ORONO, Maine — Morse Field had been the site of much hard work but very little reward this season for the University of Maine football team.
On Saturday afternoon, the Black Bears’ seniors enjoyed a day to remember at Alfond Stadium.
UMaine scored the first 31 points of the game on its way to 594 total yards and cruised to a 51-7 Colonial Athletic Association football victory over Georgia State.
The Black Bears went into the game with an 0-4 home record this season.
“[They said] we’ve got to fix this. There’s just no way we’re going to allow these guys [seniors] to not have the kind of walk-off that you want to have as a great memory,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
The Black Bears (4-6, 3-4 CAA) came through with a dominating, well-balanced performance. The 12 seniors enjoyed ending their home-field woes.
“It was nice to walk out there with my family [before the game] and experience the game with all the other seniors that I’ve essentially grown up with, at an older level, spent so much time with,” said offensive tackle Josh Spearin of Limington, who was among three seniors on an offensive line that paved the way for a high-powered offensive effort.
“It’s really nice to get out there, have a good victory and put some points up on offense,” Spearin added.
UMaine spoiled the send-off for Georgia State head coach Bill Curry, who closed out a stellar football career that included a Super Bowl championship playing for legendary coach Vince Lombardi. He announced his retirement prior to the 2012 season.
Before the game, UMaine presented Curry with a pair of L.L.Bean boots in recognition of his accomplishments.
“As for the personal gesture toward me, I’m deeply appreciative. It was a wonderful thing to do,” said the classy Curry. “I’ll cherish the thought, the recollection, and I’ll enjoy wearing the boots.”
The UMaine offense established itself early and scored on seven of its first nine possessions, including five in a row during one stretch — save for a one-play kneel-down to end the first half.
Junior tailback Rickey Stevens carried 21 times for 179 yards and a touchdown to head a ground assault that netted 332 yards. Seniors Garret Williamson and Chris Howley joined Spearin, Jeff Gakos and Joe Hook up front.
Junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski netted 77 yards on 10 carries and completed 11 of 17 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns. He was not intercepted for the first time in four games.
Damarr Aultman led the way with three receptions for 97 yards and one TD. Four players notched a scoring catch, including senior wide receiver Maurice McDonald.
The defense also turned in its most complete effort of the season. UMaine afforded the Panthers (1-10) just 213 yards, including only 59 via the run.
The Bears harassed quarterback Ben McLane into a 12-for-29 passing day that netted 154 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. Junior safety Jamal Clay led the way with 10 tackles and two interceptions.
“As a team, but not just a defense, we’re like brothers,” Clay said. “We really wanted to send the seniors out on a high note. Also, we wanted to get the first win at home. We wanted to make sure whatever play we were trying to make, we had it in the back of our head that we [were] going to try to do it for them [the seniors].”
Randy Samuels added six tackles, while Troy Eastman (3 tackles) and Kendall James (2 tackles) each made an interception.
The Bears built a 31-7 halftime advantage, amassing 435 yards of offense, including 254 on the ground, in the half.
UMaine marched 90 yards on nine plays to open the game, sparked by Wasilewski’s 46-yard keeper on the first play. Wasilewski hit McDonald in the end zone with a 17-yard scoring pass to give the Bears the lead for good four minutes into the game.
The hosts made it 10-0 five minutes later on freshman Sean Decloux’s 41-yard field goal.
UMaine hit a couple of big plays to expand its lead. First, freshman Nigel Jones (13 carries, 76 yds.) took a screen pass on the right side, slipped a tackle, and raced 76 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0 with 10:14 left in the second quarter.
After Georgia State’s Will Lutz came up short on a 48-yard field goal, the Bears went back to work. On the first play, Aultman slipped behind the defense and went 69 yards with a Wasilewski toss to give UMaine a 24-0 edge.
The Bears scored again on their next possession as Stevens’ 58-yard scamper set up his 8-yard scoring run with 3:06 left in the half.
“We had a great start. We talked about that being important,” Cosgrove said.
“We got out to a 10-0 lead and that was kind of what the doctor ordered,” he added. “I thought we played hard throughout the game. It was good to see the big plays.”
UMaine finishes its season next Saturday at Rhode Island.