UMaine football coach vows to hand out in-game suspensions for unsportsmanlike conduct

University of Maine football coach Joe Harasymiak, pictured during a 2016 event, expects the NCAA rule change allowing more leniency for first-year student-athletes and injured players to benefit all involved in the NCAA Division I ranks.

ORONO (BDN) -- University of Maine football coach Joe Harasymiak is tired of his team self-destructing with penalties. So he is putting his foot down.

The Black Bears were penalized 13 times for 130 yards in that game, bringing their total for the past two games to 29 penalties and 327 yards.

“Any player who gets an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be taken out and won’t play the rest of the game,” the third-year head coach said on Monday in the wake of Saturday’s 27-20 Colonial Athletic Association loss at William & Mary.

UMaine (4-3, 3-1 CAA) is the 10th most penalized team among the 124 in the Football Championship Subdivision with 64 penalties for 608 yards through seven games.

The Black Bears rank 12th in total penalties and in penalties per game (9.14).

“Penalties have certainly been an issue,” Harasymiak said. “In the Rhode Island game, a lot of them got straightened out on film. But in this [William & Mary] game, we got a bunch of [offensive] holding penalties because we were getting beaten up front. We were in bad position and weren’t using our techniques.”

Harasymiak submitted video to CAA Coordinator of Officials Jim Maconaghy after the Rhode Island game, feeling some of the calls against his team were unwarranted.

On UMaine’s first three possessions at William & Mary, it was assessed a delay of game penalty on the first drive and holding penalties on the second and third drives. UMaine punted on the first two but managed a Kenny Doak field goal on the third possession.

In the 38-36 victory at Rhode Island the previous weekend, URI took a 36-35 lead with 51 seconds left on a 75-yard drive that featured two roughing-the-passer penalties and a holding infraction against UMaine. Another holding penalty was declined because URI picked up a first down on the play.

After the Rams scored, two frustrated UMaine players were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which enabled URI to kick off from the UM 35-yard line.

Early in the second quarter of that game, UMaine defensive end Kayon Whitaker and Rhode Island offensive lineman Kyle Murphy were ejected for fighting.

The incident was reviewed by CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio and Whitaker was assessed an additional penalty “based on the totality” of the incident according to D’Antonio.

Murphy was eligible to play the entire next game against Stony Brook but Whitaker had to sit out the first half of the William and Mary game, which was the extra penalty tagged on based on D’Antonio’s findings.

At William & Mary, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on UMaine running back Ramon Jefferson forced Doak to attempt a 48-yard field goal instead of a 33-yarder, and his kick fell short.

“That was certainly a big penalty,” Harasymiak said.

UMaine’s loss prevented it from sharing first place with Towson and dropped the Black Bears into a third-place tie at 3-1 with Delaware, Elon and James Madison. Towson, UMaine’s opponent in two weeks, is 4-0 in CAA play and Stony Brook is second at 4-1.

Harasymiak also bemoaned that the UMaine offense had too many negative plays, including penalties.

“We moved the ball all day on the fringe, but the negative plays throw you off track. It’s hard when its first-and-20 or second-and-15,” Harasymiak said.

UMaine quarterback Chris Ferguson was intercepted three times and sacked twice at William & Mary. Key dropped passes also helped thwart a potential comeback.

One of the bright spots was wide receiver Earnest Edwards. The junior finished with 326 all-purpose yards on nine catches for 196 yards, four kickoff returns for 126 yards and a four-yard run.

“We tried to get him the ball as much as we could and we will continue to get him the ball in different ways. It is disappointing to waste a performance like that one,” Harasymiak said.

He also praised the performance turned in by Taji Lowe. The junior linebacker made 11 tackles (seven solos) and forced a fumble and recovered it at the UM 4-yard line in the final seconds of the first half to enable UMaine to hold onto a 17-14 lead.

Up next for UMaine is the homecoming game with Albany (2-5, 0-4 CAA) at 1 p.m. Saturday on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium in Orono.

“They’re another quality team, and if we don’t play well we’re going to get beat,” Harasymiak said.

Albany quarterback Vincent Testaverde, son of former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde, has passed for 1,678 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

UMaine boasts the nation’s best rush defense, giving up only 61.7 yards per game, and ranks seventh in total defense (267.7 ypg).

“Their defense does a great job, technique-wise, and they play with confidence,” said Albany coach Greg Gattuso, whose secondary has been decimated by injuries. “They can get to the passer, they can stop the run and they’re very physical.”

Gattuso did not hold back when asked about the six-hour drive to Orono.

“The trip up to Maine isn’t high on my list of favorite things to do, but I love playing them because they play with so much passion,” he said.

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