FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Marcus Wasilewski retreated a few steps back as if to pass, then ran forward on a quarterback draw. A hole opened, and Wasilewski bounced off a pair of would-be tacklers, then scampered for the end zone at Gillette Stadium, high-stepping to avoid one final defender and complete a 39-yard touchdown run.
“I’ve never experienced a run like that before,” Wasilewski said. “It was pretty cool.”
Wasilewski’s score and a dominant all-on-the-ground drive that ate up the final eight minutes capped an impressive 24-14 victory Saturday for the University of Maine over former rival Massachusetts before a sun-splashed crowd announced as 15,624.
The victory was the second in school history against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. Maine previously beat Mississippi State in 2004.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Wasilewski, who overcame an end zone interception on Maine’s first drive and was 20 of 28 passing for 267 yards. “You’re at Gillette Stadium. The sun’s out. It’s great weather. To come out of that with a win against a great program, it truly does mean a lot to us.”
The Black Bears (2-0) play their home opener Saturday against Bryant University. UMass, in its second FBS season after leaving the Football Championship Subdivision and Colonial Athletic Association, is 0-2 and has lost four of the last five meetings with Maine.
“I don’t feel like it’s an upset win,” said free safety Jamal Clay, who led the Black Bears with six solo tackles. “Coming to the stadium, everybody expected to win, and that’s what we did.”
The Black Bears overcame a shaky start, allowing a 41-yard return of the opening kickoff, a 47-yard catch-and-run on the first play from scrimmage, and falling behind 7-0 before the game was two minutes old.
“They hit us fast and furious right away,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “The only thing I can tell you is that that’s the same way the Mississippi State game opened up. They went down and scored on the opening drive and I said, ‘Ooh.’ But we settled in. I thought we supported each other in every way, shape and form.”
Sean Decloux’s 26-yard field goal made it 7-3 late in the first quarter before the tide turned on a 56-yard punt by Jeffrey Ondish that pinned UMass at its own 6. A quick three-and-out followed by a shanked punt gave Maine the ball at the UMass 35.
Rickey Stevens immediately burst through the middle, broke one tackle and outran the UMass secondary to the left pylon for a touchdown. Decloux’s point-after kick gave the Black Bears a 10-7 lead five minutes into the second quarter, and they never trailed again.
With Maine’s defense stifling the UMass attack, the Black Bears had a chance to pad their lead. Instead, a Stevens fumble short-circuited one drive, and three penalties, all by Maine’s young offensive linemen, thwarted another. The score remained 10-7 at the half.
“It’s still early in the season,” Clay said. “We had too many penalties and we gave the ball up too much. On defense, we gave up two touchdowns, so there’s definitely some stuff we can fix.”
Maine’s defense held UMass without a first down in the third quarter and on three of four possessions in the second. The Minutemen managed only 265 yards of total offense to 514 for the Black Bears.
“We had way too many three-and-outs,” said UMass Coach Charley Molnar. “Hats off to Maine. They played a very good football game.”
Maine scored twice in the third quarter to take a 24-7 lead. A 31-yard completion to tight end Justin Perillo — who did not catch a pass in Maine’s opening 23-6 victory at Norfolk State — set up a 1-yard run by Zedrick Joseph that capped a 12-play drive. Wasilewski’s quarterback draw a little more than two minutes later seemed to put the game out of reach.
Instead, UMass quarterback A.J. Doyle, who replaced Mike Wegzyn at halftime, directed a six-play, all-passing scoring drive to make it 24-14 early in the fourth quarter. UMass got the ball back with nine minutes left, but Michael Cole sacked Doyle on the first play and UMass eventually was forced to punt.
“I’m very fired up about the way we played the second half,” Cosgrove said. “We played with expectations to win.”
The Black Bears sealed their victory by grinding out five first downs on 13 consecutive running plays before Wasilewski took a knee at the UMass 6 to run out the clock.
Nigel Jones (45 yards on eight carries), Joseph (65 yards on 12 carries), Stevens (65 yards on 13 carries) and Wasilewski (78 yards on 10 carries) shared the load behind an offensive line with a size disadvantage.
“We physically ran the football at them every rep, and they couldn’t stop us,” Cosgrove said. “That’s just heart and soul stuff. That’s really good stuff on a football team when you can do that and close out a game like that.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: