administration. Now Maine stands at 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association. They're also in the midst of a six-team battle for playoff spots.

The #Hunters' biggest prey comes to town this week, dressed as Wildcats. Villanova - led by the winningest coach in Division I football, Andy Talley (in his final season) - brings a 6-2 record to Alfond Stadium, including a 4-1 mark in the CAA. A sixth consecutive win by Maine would put them in prime position to secure one of those postseason bids.

Maine is hoping to shatter the attendance record set in the last home game and perhaps break the all-time campus mark of 11,600 set against Bowdoin in 1951. This is a fun and exciting Black Bear team, worthy of your support. Hang up the blaze orange and switch to UMaine blue for what could well be one of the most enjoyable hunts of the fall.

1 comment

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