ORONO, Maine — With five weeks left in the season, the University of Maine football team sits atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings.
The 14th-ranked Black Bears turned in another strong performance Saturday afternoon, posting a convincing 34-20 victory over William & Mary on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.
A homecoming crowd of 6,917 watched coach Jack Cosgrove’s team win its third straight game. UMaine (6-1) is the only unbeaten team in league play at 3-0.
“Most importantly, we got a homecoming win and my daughter (Jeri) is homecoming queen,” Cosgrove said. “Can you beat that? It’s like a fantasy day for me.”
The victory sets up a key CAA clash next Saturday at Villanova (4-3, 3-1 CAA), which dropped a dramatic 49-48 decision at New Hampshire.
UMaine senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski put the situation in perspective.
“It feels great, but at the same time that doesn’t really mean a thing to us, to tell you the truth,” he said.
“It feels great because we’re winners today, but we want to be winners next week, too, and keep that going,” he added.
William & Mary (4-3, 1-2 CAA) went into the day No. 1 in Football Championship Subdivision scoring defense (11.8 points per game), but had problems containing the Bears.
UMaine scored the first 24 points of the game and was never seriously challenged. The Tribe had outscored its opponents 99-13 in the first half this season.
“I thought Maine came out, executed very well, took it to us from the beginning and they played very well,” said William & Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock.
“They looked very fresh from their open date and ready to play and took it to us,” he added.
The Tribe had trailed its FCS opponents for a total of only 28 seconds prior to Saturday.
UMaine bottled up a Tribe offense that was without Mikal Abdul-Saboor, the league’s leading rusher (100 ypg), because of a knee injury. Linebackers Cabrinni Goncalves, Chris Mulumba and Troy Eastman made nine, eight and seven tackles, respectively.
W&M netted 279 total yards, including only 130 on the ground.
“That’s the first thing we always do, stop the run, and the rest takes care of itself,” said Mulumba, a redshirt freshman.
Wasilewski completed 16 of 22 passes for 192 yards. The effort included touchdown passes to Damarr Aultmann (4 receptions, 62 yards) and Justin Perillo (4-47).
Wasilewski also ran 14 times for 71 yards, while senior tailback Rickey Stevens returned from a rib injury to pick up 99 yards on 24 carries, including a 1-yard TD.
“It’s truly a blessing to be able to play this game. I love this game so much,” said Stevens, who was hurt Sept. 21 at Northwestern.
UMaine converted 10 of 16 third-down plays, went 1-for-1 on fourth down and scored on all six trips inside the W&M 20-yard line en route to a 12-minute time of possession edge.
Jared Velasquez piled up 18 tackles for The Tribe, while Jerome Couplin made 13 and Luke Rhodes posted 12.
UMaine surged to a 24-0 lead, scoring on its first three possessions. The Bears opened the game by driving 80 yards on nine plays, highlighted by a 31-yard completion from Wasilewski to Aultman.
Center Bruce Johnson pounced on Wasilewski’s fumble in the end zone for the first touchdown.
“It was a wide zone play and I happened to be chasing my linebacker,” Johnson said. “I saw the ball pop out, so I jumped on it.”
UMaine went 65 yards on 12 plays on its next drive, which Stevens punctuated with a 1-yard run at the 4:27 mark.
The Bears forced a punt and went back to work. Wasilewski’s 23-yard toss to Perillo set up Sean Decloux’s career-long 42-yard field goal that put UMaine up 17-0.
UMaine extended the lead after Justin Flores’ 23-yard punt return to the 15. Three plays later, Aultman took a short pass from Wasilewski and scored for a 24-0 lead.
“I thought we played with a great level of focus in the first half of this football game to get out to that lead on a very good football team,” Cosgrove said.
W&M scored with a 53-yard drive that was prolonged by a fourth-down roughing-the-passer penalty. Kendell Anderson’s 1-yard TD run with 23 seconds left in the half gave The Tribe a lift.