TOWSON, Md. — The defense was perhaps the best offense Saturday afternoon for the University of Maine football team.
Mark Masterson’s interception return set up the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and Trevor Coston ran back an interception for a score to provide an insurance TD as the University of Maine earned a 28-18 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Towson at Unitas Stadium.
“We hadn’t been getting a lot of turnovers,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “It happened today in key parts of the game and we’re grateful, because it gave us two scores.”
The Black Bears (4-6 overall, 3-4 CAA) now return home for Saturday’s noon season finale against James Madison at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
UMaine’s effectiveness was hampered by the absence of several first- or second-string players because of injuries.
“We came here with 46 guys,” Cosgrove said. “That’s all we could get down here that were healthy.”
Teams generally travel with 55 or 56 players.
Cosgrove made the switch Saturday to junior quarterback Chris Treister of Cape Elizabeth, who got the start in place of classmate Warren Smith.
“I felt like we were turning the ball over too much on offense, weren’t converting very well on third down,” Cosgrove said. “I felt like it was a time where youv’e got to be accountable for those things at your position.
The move didn’t produce any impressive numbers, other than the simple fact the Bears won the game.
UMaine mustered only 248 total yards, most of them with the running of junior tailback Pushaun Brown. He gained 101 yards on 21 carries, eclipsing the century mark for the second straight game in place of injured junior tailback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston.
Treister completed only nine of 17 passes for 100 yards but was not intercepted.
“As soon as I got the word that I was going to be the guy this week, I was real excited,” Treister said.
“Unfortunately, we were inconsistent I think on offense, but overall we did what needed to do to get the job done,” he added.
Leading 7-6, Towson (1-9, 0-7 CAA) took advantage of UMaine penalties and appeared to be on the verge of building some momentum on its first possession of the second half.
The Tigers got as far as the UM 12-yard line.
After a false start penalty, on first-and-15 from the 17, Bears senior linebacker Masterson stepped in front of a Bart Blanchard pass and returned it 82 yards to the Towson 2.
“Once I caught it, I was worried about the quarterback first,” said Masterson, who credited defensive end Mike Cole with tipping the pass. “I was trying to get by him and after that I sensed that there were some guys behind me. Unfortunately for us, I couldn’t get to the end zone, but I’m glad we could punch it in on offense.”
Brown ran two yards for a score on the next play, giving the Bears their first lead at 13-7.
UMaine extended the advantage late in the third quarter, going 54 yards on five plays after a Towson punt.
The pivotal play was a 39-yard completion from Treister to tight end Derek Buttles on second down. Three plays later, Treister scrambled one yard for a score, but was injured on the play.
“We were running a screen play and I took a helmet to my finger and I kind of got a gash right on the crease (in the middle of the finger),” said Treister, who did not return and who had the finger wrapped in gauze after the game.
Smith finished the contest and carried four times for 23 yards and was 2-for-2 passing with 19 yards. He did have a conversion pass intercepted.
The Tigers hung around when Nick Wallace kicked a 36-yard field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t until junior safety Coston took a 35-yard interception in for a score with 6:09 remaining that the Bears had significant breathing room.
Linebackers Vinson Givans (13 tackles) and Donte Dennis (10) were the defensive leaders for the Bears. Coston added nine tackles and Masterson posted seven.
Brian Harvey kicked field goals of 21 and 31 yards in the second quarter to provide what little offense UMaine managed early in the game.
Towson took a 7-3 lead with 6:57 left in the second quarter when Tremayne Dameron (19 carries, 76 yards) capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
The teams combined for 22 penalties totaling 229 yards.
Maine 0 6 13 9 — 28
Towson 0 7 0 11 — 18
M – Harvey 21 field goal
T – Dameron 5 run (Wallace kick)
M – Harvey 31 field goal
M – Brown 2 run (Harvey kick)
M – Treister 1 run (Smith pass int.)
T – Wallace 36 field goal
M – Coston 35 interception return (Harvey kick)
T – Dameron 1 run (Ryan pass from Blanchard)
M – Team safety