ALBANY, N.Y. – It wasn’t easy, but the University of Maine remained unbeaten in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 33-27 victory over Albany Saturday before a crowd of 4,912 at Bob Ford Field.
The outcome wasn’t certain until Trevor Bates sacked Albany quarterback Will Fiacchi and forced a fumble recovered by Jonathan Louis and Maine was able to run out the clock.
A 4-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Wasilewski to John Ebeling broke a tie at 27 early in the fourth quarter.
A victory in either of its next two games will clinch the conference title and automatic NCAA playoff berth for the Black Bears (9-1 overall, 6-0 CAA).
This contest pitted the CAA’s only unbeaten against its lone winless member, and the opening minutes did little to dispel an expected steamroll by the visiting Black Bears.
Wasilewski, who made it through October without throwing an interception, directed a nine-play, 66-yard scoring drive that included his own draw play on fourth down good for seven yards. Nigel Jones provided the final yard, scampering around the left side of the line and Maine led 7-0.
The Great Danes (1-9, 0-6), bucking for their first victory on brand-new Bob Ford Field, fumbled on their third play and it appeared as if the rout was on.
Instead, Albany’s defense stiffened, forced a 47-yard field goal attempt by Sean Decloux that was short and right, and didn’t allow Maine to cash in on good field position thanks to a strong pass rush on Wasilewski.
Meanwhile, Fiacchi scrambled 10 yards for a touchdown and, after an effective pump fake, hit a wide-open Kevin Chillis for 44 yards and another score to give Albany a 14-7 lead.
Perhaps feeling a bit too giddy, the Danes incurred an excessive celebration penalty after the Gillis touchdown and further improved Maine’s field position on the kickoff return with a facesmask penalty. Wasilewski needed only five plays to lead Maine to the tying touchdown, a 23-yard strike to Derrick Johnson set up by a screen pass to Rickey Stevens that also covered 23 yards.
It remained 14-all at the half.
The second half start mirrored the first. Maine safety Mike Mangiarelli intercepted Fiacchi’s first pass near midfield and, thanks to a critical block from linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves, returned the ball 36 yards. Nigel Jones scored from six yards out on the next play to give Maine a 20-14 lead. Sean Decloux’s PAT kick was wide.
Again, Albany responded, this time with a long drive capped by a 16-yard pass over the middle from Fiacchi to a wide-open Brian Parker, the tight end. A low PAT attempt was blocked, leaving the score knotted at 20.
The call-and-response continued into the fourth quarter, as Wasilewski connected with Ebeling on a 13-yard score to put Maine ahead 27-20 and Albany answered with a 4-yard touchdown run by Omar Osbourne to tie.
Ebeling and Wasilewski connected again on a short touchdown pass for a 33-27 lead, but Decloux again pulled the PAT kick.
NOTES: Tight end Justin Perillo (knee) and safety Jamal Clay (hand) remained behind in Orono. Replacing Perillo at both tight end and as snapper on place kicks was red-shirt freshman Sean Reuss.
Wasilewski sacked five times against Stony Brook. Three times in first half against Albany.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: