ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team might be out of the postseason hunt, but the Black Bears don’t want that fact to define them.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s team went out and demonstrated its resolve Saturday afternoon, churning out a 24-10 Colonial Athletic Association victory over William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
UMaine improved to 3-5 overall, 2-3 in CAA play, with a convincing win. It came on the heels of a loss that hit them hard.
“That one stung a little bit and we really had to get their attention back on a very good football team,” said Cosgrove, who observed some good dynamics during practice.
“We had a couple of real good situations of leadership during the course of the week with our players,” he added. “That really led to a real good trip and a real good focus on the game.”
Among the leaders whose performance continues to improve is junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. He directed scoring drives on the Bears’ first two possessions to help stake UMaine to a 17-0 first-half lead.
“Then [we] got another score on our fourth drive, so we asserted ourselves early in the game, which I think obviously you have to do in the situation we’re in,” Cosgrove said.
The Bears did it with balance as Wasilewski completed 19 of 24 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Senior wideout Maurice McDonald led the way with seven catches for 43 yards.
“We had great team chemistry coming out,” said sophomore wide receiver Damarr Aultman. “Marcus is our leader, so we tend to rally right behind him. It really felt like as soon as the game started, everything was just clicking, especially in the passing game.”
The Bears also continued to get good production out of the tailback spot. Junior Rickey Stevens has stepped into the starting role as sophomore David Hood has been lost for the season due to a leg injury.
Stevens carried 10 times for 45 yards and caught four passes for 80 yards.
”Rickey continues to be kind of a rock for us at the tailback position,” Cosgrove said.
“Rickey kind of reminds me of Danny Woodhead of the Patriots. He’s that kind of a kid. He’s just a tough, resilient kid who does everything well for us.”
Freshman Nigel Jones also showed his growth as the No. 2 tailback. He led the Bears with 59 yards on eight carries and caught one ball for three yards.
“He’s playing on special teams for us. He’s going to get more work and he’s going to get better,” Cosgrove said. “I love his makeup.”
The offensive unit also responded at a critical juncture in Saturday’s victory after The Tribe kicked a field goal to cut UMaine’s lead to 17-10.
The Bears countered with a 10-play drive that covered 75 yards, culminating in Aultmann’s grab of a Wasilewski pass in the end zone to give UMaine some breathing room.
“I came off after that last drive and gave him a hug. I owe him big-time after that,” Wasilewski said of his high pass.
Cosgrove marveled at the play by Aultman.
“Here’s me on the sideline: ‘Oh, he missed it … you’ve got to be kidding me,’” Cosgrove said of the grab.
Wasilewski wants UMaine to continue to grow as it heads into its final three weeks.
“If there’s anything we’re going to be this season it’s about being tough and never giving up on anything and never laying down and always having each other’s backs,” he said, “and it gives us a little bit of momentum now going into a home game against James Madison.”
UMaine faces the ninth-ranked Dukes in a 3:30 p.m. game at Alfond Stadium.