“What? Over? Did you say ‘over?’ Nothing is over until we decide it is!”
That line, spoken by the character Bluto (played by the late John Belushi) in the movie “Animal House,” typified the determination demonstrated Saturday afternoon by the University of Maine football team.
Ironically, the University of Richmond played that clip on the Robins Stadium video scoreboard during the waning moments of the contest to spur on the homecoming crowd. It was the Black Bears who had already taken the sentiment to heart.
Ninth-ranked UMaine scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to wipe out a 16-point deficit and pull out a 23-22 Colonial Athletic Association victory over No. 18 Richmond at Richmond, Va.
Senior quarterback Warren Smith engineered three scoring drives in the last 18 1/2 minutes and Jerron McMillian returned a blocked extra point for the two points that provided coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears with the margin of victory.
“It was really special,” Cosgrove said after the game. “This team has demonstrated some resolve. This team has gone toe-to-toe with (James) Madison. This was entirely different as it was a 16-point deficit. We always thought we could do this.”
UMaine (6-1 overall, 4-0 CAA) won its fifth consecutive game and retained a share of first place in the league standings with Towson (6-1, 5-0 CAA). It was the Bears’ third win in four weeks against a top-20 Football Championsip Subdivision team.
No 18 Richmond (3-4, 0-4 CAA) lost for the fourth straight week.
“(We) made a lot of plays, but you have to give Maine credit. They made plays, especially down the stretch,” said Richmond interim head coach Wayne Lineburg.
Smith shook off two interceptions and a fumble to complete 35 of 51 passes for 289 yards and a score. He went 14-for-21 with 135 yards, a TD and an interception in the fourth quarter.
Junior wide receiver Maurice McDonald made 11 catches, all in the second half, for 96 yards. Sophomore tight end Justin Perillo (8-61) and redshirt freshman WR Arthur Williams (6-82) also were keys in the pass game.
Redshirt freshman tailback David Hood ran for a career-high 77 yards on 13 carries with a TD with senior Pushaun Brown slowed by injuries.
On defense, senior safety Trevor Coston made 11 tackles, caused a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up two passes. Sophomore Shawn Bodtmann made eight tackles, while junior Troy Russell had seven and a blocked kick.
For Richmond, quarterback Aaron Corp went 32-for-44 with 301 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. Tre Gray caught 12 passes for 128 yards, but had only two receptions in the second half.
UMaine clamped down on the Spiders in the second half, with only a long interception return leading to a score. The Bears sacked Corp four times in the second half — two each by ends Michael Cole and Erwin Roach to help take pressure off the secondary.
“The defense came up big for us in the second half, with stop after stop,” Cosgrove said. “As good as Richmond’s offense was, I think our defense did a tremendous job in the second half.”
The Bears’ comeback began late in the third quarter when Richmond’s Wayne Pettus muffed Jordan Waxman’s 47-yard punt and UMaine’s Jamal Clay recovered at the UR 34. The Bears scored in seven plays, capped by a 16-yard pass from Smith to Perillo with six seconds gone in the fourth quarter.
The teams then traded turnovers and Cooper Taylor’s interception of a Smith pass and 53-yard return to the UMaine 2-yard line set up Garrett Turner’s 2-yard scoring run with 13:07 to play.
However, Cole blocked the ensuing PAT kick and Jerron McMillian returned it some 85 yards to give UMaine two points and make it 22-9.
The Bears raced 72 yards on 13 plays as Smith completed 8 of 11 passes, including 6 for 51 yards to McDonald. Hood’s 5-yard run and Harvey’s kick cut the deficit to 22-16 with 9:14 to play.
UMaine’s defense forced a Richmond punt, then Smith and Co. went back to work from the Bears’ 36. It took 11 plays, including five completions, before Smith dived into the end zone from the 1 to tie the game. Harvey’s kick put UMaine ahead for good.
The Bears held the Spiders twice more, including on their final possession. Richmond was nearing field-goal range when Roach sacked Corp for a 10-yard loss to the UM 43. Darlos James and McMillian broke up the last two pass attempts to ice it.
“Aaron [Corp] is a pocket passer and when they protect for him, it’s virtually impossible to defend,” Cosgrove said. “We pressured him in the second half because we felt if we let him get set, he’d pick us apart.”
Richmond took a 16-0 lead on Corp scoring passes of 6 yards to Steven Barnette and Ben Edwards in the first and second quarters, respectively, and Will Kamin’s 30-yard field goal with one second left in the first half.