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Black Bears "pick' apart Blue Hens, 27-10
Newark, DE - The Maine Black Bears (3-3, 1-2) picked off three interceptions and two fumbles in the second half to upset #24 (FCS) Delaware, 27-10. Offensively, second team Maine QB Michael Bursko stepped in for injured Adam Farkas in the second period and effectively led his team to 10 points in the fourth to break the 10-10 score at the half. The cry among many UD fans after the game called for a change at their quarterback position as well. Their running game could probably use an overhaul, too. The Hens (2-4,0-2) virtually lost any chance to gain a play-off berth in the Football Championship Subdivision after falling in the finals last season to Appalachian State.
Delaware's opening drive resulted in a 31-yard FG by John Striefsky which prompted Guest Game Analyst (GGA) Steve Ciesla to say, "It looks like you're going to see another blow-out," in reference to this year's CFF schedule so far. In the end, we saw worse this year, and the final result was surprising. In the second, Maine tied on Brian Harvey's 29-yard conversion, but Delaware responded with a 33-yard TD pass from QB Rob Schoenhoft, an Ohio State transfer, to Tommy Crosby on a crossing pattern to retake the lead. On the ensuing series, a tenacious but clean hit by UD DB Charles Graves knocked Maine QB Farkas after a short run out of the game for good. Bursko came cold off the bench, and despite two consecutive personal foul penalties, one off-setting, he led the Bears to a four-yard TD run by Jared Turcotte with :26 left in the half to tie the score, 10-10.
CFF sat in section A with Delaware fan and Dad, Charlie, whom we bought tickets from to enjoy the game with. Charlie's son, Charles Jr., is a member of the Delaware band. We enjoyed Band Day at the half as the Delaware band hosted 18 high school bands that performed together at halftime. Through the binoculars behind the UD band, a familiar face was spied. Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and Delaware alum, pressed the flesh among the fans. He must have been optimistic for the second half even though many expected the Fightin' Blue Hens to run away with this one already. UD only outgained Maine in the first half, 152 yards to 129.
Delaware drove down to the Maine seven on their next possession, but Schoenhoft, who always looked at one receiver and one only, got picked off in the end zone by LB Sean Wasson who returned it out to his 37. In a quick third period (basically three possessions in total), UD had the ball on their own two. Three runs up the middle netted only two yards before the Hens punted.
In the beginning of the fourth, Charlie couldn't believe how many UD students had already left Delaware Stadium! The score was tied and it was a cool, comfortable evening. He pointed out that there were more band members and cheerleaders from Delaware than there were students. There were even more visiting high school band members still there than UD students. Charlie could only figure the alcohol wore off and they had to go back for more. It was the only explanation that made sense, but if that was a CFF excuse, we'd never have seen the end of any games!
UD started from their own eight, but a come from behind tackle by Jovan Belcher forced a UD fumble and Maine took over at UD's 28. Bursko displayed patience running the option as his last second pitches resulted in effective runs for the Bears. A good fake on this drive resulted in his 5-yard TD run on the option. The Bears led, 17-10. On the next series, Schoenhott's pass was behind his intended receiver and Jerron McMillan picked if off to bring the offense back on at their own 46. Harvey extended the Maine lead, 20-10, with a 32-yard FG. The picks just kept on coming as Schoenhoft (29 of 48 for 344 yards, 3 INTs) telegraphed another pass. Another UD fan observed the safeties immediately reacting to wherever the QB looked downfield - where he looked is where he was throwing. Lionel Nixon grabbed this one and took it 56 yards to UD's 23, but a Maine fumble put UD back in business at their own seven. Blue Hen Coach K.C.Keeler stuck with Schoenhoft despite the rumblings among the crowd to sit him down. Instead of an INT this time, he coughed the ball up on a sack and DL Jordan Stevens picked it up and returned it 44 yards for the final Maine TD. With 1:29 remaining, the game was over. The Bears won for the fourth time at Delaware Stadium in 16 games. Despite, Schoenhoft's passing inadequacy, the Blue Hen running game tallied only 14 yards the entire game. Maine looks like it's got an adequate replacement QB with Bursko, who adroitly ran the option, but the Blue Hens look like they need to do more than rebuild, they look like they might need a mid-season overhaul.
Extra Points: Prior to the game, earlier CAA scores showed that three other conference games were high-scoring, close affairs: Mass 28-Northeastern 24; Wm&Mary 38-UNH 34; and Towson 37- URI 32.
After Bursko came in at QB, another fan pointed out that the Maine coaching staff forgot to pull him off the punt team. It's not often that you see a QB running downfield on punt coverage from the wide-out position. Not too smart when you need the guy to run your offense now. Free shots at our QB anyone?
GGA Steve Cielsa pointed out that Bursko not only had good patience running option plays, but he was effective at timing his pass allowing recovers to get open while under pressure. His numbers weren't great (5 for 7 passes for 65 yards; 9 rushes for 40 yards, 1 TD), but he was effective. He played at the end of the second period and ran only two series in the third before leading two scoring drives in the fourth. He quick-kicked once for 37 yards to put UD on the two, held for kicks, and covered on punts. It looks like he may be quarterbacking for a while now, too. Unlike Farkas, he faked well and tended to carry the ball more often on the option.
Five Maine runners combined for 158 rushing yards. All seemed to give extra efforts to gain additional yards on each carry.
Met up with former Juniata classmate Jeff Hermann after the game. His son , Jon started at guard for the Blue Hens. The senior has had an exciting career, especially getting to block for Joe Flacco the last couple of years and getting to the national championship game last year.
Delaware's roster consist of at leas 15 Bowl Division transfers including Schoenhoft (OSU) an RB Jonathan Smith (UConn). Other players came from Notre Dame, Pitt, Navy, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Washington State (can you blame him, 0-6?) among others.