ORONO — Close, yet again.

The University of Maine football team again displayed spunk, spirit and flashes of brilliance. The Black Bears also lost. Again.

Nationally-ranked James Madison used a powerful running game and three second-half interceptions Saturday to rally past Maine 31-20 at Alfond Stadium. Two of the interceptions led to long touchdown runs by the Dukes, who ran for 221 of their 293 yards in the second half.

“We’re a team that’s struggling to make plays in the second half,” said Joe Harasymiak, Maine’s first-year coach. “It is what it is. We’ve got to continue to put ourselves there. I don’t know if there’s a special formula for that. We’ve just got to keep grinding away.

“I know the guys will. We’ve just got to continue to try to execute in critical situations.”

The loss dropped Maine to 0-3 overall, 0-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association and was its seventh straight loss. Maine also held a fourth-quarter lead in a season-opening 24-21 loss at Connecticut.

James Madison, ranked in the top 11 in all three national polls, improved to 3-1, 1-0.

Mike Houston, the Dukes’ first-year coach, said the interceptions “were probably the difference in the game.” The Black Bears had been slowing James Madison’s offense and moving the ball consistently themselves.

“Everyone knows in this conference there are no easy wins, especially on the road,” said Houston. “So to come in here and get the win is a significant achievement for our team. I expected the game to be the way it was. We talked about it, the type of team Maine has.

“I think they played really hard and had a great scheme defensively against us today. We really had a lot of adversity there all the way through the first half and maybe started to get the momentum to swing our way in the second half with the pick and the touchdown.”

Maine led 13-10 at the half, its defense stifling the Dukes’ high-powered offense throughout, and appeared ready to increase the lead after DeAndre Scott returned the second-half kick-off 61 yards to the James Madison 38.

But on first down, Dan Collins threw an interception to Jordan Brown at the 8. Three plays later, Khalid Abdullah – who rushed for a career-high 172 yards – broke loose and was untouched on an 85-yard touchdown run.

The Black Bears, as they did in the first half after James Madison scored on its opening drive, regrouped and took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter after Darian Davis-Ray scored on a 3-yard run. Then the Dukes took control.

On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, James Madison took advantage of miscommunication in the Maine secondary to go ahead 24-20 on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Schor to John Miller, who ran a slant pattern from the right and was uncovered.

With 9:53 left, Raven Greene made James Madison’s third interception of the half, a leaping one-handed snag of a long pass to Jared Osumah down the right sideline.

On the next play, Cardon Johnson ran 52 yards untouched up the middle for a touchdown that made it 31-20 with 9:44 left. Johnson ran for 110 yards.

“I think every time we get on the field we want to try to outdo ourselves and outdo what we did the week before,” said Abdullah. “There’s always a competition between us and that’s what pushes us to excel and be great at what we do, which is running the ball.”

Maine had one last chance, driving to the James Madison 34. But an illegal motion penalty, a 2-yard loss on a run and three consecutive sacks for a total of 21 yards ended it.

Collins completed 8 of 11 passes in the first half but only 5 of 11 for 61 yards in the second.

“We’ve got to have a short memory,” he said. “I’m tired of losing. We’ve got to go out and get a win.”