ALBANY, N.Y. — The University of Maine football team was eager to erase two years of frustration against the University at Albany.
The Black Bears still didn’t allow their emotions to get in the way of taking care of business Saturday night.
UMaine finally overcame its nonleague nemesis, dominating the game from start to finish to earn a convincing 31-15 victory at University Field.
UAlbany beat UMaine 3-0 last season in their mutual season opener at Orono and rallied late to win 20-16 in 2009 at Albany.
“It feels good,” said UMaine senior Raibonne Charles of Windham. “You feel like you just made something right, after doing it wrong for a little bit. We finally got it fixed.”
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears improved to 2-1 heading into a bye week and will start preparing for their Oct. 1 Colonial Athletic Association opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
UMaine demonstrated balance on offense, rushing for 197 yards and passing for 202 on its way to outgaining UAlbany (0-2) 399-264. The Bears went 7-for-17 on third down and committed only one turnover, their first of the season, a first-half fumble by Pushaun Brown.
“We spread out the run and the pass, played well, blocked well,” said UMaine sophomore Justin Perillo. “Pushaun and Warren ran the ball well.”
UMaine scored on its first possession to take the upper hand, then expanded its advantage to 21-0 by halftime and 24-0 midway through the third quarter.
UAlbany finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter, but the Bears answered with another touchdown to end any doubt about the eventual outcome.
UMaine had success in both facets of its offense. Brown, a senior tailback, gained 125 yards on 19 carries, while Smith ran 16 times for 31 yards. It was Brown’s fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
Smith continued his poised and effective play at quarterback. He completed 21 of 32 passes good for 202 yards and two touchdowns and was not intercepted for the third straight contest.
The Bears’ short passing game received key contributions from tight end Perillo (6 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD), sophomore wide receiver Derrick Johnson (5 catches, 37 yards) and junior wideout Maurice McDonald (4 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD).
UMaine piled up 24 first downs to 11 for UAlbany.
The UMaine defense also proved stingy, limiting the Great Danes to 79 rushing yards and only 264 total yards.
Senior safety Trevor Coston, junior tackle Kevin Phanor and senior tackle Charles led the charge with seven tackles apiece. Senior linebacker Vinson Givans made six tackles.
The Bears wasted no time getting the offense in gear as they needed only four plays to score on their first possession.
Smith completed consecutive passes of 26 and 24 yards to McDonald and Perillo, respectively, before Brown burst through a big hole on the right side and capped the four-play, 87-yard drive with a 33-yard scoring run.
Brian Harvey’s PAT made it 7-0 with only 2:36 gone off the clock.
Jordan Waxman’s 37-yard punt to the UAlbany 1-yard line and Trevor Coston’s 18-yard punt return to the UA 34 helped give UMaine excellent field position early in the second quarter.
Smith and Brown ran it twice each to set up a 7-yard TD pass from Smith to Perillo, who dragged three defenders into the end zone. The Bears led 14-0 with 11:21 left in the half.
UMaine threatened again on its next possession, which ended on Brown’s fumble — the Bears’ first turnover of the season — at the 10-yard line. However, the defense held and the Bears took over at the UA 38-yard line.
Smith eventually hit McDonald in the end zone on a 14-yard “skinny post” pattern over the middle, pushing the lead to 21-0 with 24 seconds remaining in the half.
UAlbany’s Herb Glass missed a 51-yard field-goal try as time expired.
UMaine made another statement on its opening possession of the second half. The Bears methodically marched 54 yards on 15 plays, including three third-down conversions, before Harvey kicked a 27-yard field goal at the 7:44 mark.
The Great Danes finally broke a couple of long plays to spark consecutive scoring drives, which were sandwiched around a TD march by the Bears.
“We managed the lead well,” Perillo said. “We always practice having the ball in our hands, four-minute offense holding the ball with the lead. I wish we’d scored more points.”
Dan Di Lella’s 44-yard completion to Cole King set up Dillon Romain’s (11 carries, 39 yds.) 1-yard scoring run with 13:05 to play, but a failed onside kick paved the way for a six-yard UMaine TD possession capped by Terrel Walker’s 2-yard run.
UAlbany answered as Kevin Chillis (5 catches, 80 yds.) took a short toss on the left side from Di Lella (16-for-32, 179 yds., 1 interception) and eluded two or three UMaine tacklers for a 49-yard gain. Drew Smith’s 6-yard TD toss to Justin Petersen on the next play, and a two-point conversion pass, got the hosts within two touchdowns with 8:22 remaining.
The Bears’ defense wasn’t completely satisfied.
“We played well for most of the game, but we’ve got to finish. When we get into CAA competition here, we’ve got to be able to play a whole four quarters,” Charles said. “We just can’t let up at all.”
Jon Morgan paced the UAlbany defense with 14 tackles. Justin Hassan registered 10, while Kyle Jordan posted nine, including two sacks.