June 19, 2018
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Resilient Bears carve out victory

By Pete Warner

NEWARK, Del. — When quarterback Adam Farkes was knocked out of Saturday night’s game with a shoulder injury, the University of Maine football team absorbed another hit of adversity.

The Black Bears responded with resilience and resolve.

Backup quarterback Mike Brusko provided poise on offense and a relentless defense made several big plays as UMaine scored 24 unanswered points to earn a 27-10 Colonial Athletic Association victory over 24th-ranked Delaware.

“I’ve played before, last year, and I know the guys have confidence in me and I could feel that,” Brusko said. “The guys weren’t worried. We just kept playing, just kept pushing and we did a great job and we never looked back.”

Coach Jack Cosgrove’s team (3-3, 1-2 CAA) capitalized on its scoring opportunities, forced five turnovers and demoralized an antsy crowd of 21,302 at Delaware Stadium. It was UMaine’s first win over a ranked opponent in two years.

“This was a very big game for us, because we think we’ve made some strides,” Cosgrove said. “It was time we really made that next step.”

Already beset by injuries this season, UMaine lost its offensive leader when Farkes went down in the second quarter with an injury to his surgically repaired left shoulder. He ran 18 yards on a keeper, only to get decked by Delaware safety Charles Graves.

“I don’t know exactly where he’s going to be [healthwise], but he’ll see the doctor as soon as we get him in there on Tuesday,” Cosgrove said. “I know he got tattooed.”

Enter Brusko, whose presence proved a stabilizing force in a situation primed for panic.

He took UMaine the last 21 yards on six plays as Lewiston’s Jared Turcotte barreled into the end zone from 4 yards out to help the Bears forge a 10-10 tie with 26 seconds left in the half.

“It was huge for us to score a touchdown on that possession, tie the game,” Brusko said. “We felt good and we let momentum continue to build and we used it for the rest of the game.”

Brusko started the first three games last fall, lost the job to Farkes, then played the final 2½ contests after Farkes was lost for the season with an injury to the same shoulder.

“It’s tough to see him go down. I really, truly feel bad for him,” said Brusko, who has played mostly wide receiver this season but has been used at QB in some run situations. “But he kept a positive spirit, he was back on the sideline, which was great to see.”

Brusko carried nine times for 40 yards and a score, completed five of seven passes for 65 yards and caught two passes for 13 yards. The Bears scratched out only 258 total yards but executed in key situations.

“We have a saying around here, ‘In Brusko We Trust,’” said senior linebacker Sean Wasson. “He’s our leader. The same with Farkes, but we actually stepped it up when Farkes [got hurt].”

The defense made Delaware (2-4, 0-2 CAA) one-dimensional, limiting the Blue Hens to 14 yards rushing. Quarterback Robby Schoenhoft (29-for-48, 344 yards, 1 TD) made some plays, but threw three interceptions, fumbled once and was sacked four times.

Strong safety Brandon McLaughlin led the Bears with nine tackles (1.5 for a loss), while senior end Jovan Belcher posted seven tackles, including two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

“I think the biggest thing tonight was our offense fed off our defense and our defense fed off our offense,” Belcher said. “We played as a team tonight and we played 60 [minutes] and that’s something we need to continue to do throughout the season.”

Delaware threatened on its first possession of the second half, driving 68 yards to the UM-7. On first-and-goal, Wasson picked off Schoenhoft at the goal line and returned it 37 yards.

“I was very fortunate,” Wasson said. “I usually don’t drop back in coverage, I’m more of a run specialist, but I got lucky on that one.”

UMaine didn’t score right away, but a “pooch” punt by Brusko was downed by Landis Williams and Tyrell Jones at the UD-2. The Bears eventually capitalized on the field position after Belcher forced a fumble at the UD-28 with 12:16 left.

Aided by a pass interference penalty, UMaine scored in three plays on a 5-yard option run by Brusko that gave his team the lead for good, 17-10, with 11:35 remaining.

“I thought the biggest change in the game took place on Wasson’s interception in the third quarter, there’s no doubt,” Cosgrove said.

“[We] scored and started to take control of the game and our defense really stepped up with the turnovers,” he added.

Jerron McMillian’s interception set up Brian Harvey’s 31-yard field goal to make it 20-10 with 3:42 to play, then Lionel Nixon’s 56-yard interception return and a 35-yard fumble return for a TD by Jordan Stevens of Temple punctuated the victory.

The evening included an appearance by Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, who shook hands with fans and watched some of the game.

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