Friday, March 7, 2014
ORONO — It was a day like no other at Alfond Stadium.
Maine wide receiver DamarrAultmann, 88, celebrates with teammate Joseph Hook after scoring against Rhode Island in the first half of Maine’s 41-0 victory Saturday at Orono. The Black Bears
The Associated Press
An intercepted pass thrown by a kicker, the longest run from scrimmage in school history and even a sideline interference penalty on Coach Jack Cosgrove – the first of his long career – all added to the unusual nature of Maine’s 41-0 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday before a crowd of 5,067.
But the never-before-seen-here capper was the presentation of the handsome wooden Colonial Athletic Association football trophy as the Black Bears (10-1) clinched their first outright conference championship since 1965, when they were a member of the defunct Yankee Conference.
“These young men,” said Cosgrove, gesturing to all 17 seniors he brought to a postgame press conference, “made everybody in Black Bear Nation real proud today. This is a great accomplishment for our football program.”
Maine, ranked sixth in the nation among Football Championship Subdivision schools, is 7-0 in conference play and winner of 12 straight FCS games. Only once before in the 121-year history of the program have the Black Bears reached double-digit victories. The 2002 club went 11-3 and shared the Atlantic-10 title with Northeastern.
Their only loss came in September at the hands of Northwestern, ranked 16th in the nation among the larger Football Bowl Subdivision programs at the time, and included a $450,000 check for traveling to Illinois and playing the role of David to Northwestern’s Goliath.
In Orono, the Black Bears are undefeated. They beat Bryant, Delaware, William & Mary and Stony Brook before dispatching Rhode Island. An automatic berth in the 24-team NCAA tournament accompanies the CAA title, and Maine is likely to host a second-round game Dec. 7 after earning a first-round bye, although a loss next week in the regular-season finale at rival New Hampshire could cloud the playoff picture.
“This is a great conference,” Cosgrove said, “and for Maine football to stand at the top of it, undefeated going into its final game, is a source of great pride for me personally and for all of these young men in front of you.”
The Black Bears wasted little time Saturday in displaying their dominance. Their first drive required only 25 seconds and two passes, both from Marcus Wasilewski to Art Williams. The first covered 36 yards and the second 21 for a touchdown.
Maine’s second scoring drive was practically a slog, requiring all of four plays. Wasilewski connected with a wide-open Damarr Aultman for a 52-yard score and it was 14-0 with the game not yet six minutes old.
“I think it had a lot to do with what this game meant,” said Wasilewski, honored with his parents in a ceremony before the kickoff along with his classmates and their families. “It was Senior Day. We wanted to come out with a bang. It just all worked out for us.”
The half ended with Maine leading 31-0 but not before several oddities. Rickey Stevens took a handoff, burst through the middle and angled toward the left sideline for a 90-yard touchdown run made possible by wide receiver Derrick Johnson fending off two potential tacklers well downfield.
“He’s my brother,” Johnson said, “so I didn’t want anybody to get their hands on him.”
The longest previous run had been Carl Smith’s 89-yarder against Rutgers in 1991.
A few minutes later, Rhode Island, which ended its season 4-8 overall and 2-6 in conference play, lined up for a 45-yard field- goal attempt. Instead the Rams faked the kick. The holder lateraled to the kicker, whose attempt to toss it back was tipped high in the air by Maine defensive end Mike Cole.
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