Strong start propels Black Bears

Posted Sept. 14, 2008, at 9:06 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Quarterback Dick DeVarney created plenty of excitement with his scrambling style for the historic 1965 University of Maine football team.

DeVarney, one of numerous players from the Tangerine Bowl squad honored during Saturday night’s home opener, must have had a smile on his face watching UMaine quarterback Adam Farkes perform.

The sophomore passed for four touchdowns, all in the first half, as UMaine unveiled a productive air attack to post a 28-13 victory over Stony Brook at Alfond Stadium.

“I don’t know if it was a breakthrough,” said Farkes, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 148 yards and four scores before intermission as UMaine built a lead the “Black Hole” defense would make stand up.

“We’ve been getting better,” Farkes said, “[but] there’s still a lot of room to improve, trust me.”

Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears (2-1) celebrated the rededication of Morse Field, with its new FieldTurf, by treating 6,425 fans to an offensive outburst.

“We’re excited to be home, excited to have an opportunity to play in front of the signature team of Maine football, the ‘65 Tangerine Bowl team,” Cosgrove said. “We’re very much driven by the fact that [turf donor] Phil Morse was here tonight.”

The contest, dubbed “The Battle for the Butter” (to eat lobster) by Mike and Mike of ESPN Radio, means UMaine will get more national exposure on Monday’s show (6-9 a.m.). An interview with Cosgrove is scheduled for 8:25 a.m. The show is simulcast on ESPN2-TV.

Sophomore wide receiver Tyrell Jones enjoyed his best game as a Bear, catching his first two career touchdown passes on plays covering 30 and 31 yards. Jones’ diving catch in the end zone of a 30-yard bomb by Farkes on a third-and-10 play extended UMaine’s lead to 28-10 with 1:21 remaining in the first half.

“It was a little stop-and-go route. He bit, so I knew I had him,” Jones said. “The ball was a little bit inside, so I knew I had to make a big play.”

Farkes hooked up with Jones on a 30-yard TD toss on a fourth-and-13 play in the first quarter, completed a 26-yard touchdown throw to tight end Derek Buttles in the second quarter and found Landis Williams on a 3-yard scoring pass later in the second.

“They hadn’t played like that in the first two games, so they obviously worked hard at it and were able to take advantage of some things,” said Stony Brook coach Chick Priore.

“I thought they did a nice job with him (Farkes),” he added. “He did a nice job on his feet.”

Cosgrove remains somewhat guarded about the passing attack.

“There’s no doubt we’ve got talent,” he said. “The kid (Farkes) can throw the ball and we’ve got guys that can catch it, but I don’t like making fourth-and-21 (play) calls or third-and-15 calls.”

Senior tailback Jhamal Fluellen complemented the passing attack by rushing 17 times for 108 yards, including 84 in the second half. It was his third consecutive 100-yard effort.

The Bears went into more of a conservative, lead-protection mode, but the Seawolves (1-2) were unable to get their offense in synch.

Junior cornerback Lionel Nixon Jr. made 11 tackles to lead a UMaine defense that held Stony Brook of the Big South Conference to 277 total yards. End Jonas Rousseau made eight tackles, including three sacks, while senior end Jovan Belcher registered eight tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery.

Free safety Lamir Whetstone made eight tackles, had an interception and recovered a fumble. Norman Smith also made an interception.

The Seawolves, who had averaged 233.5 yards per game on the ground, netted only 72 against UMaine.

“We shut the run down,” Cosgrove said. “The adjustment we made was to really kind of key on formations with their run game and we did a nice job of that.”

SBU grabbed a 7-0 lead when quarterback Dayne Hoffman (19-for-38, 199 yards), a Bridgton Academy grad, capped a 48-yard drive at 9:26 of the first quarter with a 4-yard TD pass to Melaquan Saffold.

UMaine scored on four of its next six possessions to take the lead for good.

The Bears made it 7-7 when Jones beat cornerback Mike McCoy and caught Farkes’ 30-yard fade ball to the end zone with 6:09 left in the first quarter.

Three plays later, tackle Jon Pirruccello stripped the ball from Hoffman and Belcher recovered at the SBU 26. On first down, Farkes found tight end Derek Buttles open in the back of the end zone.

The Seawolves answered with Luke Gaddis’ 32-yard field goal, but UMaine later made it 21-10 when Farkes hit Williams on a 3-yard slant to finish off a short drive with 8:23 to play in the half.

The hosts scored once more late in the quarter on the 31-yard Farkes-to-Jones strike.

The second half proved anticlimactic. UMaine ran the football on 20 of its 22 plays, with Fluellen handling most of the load.

SBU could scratch out only a field goal as the defense kept plenty of pressure on Hoffman and came up with two interceptions.

UMaine opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule Saturday at fourth-ranked Richmond.

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