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A Point of No Return for Minutemen
AMHERST - Missed extra points have come to define recent UMass-Maine football games at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, and yesterday proved no exception.
The Minutemen fell behind 14-0 at halftime and seemed poised to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, but Armando Cuko’s kick struck the right upright and caromed away, spelling the difference in Maine’s 21-20 win.
More than 11 minutes remained after Cuko’s extra-point attempt missed, but the Black Bears (7-3, 4-2 CAA) intercepted UMass quarterback Liam Coen on each of the Minutemen’s final three possessions, including a Hail Mary attempt from midfield on the game’s last play. Coen threw a career-high four picks as UMass (6-4, 3-3) watched its playoff hopes just about vanish.
“I know they’ve been down here a couple of times and have been snake-bitten by the extra point,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “Today it was our turn. The bottom line is we didn’t get it done.”
In 2004 in Amherst, UMass blocked a Maine extra-point attempt in overtime to win by one. Two years ago, Maine missed an extra-point attempt that could have tied the score with less than two minutes to play as the Minutemen escaped, 10-9.
The Black Bears controlled possession for just more than 40 minutes thanks to 296 rushing yards, including productive days from Jared Turcotte (83 yards), Derek Session (76) and Jhamal Fluellen (74), who each scored TDs.
“To me, it never mattered how we got it as long as we got it,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. “The fact that it ended up decided by an extra point miss - that seems to be the theme lately. I’m not in charge of that.”
Maine used a 95-yard drive, its longest of the season, to go ahead 7-0 on Session’s 2-yard run with 12:24 left in the first half. After a UMass punt, the Black Bears then held the ball for 7:23, culminating with a 26-yard scoring burst from Fluellen at the 3:59 mark.
The visitors averaged six yards a carry through the first two quarters in amassing 194 first-half rushing yards.
UMass began the second half driving from its own 19 to the Maine 5, where Coen (15-of-33, 200 yards) hit a wide-open Ian Jorgensen with a touchdown pass.
Jeromy Miles then came up with an interception of Maine’s Michael Brusko to give the ball back to the Minutemen at midfield, and Chris Zardas finished the drive with a 3-yard TD run to tie the game at 14 with 3:41 left in the third.
Turcotte put Maine back in front, 21-14, on a 3-yard scoring run, but the Minutemen needed only one play and 20 seconds to answer. Coen threw to Jeremy Horne on a flanker screen that turned into a 58-yard touchdown. Although there were no obvious problems with the snap or hold, Cuko, previously perfect in 38 extra-point tries this season, hit the upright to leave the score at 21-20.
A point of no return for Minutemen
By George Miller, The Boston Herald