ORONO — Marcus Wasilewski threw three touchdown passes and Rickey Stevens ripped off the longest run from scrimmage in school history as the University of Maine clinched its first outright conference title since 1965 with a 41-0 victory over Rhode Island Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium.
The Black Bears improved to 10-1, 7-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association, whose other members all have at least two losses apiece. Maine wraps up the regular season next weekend in Durham against rival New Hampshire before beginning play in the 24-team NCAA tournament.
As CAA champion, Maine earns an automatic berth and a likely first-round bye. A second-round game in Orono would be Dec. 7.
About the closest Rhode Island (3-9, 2-6) came to scoring was in lining up for a 45-yard field-goal attempt that turned out to be a fake. After a pitch from holder to kicker, Maine defensive end Mike Cole intercepted a return pass, returned it to midfield, from where Wasilewski connected with John Ebeling for a 49-yard TD pass.
A few minutes earlier, Stevens burst up the middle, cut toward the left sideline and, thanks to two blocks from wide receiver Derrick Johnson, ran 90 yards for a touchdown. The longest previous run had been Carl Smith’s 89-yarder against Rutgers in 1991.
Sean Decloux kicked field goals of 38 and 36 yards for Maine and was 5 for 5 on PAT attempts. Stevens added a 2-yard score and finished with 125 yards rushing.
Not since the 2002 club went 11-3 has Maine reached double digits in victories for a season.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:[email protected]Twitter: GlennJordanPPH