ORONO – This time, Maine won a football game by reaching beyond its grasp and plucking the golden fruit. Plain English? Maine finally beat a good team that’s more accustomed to pushing other conference foes around.

Beat Delaware by two touchdowns? Take it and run with it, at least for another day or two. Maine didn’t stumble its way to this one. This wasn’t a gift. It was earned.

Somewhere else, the students might have stormed the field to tear down the goal posts. But this is college football’s outpost, where wind-driven rain thinned the announced crowd of 6,000 to maybe a third of that number by the time Brian Harvey kicked his 31-yard field goal with five and a half minutes left in the game.

Delaware, the Football Championship Subdivision team — sorry, Division I-AA still sounds better — that played for the national title last fall was shut out in the fourth quarter by a Maine defense that wouldn’t unravel.

No one is saying this Delaware team is as talented. But Maine has frequently relaxed when it’s gotten the upper hand in football games. It did so in the fourth quarter in it’s win over Bryant University in the home opener.

“In the past, we’d lose our composure,” said Raibonne Charles, a senior nose tackle from Windham. “We’ve learned to trust our coaches and their faith in us. We kept telling ourselves to keep grinding, keep grinding and we’re gonna get it done.”

Charles and Kevin Phanor from Brooklyn, N.Y., are the only seniors on the defensive line that has six underclassmen, including those in the rotation of fresh bodies. Saturday, they didn’t cave, allowing on average 3.3 yards rushing.

They sacked quarterback Tim Donnelly three times but hurried him more times. Charles dumped him for a 7-yard loss early in the fourth quarter after Maine regained the lead, 21-17.

“Give our defensive secondary credit for the sacks,” said Charles. “They had his receivers covered so well, he had to hang onto the ball longer.”

Donnelly threw four interceptions. In a reversal, Maine’s opponent was turning the ball over more than Maine.

“Anytime you have self-inflicted wounds, you have to take your hat off to the defense,” said K.C. Keeler, who is in his ninth season as Delaware’s coach. “They got more pressure on us than I thought they would.”

After Maine’s players sang the school’s Stein Song in victory and after soaking up hugs and congratulations from family and friends, five of them came into the interview room.

Instead of looking smug or gloating, they simply looked happy. Was this win a statement? For this game, they said. Got James Madison in Virginia next week. New week, new opponent, new statement to be made. James Madison could very well believe this is the same Maine program that carries its satisfaction around a week too long.

Teammates smiled when Derek Session explained how he just couldn’t stay on his feet after catching a pass from Warren Smith on the last play of the third quarter that set up Pushaun Brown’s second of three touchdowns. Session was so open, the crowd gasped.

“It looks easy, but that’s the hardest catch to make. You’re so open and everyone’s watching. I just told myself, ‘I’ve got to catch it.’ “

The play went for 56 yards to the Delaware 18. At full sprint, Session leaned to make the catch and started to stumble. Almost in slow motion, he tried to regain his balance. No one was between him and the end zone. He didn’t dare put a hand down to steady himself.

“I didn’t want to drop the ball.”

On this day, no one wearing Maine blue did.

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

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