UMaine holds off Villanova for fourth straight win, retains first place in CAA

Marcus Wasilewski, shown looking for a receiver in a Sept. 21 game at Northwestern, led the University of Maine football team to a 37-35 victory Saturday over Villanova at Villanova, Pa.
Jerry Lai | Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Wasilewski, shown looking for a receiver in a Sept. 21 game at Northwestern, led the University of Maine football team to a 37-35 victory Saturday over Villanova at Villanova, Pa.
Posted Oct. 26, 2013, at 4:37 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 26, 2013, at 7:22 p.m.

VILLANOVA, Pa. — As advertised, Saturday afternoon’s Colonial Athletic Association football game between Maine and Villanova was a duel between the league’s most productive quarterbacks.

UMaine senior Marcus Wasilewski and sophomore John Robertson of Villanova combined for 758 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. Wasilewski and the Black Bears walked away winners.

Wasilewski passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 86 yards and a score, propelling No. 11 Maine to a 37-35 victory over No. 17 Villanova in front of 9,017 fans at Villanova Stadium.

Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (7-1 overall, 4-0 CAA) earned their fourth straight win. The Wildcats (4-4, 3-2 CAA) saw their postseason hopes dimmed.

The outcome wasn’t decided until senior cornerback Kendall James intercepted Robertson with 13 seconds left.

“It’s a great win for us,” Cosgrove said. “I’m very excited to be able to come down here and play a great opponent and go 60 minutes with them. We both gave each other our best shots and they threw it to us at the end.”

UMaine’s offense dominated. The Bears punted only twice as they were able to control the football and capitalize on their scoring opportunities.

UMaine scored on its first six possessions.

“Time of possession was huge today coming down to the wire,” said Wasilewski, who ran the ball 20 times, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

“Those [21] extra plays were the [result of the] fact that we really executed,” he added. “We wanted to take one play at a time, take what they give us and execute the best we could every play.”

Wasilewski completed 28 of 34 passes with the two TDs as UMaine outgained Villanova 536-386.

Tight end Justin Perillo made seven receptions for 94 yards, while wide receivers John Ebeling (7-62) and Damarr Aultman (6-86, 1 TD) were productive.

UMaine built a 13 1/2-minute edge in time of possession (9:50 in the second half) and did not commit a turnover for the second week in a row. The Bears also converted 13 of 19 third-down situations.

“Our efficiency as an offense kind of stems from what this kid [Wasilewski] can do,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve got two real steady and reliable running backs, we don’t turn the ball over — which we didn’t again today — and we’re very accurate when we throw the football.”

Robertson was a one-man show for Villanova. He went over 200 yards rushing for the second straight week, netting 214 on 22 carries with four touchdowns.

He completed 13 of 22 passes for 121 yards and score, with Poppy Livers grabbing four passes for 66 yards.

Linebackers Chris Mulumba and Cabrinni Goncalves paced the UMaine defense with six tackles each. Mike Cole posted four tackles, including a sack.

Don Cherry and Joey Harmon led Villanova with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.

Up 23-14, UMaine extended the lead on its first possession of the second half. Wasilewski found Art Williams on a 5-yard scoring toss that gave the Bears a 30-14 edge with 11:10 left in the third quarter.

Villanova answered with a 74-yard drive that culminated in Robertson’s 23-yard TD pass to Livers.

After forcing UMaine to punt for the first time, the Wildcats made it 30-28 on Robertson’s 8-yard scramble with 16 seconds left in the quarter.

The Bears responded with a 13-play, 63-yard drive that consumed 6:23. They converted four third-down plays, including Wasilewski’s 6-yard touchdown run. Sean Decloux’s PAT made it 37-28 with 8:45 left.

Villanova went 65 yards on 12 plays to keep it close. After a fourth-down pass interference penalty prolonged the march, Robertson’s 5-yard run made it 37-35 with 4:17 remaining.

UMaine couldn’t close it out, but ate some clock before Jeff Ondish’s punt was downed at the VU 26 with 18 seconds left.

On the next play, James picked off Robertson to secure the win.

Villanova took the upper hand early as a 59-yard scamper by Robertson, set up his own 5-yard TD run 2:01 into the contest.

The Bears responded with Decloux’s 39-yard field goal and the defense forced a three-and-out.

UMaine went 77 yards, sparked by Khari Al-Mateen’s 41-yard run on a fake punt. Wasilewski hit Aultman on a 51-yard scoring pass to put UMaine ahead 10-7.

Another stop preceded a TD drive of 78 yards that featured a 37-yard pass from Wasilewski to Ebeling. Jones’ 15-yard scoring run made it 17-7.

UMaine added a career-long 42-yard field goal by Decloux with 7:01 left in the half, but the Wildcats countered with Robertson’s 41-yard TD dash.

The Bears tacked on Decloux’s 40-yarder to make it 23-14 at halftime.

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