ORONO — In losing its first three games this season, the University of Maine football team searched for an identity.

The Black Bears found it in the second half Saturday.

Down by 21 points in the second quarter, Maine roared back behind the running of freshman Josh Mack and a hounding defense to defeat Bryant 35-31 at Alfond Stadium.

The win snapped a seven-game losing skid dating to last Oct. 24 and gave Joe Harasymiak his first coaching victory.

“I told them at halftime this might define who we are for the season,” said Harasymiak. “Being 0-3, facing that adversity early on, we were going to see who we were. And I think we showed who we are.”

Mack rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns, his final one giving the Black Bears the lead for the first time with 10:36 remaining. Maine’s defense stepped up the rest of the way, turning back every Bulldogs threat.

Held to 155 yards in the first half, Maine accelerated for 250 in the second.

The Black Bears’ defense settled down after giving up 10 points in the third quarter to snuff out Bryant’s final five drives, with a DeAndre Scott interception clinching the victory with 1:48 remaining.

“Hopefully this is something that we can look back on and propel us as we get back into league play,” said Harasymiak.

Maine (1-3) plays at Delaware next week. Bryant dropped to 2-3.

This game actually turned late in the second quarter. Dan Collins’ third interception of the first half led to an 18-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Easton to Matt Sewall with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead.

Maine responded. Mack got the drive going with a 20-yard run – and both coaches agreed that was the biggest play of the drive. Collins then threw 31 yards down the middle to Micah Wright to the Bryant 3 with two seconds left. With no timeouts, the Black Bears hurried to the line, getting the play call from the sidelines.

Collins lobbed it to Micah Wright in the right corner and he made the catch over Raamah Vaughn for the touchdown as time expired.

“That was a big one,” said Bryant Coach Marty Fine. “For our kids, it was a deflating moment.”

“We knew if we didn’t score, we were in serious trouble,” said Wright. “I felt I had to make a play there for us to stay in the game.”

Still, Bryant retained the lead. Easton connected with Sewall again – he threw four touchdown passes, three to Sewall – to give the Bulldogs a 31-14 lead with 3:57 left in the third quarter. That would be the last time the Bulldogs got into Maine territory.

Collins came right back with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Reed with 2:43 left in the third.

The defense held and Wright returned a punt 53 yards, setting up a first down at Bryant’s 25.

“The guys blocked for me and I found a hole, and just returned it,” said Wright.

On the next play, Mack went around left end, juked past Andrew Barton of Bryant at the 20 and slid down the left sideline for a touchdown with 1:10 remaining, bringing Maine within 31-28.

The defense held again, and Drew Chretien of Bryant had a nine-yard punt, giving Maine the ball at its 49. Ten plays later from the 9, Mack again went left and Collins provided a crunching block to guide him into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

“That was perfect,” said Mack of Collins’ block.

So was the comeback.

“Guys around you, this team, we all just believe in each other,” said Collins. “When you look around the locker room and everyone is struggling and things aren’t going the right way, you figure it out and go out together and win.

“Coach said at halftime we were going to go out there and figure who we were. We all looked at each other and knew we were going to get a win.”