RICHMOND, Va. – A dramatic fourth-quarter comeback — fueled by a little magic from the special teams — leaves the University of Maine in a dead heat for the Colonial Athletic Association football lead.

Rallying from a 16-0 deficit, the Black Bears defeated Richmond 23-22 on Saturday in front of a sold-out homecoming crowd at Robins Stadium. Maine and Towson sit atop the CAA with 4-0 league and 6-1 overall records.

“Two teams you wouldn’t have expected,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “There’s a lot of parity in this league.”

The Black Bears, in search of their first conference crown since 2002, play at Villanova on Saturday, then meet Towson Nov. 5 in Orono in a game that could have title implications.

Maine’s win on Saturday was a jittery ride.

“We never gave up — I know that,” said Cosgrove. “I talked to the team at halftime about finishing the game, even if we couldn’t win.

“We feel very fortunate.”

Maine trailed 16-0 entering the fourth quarter before senior quarterback Warren Smith hit a 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Perillo, and Brian Harvey’s PAT made it 16-7 with 14:54 left.

The Spiders, now 3-4 after opening 3-0, countered with a 2-yard TD run by Garrett Turner to make it 22-7. But that’s when the momentum unexpectedly switched in Maine’s favor.

Wil Kamin’s PAT was blocked by Michael Cole (Maine’s second blocked PAT of the game) and picked up by Jerron McMillian, who sprinted 90 yards for the 2-point return, making it 22-9.

“That play energized us,” said Cosgrove. “That’s when our defense started getting stops.”

Instead of Richmond getting one seemingly sure point, Maine got two, the hard way, and that was the difference in the end.

McMillian had six tackles and broke up a fourth-down pass by Southern Cal transfer Aaron Corp to seal the victory with 22 seconds left. On Richmond’s final possession, Erwin Roach sacked Corp for an 11-yard loss, pushing the ball back from the Maine 33 to the 48.

Richmond might have been in a position to attempt a game-winning field goal if not for Roach’s sack. Roach had two sacks for minus-17 yards.

Maine was relentless in the fourth period after being dominated the previous three quarters. Redshirt freshman David Hood scored from 5 yards out at 9:14 to cut the Richmond lead to 22-16.

Smith ran in from 1 yard out with 4:00 left and Harvey booted the decisive PAT.

A total of 96 passes were attempted in the 3-hour, 11-minute contest. Corp was 32 for 44 for 301 yards, but was sacked five times. He completed 15 straight passes during one stretch in the first half.

Richmond’s Tre Gray had 12 catches for 128 yards, but 10 of those receptions came prior to intermission.

Smith completed 30 of 50 throws for 277 yards, a TD, and two interceptions.

“This is a special bunch of guys,” Smith said. “I love this team.”

Pushaun Brown, who was averaging 106 yards rushing, was held to 9 yards on just seven carries. Three of his carries came on Maine’s final possession, when it was trying, unsuccessfully, to run out the clock.

Taking up the slack was Hood, who ran 13 times for 77 yards, including a 26-yarder in the first half.

Maine has won five in a row after losing at Pittsburgh, 35-29. The last three victories have been by a combined 8 points.

“Every now and then a team will come up with some chemistry,” said Cosgrove. “I guess after 19 years, we deserve to be that team.”