ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team took a physical beating from Stony Brook on Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t prevent the Black Bears from winning for the fifth straight week.
Marcus Wasilewski threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to John Ebeling with 5:27 to play as 10th-ranked UMaine rallied for a 19-14 Colonial Athletic Association win in front of 4,068 fans at Alfond Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (8-1, 5-0 CAA) prevailed despite being manhandled by the Seawolves (3-5, 2-3 CAA) for most of the second half.
“This is a football game that Maine football doesn’t win in past years,” said Cosgrove, who pointed to the leadership and resolve of the senior class.
“[Stony Brook] really gave us everything we could handle,” he added.
UMaine broke free of SBU’s grip with a pivotal drive that began on its own 9-yard line with 7:31 left. Wasilewski (15-for-24, 188 yards) completed a 14-yard throw to Damarr Aultman on first down, then hit Justin Perillo on an 18-yard hookup two plays later.
Facing a third-and-11, Ebeling (6 receptions, 106 yds.) got free along the left hashmarks and made a leaping catch over safety Christian Ricard for a 34-yard pickup to the SBU 24.
“We just needed to step up and make plays,” Ebeling said.
On the next play, Ebeling got behind safety Naim Cheeseboro and Wasilewski delivered the ball for a 24-yard touchdown that put UMaine on top 19-14 with 5:27 left. The conversion pass was intercepted.
“Their safeties were extremely aggressive all day and we threw a fake screen to our No. 1 receiver and I just released up the sideline,” Ebeling said.
Stony Brook had two more tries, but the Bears stopped the Seawolves on a fourth-and-four pass at the 31. UMaine then punted and Axel Ofori picked off a desperation pass.
Linebacker Chris Mulumba led the UMaine defense with 13 tackles, while tackle Pat Ricard made eight and end Trevor Bates had seven. Senior end Mike Cole had two sacks among his five tackles to set the UMaine career record with 28.
“It’s something I can look back on and be proud of,” said a humble Cole.
Christian Ricard, the brother of the Bears’ tackle, paced SBU with 12 tackles. Cheeseboro posted 10.
Stony Brook hammered at UMaine with its run game and churned out 16 first downs and 253 yards, 170 on the ground, in the second half.
“We’re a physical team. We’re big up front,” said SBU coach Chuck Priore of the power-run focus.
“We decided to go big and match their guys, which was in our game plan,” he added.
The Seawolves also turned it up a notch on defense after halftime, holding the Bears to five first downs and 117 yards. UMaine, the Football Championship Subdivision leader in third-down efficiency, converted only three of 14 chances on Saturday.
SBU got itself back in the game on the opening possession of the second half, marching 67 yards on 11 plays, capped by quarterback Kyle Negron’s score on a 1-yard keeper.
The Seawolves threatened again on their next series, but senior linebacker Troy Eastman intercepted Negron on a third-and-six pass at the UM 9.
“We went to an underneath zone coverage and I just kind of read the quarterback’s eyes and flowed to where he was looking and he threw me one,” Eastman said.
However, SBU seized the momentum with a nine-play, 54-yard march early in the fourth. Negron (6-for-22, 129 yards) completed passes of 20 and 22 yards to Will Tye before James Kenner (26 carries, 124 yds.) dove in from a yard out.
Graham Ball’s PAT kick put SBU ahead 14-13 with 11:02 remaining, but the Seawolves couldn’t hold it.
“They made some halftime adjustments that we had to get used to,” Eastman said. “They gave us problems most of the second half. We just kept scratching and clawing.”
The Bears scored 13 first-half points and held SBU to 60 yards and three first downs.
Decloux’s 33-yard field goal gave UMaine a 3-0 lead with 8:47 left in the first quarter, then SBU threatened but Ball missed a 32-yard field-goal try at the 3:25 mark.
“We missed a field goal in the first half, threw an interception down in the red zone that could have come with points,” Priore said.
UMaine did not commit a turnover for the fourth straight game.
Wasilewski’s 26-yard run to open the second quarter ignited a scoring drive. Rickey Stevens (12 carries, 74 yds.) added a 33-yard run that helped set up Decloux’s 38-yard field goal.
UMaine finally punched one in late in the half, thanks in part to a 30-yard toss from Wasilewski to Ebeling. Stevens capped the march with a 2-yard run and Decloux’s PAT made it 13-0 with 2:33 left in the half.