ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine is a different football team with Mike Brusko at quarterback.
And the Black Bears continued their development behind the charismatic junior.
Brusko hit wide-open H-back Jared Turcotte in the left flat with a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime and Brian Harvey kicked the decisive extra point Saturday evening as UMaine eked out a 41-40 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Hofstra at Alfond Stadium.
“It was a huge win,” said Brusko, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and passed for 155 yards and two scores without an interception in his first start of the season.
“We learned a lot about our team tonight,” he said. “It’s huge for momentum and confidence and everything else.”
Brusko replaced Adam Farkes, who suffered a shoulder injury a week earlier.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (4-3, 2-2 CAA) earned their second straight win in an emotional, seesaw contest.
The Bears bolted to an early lead, surrendered 20 unanswered points, battled back to regain the upper hand, then overcame a late fumble deep in Hofstra territory to pull it out.
“I think we got misled because we got out to that early lead and I think some things got away from us,” said Cosgrove, who challenged his team to rekindle its intensity.
“It was important because we learned a lot about ourselves,” he added.
In overtime, when each team gets the ball at the opponent’s 25-yard line and continues until it scores or turns the ball over, the teams matched scores.
Session carried five times for 24 yards, including a 4-yard TD, to put UMaine on top. Hofstra (3-4, 1-2 CAA) scored on a 10-yard pass from backup QB Steve Probst to Ottis Lewis.
In the second OT, the Pride got the ball first and scored on Probst’s 2-yard toss to fullback Everette Benjamin. However, Roger Williams’ PAT kick missed to the left.
On UMaine’s next play, Turcotte lined up just behind the right tackle. He cut across the field into the left flat, bobbled Brusko’s pass, then gathered it in and raced into the end zone.
“I think the biggest thing on that was the play call [by offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin],” Brusko said.
“Turcotte scared me for a second, but he hung on,” he added. “I have to acknowledge Tyrell Jones’ block that got Jared in the end zone because that was the biggest part of that play.”
Harvey, who had missed his second PAT attempt in the first quarter, converted this time.
UMaine hit Hofstra with a three-pronged ground assault. Not only is Brusko a crafty runner, but Turcotte and tailback Derek Session provide more speed and toughness.
Turcotte powered his way to a career-best 120 yards on 13 carries, while Session surged to 67 yards on 17 tries as the Bears covered 286 yards on the ground, 251 after halftime.
“I thought our energy level, in the offensive line especially, was very noticeable,” Cosgrove said.
The offensive line, made up of center Ryan Canary, guards Matthew Barber and Steve Shea of Corinna, and tackles Tyler Eastman of Old Town and Chris Arnao, opened up ample running room.
“Once you start moving the ball as an offense, as a group, you get more confidence in what you’re doing,” Turcotte said. “You can’t run if there’s no blocking. A good run is the result of every single other person doing their job.”
UMaine nearly won it in regulation, but Brusko was ruled to have fumbled at the 2-yard line with 42 seconds left after a nifty 22-yard run.
“When my back hit the ground, that’s when the ball came out,” Brusko said.
UMaine had started quickly on Brusko’s 38-yard TD toss to Session on the fourth play of the game. Sean Wasson’s interception on the next play set up Session’s 2-yard scoring run as the Bears took a 13-0 lead.
Hofstra responded by scoring on its next three possessions to gain a 17-13 halftime advantage.
UMaine re-emerged from the locker room with a renewed sense of purpose.
“We weren’t playing like we wanted to win the game as much as they were,” Brusko said.
Hofstra pushed the lead to 20-13 on Williams’ 42-yard field goal to open the second half, but the Bears tied it late in the third on Brusko’s 14-yard keeper. UMaine took the lead 2:45 later when Turcotte raced 71 yards for a score, sprung by a Landis Williams block.
Hofstra tied it with a 74-yard drive capped by a 20-yard toss from Probst to wideout Lewis (9 catches, 77 yds., 2 TDs).
Probst, making his collegiate debut, replaced injured starter Cory Christopher in the second quarter and kept Hofstra in the game. He went 14-for-20 passing for 135 yards and three touchdowns and also ran the ball 16 times for 63 yards.
Linebacker Andrew Downey racked up 19 tackles and forced a fumble to pace UMaine, and end Jovan Belcher was in on 16 hits. Linebacker Mark Masterson made 11 tackles.
Linebacker Chris Edmond posted 13 tackles and recovered two fumbles for Hofstra.