ORONO — The University of Maine football team that will be in Portland next week is on a roll.

The Black Bears won their third straight Saturday, beating William & Mary 23-6 at Alfond Stadium.

“It’s great. We’re set up for a big game in Portland next week,” Coach Joe Harasymiak said of the game against Delaware.

Against William & Mary, Chris Ferguson threw for 192 yards and Brandon Briggs of Saco was 3 of 3 on field-goal tries.

Josh Mack overcame a sore hip to rush for 99 yards on 24 carries. Joe Fitzpatrick of North Yarmouth had 60 yards on 12 carries.

Maine allowed 199 yards and kept the Tribe out of the end zone.

“We told ourselves we needed to come out and dominate a game,” linebacker Sterling Sheffield said. “Holding them to six points was a good way to dominate.”

This was a game Maine (4-3, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association)needed. William & Mary (2-6, 0-5) has the league’s worst offense.

“We knew they were going to come out and run the ball because their pass game isn’t strong at all,” said linebacker Jaron Grayer, who led Maine with 12 tackles.

The Tribe rushed for 142 yards to Maine’s 150 but passed for 57.

Maine’s defense was called on immediately. On the Black Bears’ first series, Ferguson fumbled on a sack and the Tribe recovered on the Black Bears’ 18. The Tribe reached the 6 before Darrius Hart intercepted on third down.

Maine’s offense stalled and after a 23-yard punt, William & Mary began at the Black Bears’ 29, but could only manage 5 yards, settling for a 41-yard Kris Hooper field goal.

The Black Bears dominated the rest of the half, even with Mack limited to eight carries after taking a helmet to the hip. Fitzpatrick filled in ably.

“Fitzy’s doing a great job,” Harasymiak said. “He hits the hole hard and takes care of the ball.”

Briggs tied it with a 19-yard field goal, then put the Black Bears ahead with a 43-yarder.

“He’s probably the story of the year right now for Maine football,” Harasymiak said.

Briggs, a fifth-year senior who walked onto the team last year, has made seven straight field-goal attempts.

“He was probably living the dream as a college kid, hanging out and going to class,” Harasymiak said. “Then we had a tryout. He came on … and (now) he gives us momentum, knowing we can make kicks.”

Maine ended the half with a 69-yard drive, capped by a 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Drew Belcher for a 13-3 halftime lead.

In the second half, the Tribe switched quarterbacks and Tommy McKee gave William & Mary another running threat. McKee engineered the first two drives into Maine territory. From there, Hooper was 1 of 2 on field-goal tries, just wide on a 34-yarder and good from 25 yards, closing the Tribe to 13-6.

“He put us on our heels a little bit,” Grayer said.

Maine needed to respond but faced a third-and-10 from its 25. Receiver Earnest Edwards cut across the field, underneath the coverage. Ferguson found him and Edwards sprinted for a 45-yard gain.

“I saw the middle of the field wide open,” Edwards said, “and he threw a great ball.”

Maine has practiced that play.

“It’s something I’ve missed in past games,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been working on it. He ran his route. I threw it to a spot. He got it and ran.”

The Black Bears drove the rest of the way, with Mack scoring from the 2 with 13:43 left.

Now the Black Bears look forward to a 2 p.m. game next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“We’re excited about engaging the fans down there,” Harasymiak said, “and I’m happy we’re playing a meaningful game in November.”

NOTES: The announced paid attendance was 6,579. … Micah Wright returned a punt 74 yards to the end zone in the first half but it was called back for a block-in-the-back penalty. … William & Mary leads the series 7-6 but Maine has won the last four.

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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