Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Mike Scandura, Special to the Telegram
KINGSTON, R.I. - Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove lectured his team on the importance of respecting Rhode Island, even though it was winless heading into Saturday's CAA game.
Cosgrove felt because it was Senior Day "which could provide a spark of emotion" and because URI had defeated ranked teams in past years at Meade Stadium, Maine shouldn't take the Rams lightly.
In retrospect, Maine placed the Rams on a pedestal and then knocked them off en route to a 55-6 victory.
"Our guys listened and practiced in a workmanlike fashion last week and this week," Cosgrove said. "Our execution was outstanding. We were able to run the ball (364 yards). We were able to throw the ball (201 yards).
"Our defense has had two one-score weekends (Maine beat Georgia State 51-7 on Nov. 10 and held URI to 228 yards of total offense). They were listening. The guys worked and they got a nice result for our football program."
As a result, Maine (5-6, 4-4):
• Ended the season with four wins in its last five games.
• Finished at least at .500 in the CAA for the fifth time in the last six years.
• Handed URI (0-11, 0-8) a school-record 13th consecutive loss.
The victory meant a lot to linebacker Troy Russell, one of the 12 Maine seniors who played their last game.
"We started off a little shaky but we definitely finished on a high note." Russell said. "That's something that I can carry with me now that (my career) is over.
"It was great to see the way the team pulled together at the end of the season even though we didn't have a shot at the playoffs."
One Black Bear who definitely helped Maine "pull together" was junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski.
Against, URI, he completed 15 of 22 passes for 201 yards and a career-high four touchdowns -- without an interception.
"I think it's a testament to our playing as a full group," Wasilewski said of Maine's finish. "A couple of weeks, some groups played well and some groups didn't. We really tried to focus on bringing everybody together the last few weeks.
"I think it showed we had a lot more production when we did that."
Maine commenced producing on its first series when Wasilewski tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Justin Perillo.
Nigel Jones, who gained 182 yards on 15 carries, scored the first of his two touchdowns on an 18-yard run for a 14-0 lead at the end of the quarter.
Wasilewski continued dissecting URI in the second quarter when he completed a 17-yard scoring pass to Arthur Williams.
"As you saw the year go along, you saw the reduction in interceptions, and you saw four touchdowns last week and this week," Cosgrove said of his quarterback.
"You saw the efficiency in the percentage of throws. Those are nice signs of an efficient quarterback."
If there was one run that really buried URI, it was Demarr Aultman's 94-yard kickoff return for a score midway through the second quarter that produced a 28-6 lead following a Rams touchdown by quarterback Rob Bentsen.
"They had just scored and momentum takes its place in every football game," Cosgrove said. "They had it. If we had done something destructive on the next series and they scored again before the half, I don't think you could have scripted anything better for us."