KINGSTON, R.I. — If you want to know how difficult Maine made things in its 20-14 victory over Rhode Island on Saturday, consider this:

Maine’s biggest offensive play of the game was made possible by a holding penalty. On the Black Bears.

Jamil Demby’s penalty turned into Damarr Aultman’s clutch grab, which set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Jerickson Fedrick with 1:56 remaining and Maine avoided becoming the first team to lose to the Rams this season.

Demby’s infraction came on a play where Maine quarterback Drew Belcher was stopped 2 yards shy of a first down near midfield. Maine was trailing 14-12 with 5 minutes left and would have punted, Coach Jack Cosgrove admitted.

But Rhode Island Coach Jim Fleming couldn’t take that chance, and opted to back Maine up to its 34-yard line for a third-and-16.

Belcher, a freshman making his second start, heaved a pass down the near sideline that Aultman outfought two defenders for, gaining 46 yards to provide the second big momentum shift of the second half for Maine (3-5, 2-3 Colonial Athletic Association).


“We were a little bit backed up and you need someone to make a play,” Belcher said after helping Maine avoid its first four-game losing streak in seven seasons. “Damarr was able to do that, and the offense got some confidence and we just kept rolling after that.”

Belcher ran the ball three straight times to pick up 10 yards and a first down at the 10. Fedrick, also a freshman, capped the drive with his first career touchdown with a plunge up the middle.

“I had to keep my legs moving and as soon I got the handoff, tried to get up north and I saw there was a big gap,” said Fedrick, who made one Ram miss at the line of scrimmage then cruised through a big hole.

Maine had its best rushing performance of the season, gaining 211 yards and maintaining possession for 42:41. Nigel Beckford had a Black Bears’ season-high 107 yards; Belcher added 84. The nation’s worst team on third down entering the game (17 of 94), Maine converted 11 of 20 Saturday.

And still the Black Bears had to rally before a homecoming crowd of 6,316 at Meade Stadium.

Rhode Island (0-8, 0-4) scored on its first possession when freshman quarterback James Caparell capped an 80-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Maine could muster only two Sean Decloux field goals and trailed 7-6 at halftime.


On the second-half kickoff, the Rams’ Myles Holmes broke three tackles and sprinted down Maine’s sideline for a 100-yard touchdown return.

For a Black Bears team that had scored only 17 second-half points all season, things looked bleak. Maine gained 20 yards on its first three possessions of the third quarter, punting each time.

Then defensive end Trevor Bates made the first momentum-shifting play, intercepting a Caparell screen pass at the Rhode Island 26-yard line and returning it 14 yards.

“I broke inside and came back out. He kind of threw the ball pretty low,” said Bates, a junior from Westbrook who leads Maine with two interceptions this season.

Beckford scored on a 6-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-12 with 2:57 left in the quarter. A two-point attempt failed.

Decloux missed an 18-yard field goal for the lead in the fourth quarter. But the defense kept getting the ball back and ultimately the offense responded.


Cosgrove had reminded his team how much time had passed since they tasted victory, at Towson on Sept. 27.

“You know how long it’s been? Tell him,” Cosgrove prodded his players at the postgame news conference.

“Almost 400 hours,” Beckford mumbled.

“It was 672 hours,” Cosgrove corrected. “Four weeks. 28 days. 672 hours. So now we can say we’re celebrating it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.