ORONO – On Audition Saturday, the University of Maine won a football game. Maybe the Black Bears won a few hearts and minds, too.

Maybe not. This is the state of wait and see.

Never mind that Maine beat Bryant University, a program that was playing Division II opponents five years ago. The mark of any football program worth its eye black is to beat the opponents it should and look good doing it.

Maine looked good for the first game of the season. No turnovers. Few missed opportunities to score. Only two penalties. Maine 28, Bryant 13.

The Black Bears gave few reasons to compare this performance to the disappointments of the previous two home openers. Maine needed 14 points in the fourth quarter and an overtime to beat St. Cloud State, a true Division II team, in 2009. That final was 34-27.

Last year was the 3-0 loss to Albany. That Maine couldn’t score against a Northeast Conference opponent was eye-opening. The large crowd should have been angry. Instead, there was a sense of resignation. This can be Maine football.

Saturday, school buses pulled up to Morse Field bringing four or five high school football teams to the game. It harkens back to the John Winkin era when high school baseball teams filed into the bleachers at Mahaney Diamond.

The die-hards showed up, of course, although late-arriving tailgaters had no problem finding empty spaces to set up their grills. The curious came, too. I spoke with several. For better or worse, I was told, Maine football is still the best football played in the state.

But until Saturday, this was a Maine team without a face to remember, without a name to cheer. Note the past tense. This was Audition Saturday, after all.

Not that Pushaun Brown or Warren Smith or Trevor Coston or Arron Achey were among those who needed to convince Coach Jack Cosgrove they belonged on the field. Audition Saturday was for the fans.

Brown has strength and quickness and had 91 yards and a touchdown in the book by the end of the first quarter. He touched the ball only 15 more times in the next three quarters to finish with 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Brown’s biggest second-half run may have been on third-and-2 deep in Bryant territory with 3:36 left. The Bulldogs already had scored twice in the fourth quarter and nearly recovered an onside kick. This being Maine, no lead is immune from anxious moments.

Brown got the first down and more. Maine eventually gave up the ball on downs but not before running the clock down to just over a minute left. When Bryant got a chance, Coston intercepted a pass.

Smith took care of the football. He never connected with his deep receivers — his longest completion was for 20 yards — but his short game was crisp, quick and composed. He scrambled well, too, with one gain of 15. He ran for a touchdown.

Coston was the fearless kick returner who showed good hands and better moves. His punt return for a 74-yard touchdown stoked the crowd in the second quarter.

Achey, with five unassisted tackles and five assisted, was among the team’s defensive leaders. He led in another category you can’t quantify. The redshirt freshman wore No. 33 at linebacker. That number had been reserved for Charlie “Tre-Tre” Kyeremeh Jr., another redshirt freshman who was to play fullback this season.

Kyeremeh was killed in a motorcycle accident in his native Pennsylvania in July. More than half the team attended the funeral. Achey was there. He grew up in Newmanstown, near Lebanon, where Kyeremeh went to high school and was an honors student. They became friends last year.

One game, one win. One night of auditions was a success. Ten more follow.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]