NEWARK, Del. — After two straight disappointing performances, the University of Maine defense had a day to remember Saturday.
The Black Bears limited 15th ranked Delaware to a first-quarter field goal and sacked quarterback Trent Hurley nine times to set the tone for a 26-3 Colonial Athletic Association victory at Delaware Stadium.
“All of the things we’ve done that have prevented us from being a decent football team, we sort of got them corrected,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove.
“We played with some emotion today, a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It’s got to be part of our team,” he added.
UMaine (2-3, 1-1 CAA) held the Blue Hens (4-2, 1-2 CAA) to 175 total yards in a dominating effort that featured stout run defense and a tenacious pass rush.
Senior linebacker Donte Dennis led the charge with 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries, including a 64-yard return late in the contest. Junior end Mike Cole finished with five sacks among his nine tackles before injuring his left knee late in the fourth quarter.
“The D-line was great today and it all starts with Mike Cole,” Dennis said. “Without him, the game wouldn’t have turned out like this.”
Junior safety Jamal Clay chipped in with eight tackles for UMaine, which was able to make plays and turn away what few scoring threats Delaware mounted. Mike Kozlakowski registered two sacks and six tackles, while Matt Wilson and Doug Alston each had a sack.
The Blue Hens drove 65 yards for a 27-yard Sean Baner field goal on their first possession of the contest, but did not score again.
Hurley was harassed into a 22-for-35 day good for 177 yards, as Mike Milburn had six catches for 60 yards. Backup tailback Julian Laing (18 carries, 74 yards) paced a spotty ground game for Delaware (47 rushes, 47 yards).
“We knew coming into this game that we had to stop the run to be successful,” said Dennis, who admitted the Bears were disappointed after allowing 300-plus rushing yards to Villanova a week earlier.
“That was a big learning experience,” he added, “and we had to respond with a big win.”
Marcus Wasilewski directed a UMaine offense that was able to cash in on a few early opportunities and add some insurance as the game progressed.
The junior quarterback completed 12 of 18 passes for 176 yards and three scores and was not intercepted. Sophomore wide receiver Damarr Aultman caught three passes for 81 yards and two TDs.
Junior wideout Derrick Johnson made six catches for 73 yards and sophomore tailback David Hood returned after a two-week absence due to injury to gain 103 yards on 14 carries.
“I was really happy the way our team came together as a whole,” Wasilewski said. “A lot of times in the past few weeks, whether the defense was giving us the ball or making a big play, we weren’t really returning the favor.”
The Black Bears were able to run the ball efficiently in the second half while controlling the clock and helping UMaine hold onto its lead.
UMaine opened the game with an eight-play, 75-yard TD drive. Wasilewski went 4-for-4, with Aultman slipping through two defenders on a 22-yard scoring strike. Freshman Sean Decloux’s first career PAT made it 7-0 only 4:13 into the contest.
Delaware answered with its only scoring drive of the day, but settled for the field goal at the 6:12 mark.
The defenses dictated play for the next quarter. The Bears, who had Decloux’s 34-yard field goal try blocked with 52 seconds left in the first quarter, later scored nine points during a span of 49 seconds to take the upper hand.
UMaine registered a safety when Delaware punter Rauley Zaragoza failed to handle a snap and intentionally kicked the ball out of the end zone.
The Bears got the ball back on the free kick and needed only three plays to cover the 61 yards. Wasilewski made a short toss across the middle to Aultman, who made a nifty move to the outside and raced down the right sideline, with a late block from Maurice McDonald, to complete the 50-yard scoring play.
UMaine led 16-3 with 5:50 left in the half.
“We know when we get the ball in his [Aultman’s] hands, he’s a threat,” Wasilewski said. “All I had to do was throw a short pass to him and he did the rest of the work.”
The Bears struck again on their first possession of the third quarter which began with back-to-back runs of 20 and 30 yards by Rickey Stevens (13-67) and Hood, respectively.
Four plays later, Wasilewski found Maurice McDonald alone in the left side of the end zone to make it 23-3.
Decloux added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to provide some insurance.
Jeff Williams paced Delaware with 11 tackles.
UMaine returns to action next Saturday at Towson (Md.) University.