SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Maine cornerback Kendall James gathered in the deflected flea-flicker pass, took a few strides and hesitated.

Clearly, he was in the end zone at sunny Bulldog Stadium, but had his momentum carried him in or did the interception occur before he crossed the goal line?

If he took a knee, would the referee signal safety and spoil Maine’s shutout?

If he ran it out, would he be tackled quickly and leave Maine with lousy field position?

James considered his options, then took off. He didn’t stop until dropping the football in the opposing end zone. It was the second of two long interception returns for touchdowns by the Black Bears, who steamrolled host Bryant University 51-7 Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 2,418 to even their record at 1-1.

“Naw, I had it in my mind I’m going,” said James when asked about his hesitation. “I just wanted to see where everybody was at. I saw all the linemen in the middle of the field so I said, ‘All right, that’s where I’m going, right down the middle of the field.’ “

One week after taking a second-quarter lead against Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Boston College before losing 34-3, the Black Bears had their way with overmatched Bryant, a Northeast Conference program in its first year of Division I eligibility.

Through three quarters, Maine had outgained Bryant 526-127 and the score was 51-0. A fourth-quarter quarterback sneak on fourth down against Maine’s second-string defense gave the Bulldogs (0-3) their only touchdown.

“That was a big win,” James said. “We definitely wanted that shutout, though. We haven’t had that before.”

The near shutout, 10 penalties, and a couple of missed kicks (one a PAT and the other a 27-yard field goal attempt) by Brian Harvey were about all that went awry for the Black Bears, who opened a 14-0 lead before quarterback Marcus Wasilewski’s first pass.

David Hood broke a 29-yard run on Maine’s first play from scrimmage to spark a 72-yard scoring drive capped by Wasilewski’s 6-yard touchdown run. Hood finished with 102 yards and two short touchdown runs on 14 carries.

“The O-line took care of me,” Hood said. “They made me look real good. And once you establish the run, it opens up a lot of things for your offense.”

Indeed, Wasilewski completed 14 of 20 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown, a 75-yard scoring play to Derrick Johnson on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter. Mo McDonald caught five passes for 50 yards. Hood caught two for 36.

Hood’s backup, Rickey Stevens, didn’t get his first opportunity to carry the ball until late in the second quarter. Still, he wound up with 168 yards on 17 carries to give Maine its first set of 100-yard rushers since Jared Turcotte (120) and Mike Brusko (113) against Hofstra in 2008.

“He’s not a real big kid, but he plays physical,” Head Coach Jack Cosgrove said of Stevens. “In the second half we got a chance to develop a couple of tailbacks behind our starter.”

Redshirt freshman Isaiah Jones made the most of his first collegiate carry, bursting off right tackle for a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put Maine ahead 51-0.

“This (Maine) team is very fast,” said Bryant Head Coach Marty Fine, “and their offensive line played awfully well.”

Bryant’s only first-half foray into Maine territory ended when safety Khari Al-Mateen jumped a sideline route and returned the interception 77 yards for a touchdown.

“They ran the same play that I saw on film all week,” Al-Mateen said. “So I kind of knew the ball was coming. I just had to finish and make a play. It was just green grass from there.”

Real grass, too. Not the artificial kind upon which Maine plays every other game except for the regular-season finale against Rhode Island’s state university.

From adjacent fields Saturday came the sights and sounds of ultimate frisbee behind the visiting stands and softball behind one end zone. A bit different than last week’s televised season opener in Chestnut Hill, Mass., before an audience of more than 30,000.

“The mentality was the same,” Wasilewski said. “You can look at the atmosphere all you want. Turf, grass, it doesn’t matter. You’re playing 100 yards and in between the lines. That’s all that matters to us, to come down here ready to go and get a win, and that’s what we did.”

NOTES: Maine held Bryant running back Jordan Brown, the nation’s leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision last year, to 65 yards on 17 carries. … Including last year’s 28-13 victory in Orono, the Black Bears have outscored Bryant 79-0 in the first three quarters while the Bulldogs have a 20-0 advantage in the fourth. … The last Maine player to return an interception 100 yards for a touchdown was Dave Brown in 1962 against Bowdoin. … Maine’s only turnover was a third-quarter fumble by Hood. On the next play, Brown swept right and faked an end around before attempting a halfback pass that Axel Ofori tipped and James intercepted. … Maine was penalized 10 times for 84 yards. … The Black Bears open their home schedule next Saturday night at 6 against Albany, their last non-conference foe. … Maine hasn’t shut out an opponent since 2008 against Northeastern, which, like Hofstra, has since abandoned its football program.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH