ORONO – This was a statement game for the University of Maine football team, particularly for its defense.

That statement in Saturday’s 31-17 upset of sixth-ranked Delaware? Go in for the kill.

Instead of playing conservatively to protect a lead, the Black Bears’ defense went all out, intercepting Delaware quarterback Tim Donnelly four times, including twice in the fourth quarter to set up two key scoring plays: Pushaun Brown’s 5-yard touchdown seven minutes into the period and Brian Harvey’s 31-yard field goal less than three minutes later.

“That was the focus in practice for us this week, to go in for the kill,” said Maine linebacker Vinson Givans, who had an interception and seven sacks.

And unlike earlier in the season when the Black Bears (3-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) allowed teams to creep back into the game in the second half, the Black Bears heeded Givans’ words in their conference opener.

“We kept our focus,” nose tackle Raibonne Charles said. “In the past, situations like that tend to get out of control but with leadership and everything the coaching staff has done, we were able to keep trust in our game plan.”

Maine limited the Blue Hens (3-2, 1-1) to one second-half touchdown, Andrew Pierce’s 13-yard run with 5:18 left in the third period that gave Delaware a 17-14 lead.

After that, Maine quarterback Warren Smith said, the Black Bears made a decision.

“We said, ‘We’re not folding,’” said Smith, who finished 18 of 27 for 264 yards. “The whole second half was a statement, offensively and defensively.”

The Blue Hens led 10-7 at halftime but after Pierce’s 13-yard touchdown run gave them a 17-7 lead with 3:40 left in the third, they struggled on offense.

“The opportunities we had, we didn’t capitalize on them,” said Delaware Coach K.C. Keeler. “And when it seemed Maine got the momentum, they really got the momentum.”

Aided by key defensive plays, the Black Bears scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. With 21 seconds left in the third, Derek Session snagged Smith’s 56-yard pass to reach the Delaware 18. On the next play, Brown scored his second touchdown, followed by Brian Harvey’s point-after kick that gave Maine a 21-17 lead six seconds into the fourth.

Less than five minutes later, Givans intercepted Delaware quarterback Tim Donnelly at Maine’s 19, setting up Brown’s third touchdown three plays later that gave Maine a 28-17 lead with 8:01 left.

“There were things down low that made that catch difficult,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove, who earned his 100th win at Maine.

“There was the threat of them scoring again and we turned the field around.

“We took control of the game after that.”

On Delaware’s ensuing drive, Jerron McMillian intercepted Donnelly at Maine’s 47 and returned the ball 31 yards to help set up Harvey’s field goal.

“Our defense was relentless,” Cosgrove said. “We were a little bit concerned with the beginning of the third quarter, with the pass rush wearing us down a little bit, but the heartbeat came out in the fourth quarter big time.

“We turned it around.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi


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