ORONO — Mike Paulus grew up hearing all about the accomplishments of his older brother Greg, who played point guard at Duke and capped his college career last fall as a quarterback at Syracuse.
Saturday night, it was little brother who showed off poise and athletic prowess under pressure.
The junior quarterback, a transfer from the University of North Carolina, directed two lengthy, fourth-quarter scoring drives to rally eighth-ranked William & Mary to a 24-21 Colonial Athletic Association football victory over the University of Maine at Alfond Stadium.
Paulus threaded a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Chase Hill in the end zone with 20.3 seconds left, giving William & Mary (3-1, 1-1 CAA) the win.
“The best thing about it was that we kept plugging away and made some plays,” said Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock. “It was a great experience for our guys. Mike (Paulus) did a nice job and the other guys stepped up.”
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (1-3, 0-1 CAA) held an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, but succumbed to a spate of penalties and the clutch play of Paulus.
UMaine was whistled for 11 penalties, nine in the second half, totaling 134 yards. The flags included five personal fouls.
“I’ve experienced some tough losses here. This is as tough as it gets,” Cosgrove said. “We have only ourselves to blame, a complete lack of discipline, which is a poor reflection on the head coach. In the second half, penalties nullified any chance of us getting any type of continuity, at all, as a football team.”
UMaine was without junior tailback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston, who was in Portland with his wife Allysha awaiting the birth of their first child.
Paulus replaced injured starter Mike Callahan (shoulder) with 10:04 to play and UMaine leading 14-3. Callahan went 9-for-17 (101 yards), was sacked three times and was intercepted once.
Laycock gave the nod to Paulus after Callahan was shaken up when sacked early in the fourth quarter.
Paulus drove the Tribe 76 yards on 10 plays, completing four throws to set up a 10-yard scoring burst up the middle, out of a wildcat formation, by Courtland Marriner.
“We were down 14-3 still and then that fourth quarter hit and there’s a sense of urgency,” said Paulus, who was 0-for-5 in one appearance for the Tribe prior to Saturday.
“To be honest, this probably helped me, just to be thrown into that situation and to have to do something: To have to move the chains, to have to be really accurate,” he said.
W&M swung the energy its way two plays later when linebacker Dante Cook picked off a Warren Smith pass at midfield and raced down the home sideline for the go-ahead score. Drake Kuhn’s PAT gave the Tribe a 17-14 lead with 6:46 left.
“I didn’t see the middle linebacker get over there. I thought we had an easy completion,” said Smith (29-for-40, 257 yds.).
The Tribe forced a punt, but returner B.W. Webb fumbled when a Maine player pushed a W&M blocker back into Webb. The Bears’ Derrick Johnson recovered at the 20.
An 18-yard pass from Smith to Jeff Falvey set up a 5-yard scoring strike from Smith to Des Randall and the PAT put Maine back in front 21-17 with 2:46 remaining.
Undaunted, William & Mary went back to work. Paulus completed five of eight throws and ran 10 yards for a first down during an 11-play drive that culminated in the game-winning throw to Hill (4 catches, 67 yards).
“They obviously executed better than us on that final drive,” said linebacker Vinson Givans (eight tackles). “We gave it our all (during) two-minute drill, just they came through in the clutch.”
With only 20.3 seconds left, the Bears were unable to respond.
The Bears outgained the Tribe 365-280 and held a 10-minute advantage in time of possession, but proved their own worst enemy.
“When I see us killing ourselves, it’s crushing,” Smith said of the penalty woes.
“We threw an interception and had some of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen,” he added. “A coach can’t yell at you to fix that. You’ve got to understand the consequences of it and make a smarter decision, plain and simple.”
Junior Pushaun Brown was the workhorse back for UMaine, carrying a career-high 30 times for 104 yards and two TDs.
“I found out (Turcotte wasn’t playing) when I got here at 1 o’clock,” Brown said. “He wasn’t around. No words were really said, so I just went with the flow.”
One of the key plays of the game came in the first quarter, after Maine marched 74 yards on 14 plays on its initial possession.
Facing fourth-and-one from the 3-yard line, W&M stopped Brown to keep Maine off the scoreboard.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years. Fourth-and-one, you go for it,” Cosgrove said, shrugging off a possible field-goal try.
UMaine came back later in the quarter to take the lead, going 46 yards on eight plays. Smith completed four throws on the drive, which was capped by Brown’s 1-yard run.
Brian Harvey’s PAT gave the Bears a 7-0 lead with 1:59 left in the quarter.
William & Mary scored with a 72-yard march encompassing 11 plays. It was highlighted by a 35-yard pass from Callahan to wide receiver Ryan Moody.
Maine held inside the 10 and the Tribe settled for David Miller’s 22-yard field goal with 8:31 to play in the half.
The Bears responded later in the half after Trevor Coston’s 34-yard punt return gave them the ball on the UM 45. Smith completed five consecutive throws on the drive, including a 20-yard, third-down hookup with Derek Session.
That led to Brown’s 8-yard scamper on the next play and Maine led 14-3 with 2:04 left before intermission.
William & Mary (3-1) 0 3 0 21 — 24
Maine (1-3) 7 7 0 7 — 21
Me—Brown 1 run (Harvey kick)
WM—FG Miller 22
Me—Brown 8 run (Harvey kick)
WM—Marriner 10 run (Miller kick)
WM—Cook 50 interception return (Kuhn kick)
Me—Randall 3 pass from Smith (Harvey kick)
WM—C.Hill 21 pass from Paulus (Kuhn kick)