ORONO — In a season of cruel losses, this one topped them all.
In control for nearly every second of the game, the University of Maine lost Saturday afternoon when Stony Brook quarterback Joe Carbone threw a last-play miracle Hall Mary 35-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Jackson, who caught the ball amidst four Black Bear defenders.
After the play was upheld on review, the Seawolves loudly celebrated their improbable 20-19 victory over Maine while the Black Bears disconsolately trudged off Alfond Stadium for the final time this season.
“Just another extremely disappointing loss,” said Joe Harasymiak, Maine’s head coach. “We played well for a lot of the game and it got away from us at the end. Kind of the story of the year, not making enough plays in the fourth quarter, for sure.
“Just a terrible way to lose it, obviously.”
The loss closed out a 4-6 season for the Black Bears, who finished 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Maine ended the season with three consecutive losses.
Stony Brook, which had 188 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter after compiling just 101 through the first three, is now 9-2, 7-1 in the CAA, and bound for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“Games are won as complete games,” said Chuck Priore, the head coach at Stony Brook. “You always preach to the kids to play to the last tick of the clock. And literally that happened today. A great life lesson.”
Chris Ferguson threw two first-half touchdown passes, of 40 yards to Earnest Edwards (who didn’t play in the second half because he was sick) and 59 yards to Jared Osumah, to lead the Black Bears to a 19-7 halftime lead. Josh Mack scored Maine’s other touchdown on a 3-yard run in the first quarter.
But the Black Bears couldn’t keep that offensive momentum going in the second half, when the Seawolves held Maine to just 110 total yards of offense. Maine, which failed to convert two two-point conversion passes in the first half, had a chance to extend the lead in the third quarter, but Brandon Briggs missed a 38-yard field goal wide left with 9:48 remaining.
“That one, more than the (conversion misses), is the one that mattered,” said Harasymiak. “That was a tough one to take. Just inconsistency.”
Still, Maine led by 12 entering the fourth quarter and had Stony Brook deep in its own end when the momentum changed. Carbone threw a pass over the middle that was deflected high into the air – and into the hands of Jackson. He ended up completing a 65-yard play that led to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Carbone to Donavin Washington that cut the lead to 19-14 with 10:46 remaining.
“The (big plays) continue to hurt us,” said Harasymiak. “Great teams that make the playoffs don’t allow those plays to happen.”
Maine would punt the next three times it had the ball, the final time giving Stony Brook the ball on its 27 with 31 seconds remaining.
A 15-yard pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Seawolves 42. After an incompletion, Carbone hit a wide-open Washington over the middle for 23 yards, to the Maine 35.
Priore said Washington had called that play, telling him it would be open. Harasymiak simply said, “That’s the play that lost the game. We cut a guy lose in man coverage. That play allowed them to be in position to win it.”
Carbone spiked the ball to stop the clock with six seconds left. Then he lofted the ball to the right corner of the end zone, where the 6-foot-2 Jackson leaped up among four Maine defenders and came down with the ball.
“I just went up and did what I’m taught to do,” said Jackson. “I just saw the ball and knew I had to go up and get it.
“This is the best win, a great win.