RICHMOND, Va. – For the fourth time in five weeks, the University of Maine found itself on the road in a hostile atmosphere. But the Black Bears seem to enjoy themselves away from the friendly confines of Alfond Stadium.
Refusing to fold in the face of a fourth-quarter comeback by 22nd-ranked Richmond, the Bears held on for a 28-21 victory Saturday in the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams before 8,700 at Robins Stadium.
“It becomes habitual,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “We’ve gotten the same type of game times. You know, 3:30 last week, 4 o’clock this week. So you fit into a schedule that makes it easy for us to be very businesslike in what we’re doing. The guys enjoy it.
“We like traveling. We like playing in great environments like this. Being road-tested is something we believe in.
“We raise money so we can travel the right way because we truly believe it affects the output and production in winning. At the end of the day on Saturday, you can feel one way or another, and I prefer to be feeling the way we do right now rather than the way Richmond does.”
Maine (4-1) improved to 3-1 on the road, and there were three main culprits for the Bears:
• Quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, who suffered a shoulder injury last week in a loss at Northwestern, was 26 of 34 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, including a tiebreaking 48-yarder to Arthur Williams with 5:16 left.
“At the beginning of the week, the training staff cleared me,” said Wasilewski, who was intercepted twice. “They wanted me to take it easy in practice but they did a fantastic job on me, getting me ready to go.”
• Tailback Nigel Jones rushed for 115 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns, one on a 6-yard pass from Wasilewski. His second rushing TD was a 46-yard bolt up the middle that put Maine ahead 21-13 early in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t me, it was the (offensive) line,” said Jones. “They opened up great holes and I just trusted my technique.”
• Three interceptions in the second half by the defense, the last one in the end zone by safety Lamar Fitzgerald with 21 seconds left.
“We were in a man defense. We were expecting an inside drag route, and I was able to make the play,” said Fitzgerald.
“We knew coming in they were a real good passing team and had a real good receiving corps. We just had to keep playing hard all day.”
The Black Bears took the opening kickoff and marched down the field in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on Jones’ TD catch.
The Spiders answered near the end of the first quarter, when Michael Strauss took his team 54 yards on seven plays. A 5-yard pass from to tight end Hunter Westfall drew Richmond even.
Maine thought it had scored early in the second quarter when Damarr Aultman caught a swing pass and appeared to hit the pylon before going out of bounds. But an official ruled his knee touched the sideline first and spotted the ball at the 1.
On the next play, Wasilewski was picked off in the end zone.
“They say he stepped out, OK,” said Cosgrove. “What was concerning at the time was what happened on the next play. That was a bigger deal. But this team has an ability to move on and do the things it needs to do.”
The Spiders (2-3) kicked a field goal in the second quarter and another early in the third to open a 13-7 lead.
But two rushing TDs by Jones gave the Bears a 21-13 advantage before the Spiders tied it on a TD pass to Stephen Barnette and a 2-point conversion pass to Ben Edwards with 6:02 left.