ORONO – Beautiful fall weather in peak foliage season?
Big early lead against the nation’s stingiest defense?
A 34-20 homecoming victory for a University of Maine football team that took over sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association?
What more could possibly have gone right Saturday for Black Bears Coach Jack Cosgrove?
Oh, right, his oldest daughter, Jeri, a senior, was announced as homecoming queen late in Saturday’s dismantling of William & Mary before a crowd of 6,917 at Alfond Stadium.
“Can you beat that?” Cosgrove said with a wide grin. “It’s like a fantasy day for me. ”
At 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the CAA, the Black Bears are likely to climb higher in national polls that pegged Maine at 14th and 17th among Football Championship Subdivision programs. Next up is No. 11 Villanova in Philadelphia.
Villanova (4-3, 3-1) fell from the ranks of the CAA unbeaten when New Hampshire rallied in the final 15 seconds for a 29-28 victory Saturday in Durham, N.H.
“It feels great just because we’re winners (Saturday), but we want to be winners next week, too,” said quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. “Where we are in the conference, who won, who lost, all that matters is if we won (Saturday). We’re going to continue doing things the way we know how to do them.”
Wasilewski completed his first 10 passes against a defense that had allowed only 13 first-half points all season and had yielded a mere 11.8 points per game, lowest in the country among FCS programs. The Black Bears scored on four of their first five possessions and built a 24-0 lead before William & Mary (4-3, 1-2) scored in the final minute before halftime.
“They came out and rocked us back right away,” said William & Mary Coach Jimmye Laycock. “They’re a very good team … and they were clicking on all cylinders.”
Laycock was without leading rusher Mikal Abdul-Saboor, who remained back in Virginia because of a knee injury. In his stead, three William & Mary running backs were held to 95 yards on 25 carries, and quarterback Michael Graham completed only 5 of 17 passes for 58 yards before giving way to Brent Caprio in the fourth quarter.
The Black Bears prevented William & Mary from crossing midfield until late in the second quarter, when Maine led 24-0.
“We always stop the run, that’s the first thing we always do,” said middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba, whose eight tackles were second on the team to nine by Cabrinni Goncalves. “If we stop the run, then the rest is going to take care of itself.”
A bye week gave Maine two weeks to prepare for William & Mary, and the offense showed no signs of rust coming off a 62-28 thrashing of Delaware earlier this month.
Wasilewski directed balanced scoring drives on Maine’s first three possessions. The opening drive covered 80 yards and required only one third-down conversion, with Wasilewski carrying six yards to the 6. On the next play, he ran again to the 1, where the ball came loose and tumbled into the end zone. Center Bruce Johnson pounced on it for his first TD at any level.
“I saw the ball pop out and I jumped on it,” Johnson said. “When I get my hands on the ball, it’s a great feeling.”
Rickey Stevens, who had been out since suffering fractured ribs in the lone loss (a payday game against bowl-eligible Northwestern), ran for 99 yards on 24 carries, including a 1-yard run to cap Maine’s second scoring drive. Teammates were careful with their celebratory hugs.
“It felt good to be back out there and helping my brothers out,” said Stevens. “The ribs are fine. This is definitely a great feeling, something I’ve been missing for the last three weeks.”
A Sean Decloux 42-yard field goal and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Damarr Aultmann – he dragged two defenders the final few yards – gave Maine a 24-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Black Bears maintained momentum in the third by stuffing William & Mary’s first possession, then eating up nearly six minutes with a 13-play scoring drive. Stevens converted on fourth-and-short and Wasilewski found tight end Justin Perillo for a 6-yard TD pass to make it 31-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Black Bears finished with 420 yards. Wasilewski threw for 192 yards and two scores. Nigel Jones (54 yards on 12 carries) and Wasilewski (92 yards on 11 carries) complemented the running of Stevens.
Decloux added a 21-yard field goal and was 4 of 4 on PATs.
William & Mary scored two fourth-quarter TDs.
“I liked how we asserted ourselves at Alfond Stadium on Morse Field,” Cosgrove said about Maine’s fifth consecutive home win after losing its first four Alfond dates last fall. “We’re building confidence around that as a team. I thought we had our key players make plays for us. They did great things out there.”
He paused, eyes twinkling.
“And most importantly, we got a homecoming win and my daughter is homecoming queen. … I didn’t even know until after the game. I didn’t even know we had a homecoming queen and court.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: