ORONO — Maine was a team hungry for an upset, and what it saw on film heading into Saturday’s game against Richmond practically had the Black Bear defense salivating.

The Spiders were ranked eighth in the nation, on a five-game winning streak and had just knocked off No. 7 Villanova. But they also had turned the ball over 23 times.

Maine made sure that was a recipe for disaster for its visitors.

The Black Bears intercepted four passes, recovered a fumble and turned a blocked punt into a touchdown to knock off Richmond 33-20 before an announced crowd of 4,675 at Alfond Stadium.

Defensive end Trevor Bates, a junior from Westbrook, was the catalyst again. He noticed that Richmond (7-3, 4-2 Colonial Athletic Association) had used quick passes to march downfield for a touchdown on its opening possession.

When the Spiders got the ball again, Bates was ready to lay his trap. He drifted into the flat and grabbed a Michael Rocco pass, returning it 23 yards for the tying touchdown and kick-starting a spirited effort for Maine (4-5, 3-3). It was the highest-ranked team the Black Bears had defeated since toppling No. 6 Delaware in 2011.

“Instincts took me out there,” Bates said. “I kind of backed out of my pass rush and I don’t think he saw me at first and then I just made a play on it.

“I might have bobbled it a little bit, might have pressed it against my helmet a little. I was trying to put the jets on.”

Said Richmond Coach Danny Rocco: “That play right there I think really was the play that ignited their momentum and probably made it very real that we were going to be in for a different kind of day in terms of the way the game was going to play out. We were going to find ourselves in a tight, tight ballgame.”

Bates has intercepted three passes this year. His pick at Rhode Island two weeks ago also was pivotal in a 20-14 win.

This time Maine recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that resulted in a 26-yard Sean Decloux field goal. Late in the second quarter, Benjamin Davis blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone.

Freshman quarterback Drew Belcher led a 70-yard drive just before halftime, capped by a Nigel Beckford 7-yard touchdown run. And just like that the Black Bears led 23-6. They had not scored more than 27 points in any previous game this fall.

“We eventually really picked up what their defense was doing. We were able to see it,” Belcher said after throwing for 119 yards, running for 92 and not committing any turnovers. “I was just able to get the ball in (the wide receivers’) hands, they were making plays, getting yards after the catch. And we were able to drive down the field.”

The biggest sequence for the Maine offense came with 12:45 remaining. The Black Bears had a third-and-6 at Richmond’s 27 and took a timeout to weigh their options.

The call was for Belcher to run “quarterback power,” taking the snap and looking for a seam to run through. He found a gulf instead, picking up 25 yards and eventually plunging into the end zone from a yard out to restore a 17-point lead at 30-13.

“It was a really good call at that time of the game,” Belcher said. “We had a huge hole. I was just able to cut it outside.”

Maine made the lead hold up by keeping Richmond pinned in its own territory and by intercepting three second-half passes. The Spiders’ average field position was their 25. Rocco led two second-half scoring drives but also was foiled by interceptions from Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, Randy Samuels and Khari Al-Mateen. The Black Bears entered the game with only eight forced turnovers.

“We got enough pressure on (Rocco) to make him hurry some throws,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “I think it was more of just a variety of looks we tried to throw at him. But we kept preaching we weren’t going to be afraid to play man coverage against him and make them make the throws in the elements of Maine.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or

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