Oct. 28—ORONO — The University of Maine's football game against Albany on Saturday was the first large public gathering in the state since the announcement that Robert Card, accused of killing 18 people in Lewiston on Wednesday evening, was found dead in Lisbon on Friday night.
In front of 3,932 fans at Alfond Stadium, the Black Bears' minds were on the tragedy in Lewiston.
"I know a lot of people outside the football team from Lewiston," cornerback Kahzir "Buggs" Brown said after the game, a 37-21 Albany win. "I went out there with a heavy heart today, I'm not going to lie. I've been here three years. I may not have lived here all my life, but I really felt it. I played this game for the state of Maine and Lewiston today."
Maine Coach Jordan Stevens said the Black Bears held a team meeting Friday night, in which the names of the 18 victims were read aloud, as they were again before Saturday's game. A native of Temple, approximately 45 miles from Lewiston, Stevens said the team will raise money for the families of the victims.
"You wake up Thursday morning and there's unknowns. What was the day going to bring? I thought these guys handled it really well, the coaches and the players, managing their time and focus," Stevens said.
Albany (6-3, 4-1 Coastal Athletic Association) controlled play for most of the game, gaining 473 yards to Maine's 312. The Black Bears (2-7, 1-5) were hurt by three turnovers, one that led directly to a Great Danes touchdown on a 68-yard fumble return by Brian Abraham with 11:36 left in the second quarter for a 17-7 lead.
While Maine quarterback Derek Robertson completed 29 of 43 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns, it was his fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and he threw two interceptions, the second at the Albany 1 in the final minute of the third quarter.
"That's the difference. It's 100% on me," Robertson said. "You can't turn the ball over. It puts the whole team in an awful spot. I just can't do that."
After running just six times for 7 yards in the first half, the Great Danes controlled the ball on the ground in the second half, finishing the game with 149 yards on 32 carries. Most of that work was done by Faysal Aden, who gained 141 yards on 22 carries and had touchdown runs of 11 and 7 yards in the third quarter. His second touchdown gave the Great Danes a 37-14 lead.
Albany Coach Greg Gattuso said his team didn't make an adjustment in the running attack. The Great Danes thought they could run on Maine and stuck to the game plan.
"I couldn't be prouder of Fays. He's been through ups and downs, little injuries, learning the offense. Me and him talk every day and I've been telling him, stay down, you're time is going to come," said Albany quarterback Reese Poffenbarger, who threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Black Bears were able to grab momentum in the first half, it wasn't with a firm grip. Each time Maine scored, the Great Danes responded with points of their own.
Maine opened the game with an eight-play, 69-yard drive, culminating with Jamie Lamson's 8-yard touchdown catch for a 7-0 lead. A 30-yard run on an end around to the right sideline by Rohan Jones one play earlier set up the touchdown. Originally, Jones was ruled pushed out of bounds at the 1, but a review showed Jones stepped out at the 8.
Albany tied the game at 3:48 of the first quarter on Brevin Easton's first touchdown of the game, a 22-yard pass from Poffenbarger. The Great Danes took a 10-7 lead with 50 seconds left in the first quarter on John Opalko's 22-yard field goal.
With 11:36 left in the half, Albany extended its lead to 17-7 when Brian Abraham returned a Robertson fumble for a touchdown. Maine answered with a scoring drive, as Michael Monios caught a 4-yard pass from Robertson, but the Great Danes responded quickly, this time with Easton catching a 53-yard pass from Poffenbarger that made it 24-14 at halftime.
A junior from Montreal, Monios had a career day with 10 catches for 96 yards and the touchdown, filling in for the injured Joe Gillette, who had one catch for 7 yards in the first quarter and did not return. Monios had 12 catches for 109 yards all of last season.
"I thought we played well in the first half. Obviously, we'd want the turnovers back. We just didn't execute well enough throughout the entire game to win," Stevens said.