Calling them the comeback kids may not be original, but this University of Maine football team makes a habit of rallying to victory.

Of their eight wins, the Black Bears have come back in the fourth quarter four times.

Today, Maine looks for victory No. 9 when it plays New Hampshire at Cowell Stadium in Durham, N.H., at noon.

Plenty is at stake.

Maine (8-2, 6-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) can win at least a share of the conference title with a victory over the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2). The Black Bears are tied for first with Towson (8-2, 6-1), which is at Rhode Island.

With a win today, Maine could earn a good seed and first-round bye in the 20-team NCAA playoffs that begin next week. Twelve teams will get a bye. Maine is ranked 11th in the national poll and 10th in the Gridiron Power Index, which is based on a formula combining record and strength of schedule.

Today’s game is the 99th between these border rivals. The winner gets the Brice-Cowell Musket. Maine has possession, based on its 16-13 win last year.

“It’s a part of our furniture in our locker room,” Cosgrove said. “It will be on the bus when we go down. It will have its own bed in a hotel. We don’t want to give it back.”

UNH may be motivated by more than the musket. The Wildcats, ranked 12th nationally and 14th in the GPI, are probably going to the NCAAs regardless of today’s outcome. But a win would guarantee it.

The Wildcats are coming off a 56-42 loss at Towson. The Tigers did to UNH what they did to Maine the week before — rush for more than 300 yards.

But UNH still put up six touchdowns, mirroring its season. The Wildcats lead the CAA in offense (452 yards per game) but are last in defense (allowing 440 yards and 33 points per game).

Kevin Decker leads the CAA with 286 passing yards per game, and also can run.

“He’s a huge concern,” Cosgrove said. “He’s more creative than any quarterback we’ve seen this year.”

It will be a good matchup: Decker vs. a Maine team that leads the league in pass defense (188 yards per game).

Maine relies on Warren Smith (244 passing yards per game) and running back Pushaun Brown (96 yards per game).

And the Black Bears know if they stay close, they can win.

They trailed Delaware 17-14 in the fourth quarter but won 31-17. Then there were other fourth-quarter deficits — 17-14 to James Madison (25-24 overtime win); 16-0 to Richmond (23-22 win); and 21-19 to Massachusetts (32-21 win).

“It’s a sign of a senior team and a team that has learned some lessons,” Cosgrove said. “We struggled with that last year, with turnovers and penalties in the fourth quarter. Now we’re getting the turnovers and we’re not getting penalized.”

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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