ORONO – The University of Maine’s double-digit lead over Rhode Island seemed secure.

The wheels didn’t fall off, but there were a few moments in the fourth quarter of a 27-21 win Saturday at Alfond Stadium during which the Black Bears appeared to unravel at the hands of a team in search of its first Colonial Athletic Association win.

Maine took a 21-0 lead less than six minutes into the third quarter, but after Rhode Island quarterback Steve Probst was injured early in the quarter, backup Robert Bentsen came in to steer the Rams, who scored three of the next four touchdowns to come within six points of the Black Bears in the final two minutes.

On third-and-goal from Maine’s 4-yard line, Bentsen connected with Anthony Baskerville for a touchdown that cut Maine’s lead to 27-21 with 1:56 left. The Rams opted not to go for an onside kick, and Maine ran out the clock to secure its fourth consecutive win.

“This one got tense,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “It wasn’t quite like the others, the last two (wins over Delaware and James Madison), in regards to how we played. I think our guys know that.

“We were sloppy at times against a team that never gave up. They had some confidence and had some success, and they gave us a scare.”

The Black Bears (5-1, 3-0 CAA) held the Rams (1-5, 0-3) to 86 yards in the first half, including only 2 yards passing, and took a 14-0 lead on a 22-yard touchdown catch by Pushaun Brown (29 carries for 103 yards) from quarterback Warren Smith with 6:59 left in the first quarter and Maurice McDonald’s 41-yard reception with 5:37 left in the first half.

“We just wanted to play tough,” Maine linebacker Vinson Givans said of shutting down the run in the first half. “(Giving up) 304 yards (rushing) at James Madison was uncharacteristic. Joe Rossi (defensive coordinator/linebackers coach) made us look that in the face. We had to buckle down and get the stops.”

After Derek Session gave Maine a 21-0 lead on a 21-yard touchdown catch at 5:34 of the third quarter, Bentsen (11 of 17 for 158 yards and one interception) steered a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Baskerville’s 25-yard TD catch with 4:55 left in the third.

But with 1:12 left in the third quarter, Givans intercepted a Bentsen pass at the Rams’ 2 and ran it in to give the Black Bears a 27-7 lead.

“He has a presence and a moxie to him,” Rhode Island Coach Joe Trainer said of Bentsen. “He threw the (interception) but it wasn’t totally his fault.

“We weren’t moving the ball offensively. He came in and moved the football and gave us a bit of a spark.”

The Rams responded again by recovering a fumble at Maine’s 1-yard line and, two plays later, came within 13 points of the Black Bears on Chris Mancuso’s touchdown.

Baskerville then (eight catches for 115 yards) cut Maine’s lead to six.

“We didn’t answer back as far as the score, but I just told the guys we have to be able to run the ball in the fourth quarter,” Smith said

“We were up by three scores in the fourth. We had to establish the run. And their (defensive line), they’re a tough group up front, but they’re in every football game.

“But there’s still things we’ve got to clean up. You have to respond with a good attitude and say we have to answer back. We just can’t ponder it.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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