ORONO — Maine freshman Benjamin Davis noticed he had an unobstructed path to the punter the first time Richmond kicked the ball away Saturday.

By the third time the Spiders lined up in punt formation, Davis was prepared to make them pay.

The linebacker lined up on the right side of the ball and arced around three would-be blockers who didn’t even look in his direction. Davis smothered the D.J. Helkowski punt inside the Richmond 5-yard line, then happily pounced on the football in the end zone to give the Black Bears a 16-6 lead with 2:40 left in the first half.

“I was happy I was able to see the ball ASAP,” Davis said after Maine’s 33-20 victory. “Not much opportunities come like that.”

Maine had managed only 27 yards on 16 punt returns entering the game. Coach Jack Cosgrove said his team switched to a “rocket laser” formation to try to spring returner Justin Flores down the sideline. Instead he was surprised to see Davis in the end zone after blocking the kick.

“It was a lot easier than it even is in practice,” Cosgrove said. “Ben just had a free path. I don’t know whether we confused them in their protection or whatever.

“Ben got in there and got his hands up, didn’t leave his feet, he did all the right things.”

QUARTERBACK DREW Belcher led Maine with 92 rushing yards on 21 carries. This came a week after Richmond had swarmed John Robertson of Villanova, one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS, holding him to 65 yards in a 10-9 victory.

“I give them credit,” Richmond Coach Danny Rocco said. “They were able to find some space up inside there and (Belcher) did a really good job protecting the ball.”

Belcher was sacked nine times in his previous two starts. But the freshman continually found ways to escape pressure and at least throw the ball out of bounds against Richmond, which recorded no sacks.

“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t (taking sacks),” Belcher said. “Either getting out of the pocket, throwing it away, or doing something, running the ball when the pocket broke down. That’s a credit to our offensive line, just really good protection, and then our wide receivers were able to run the hot (routes).”

TREVOR BATES leads Maine with three interceptions this season despite playing defensive end. But he joked he was willing to expand his role if called upon.

“I don’t have the speed for that,” Bates said of playing cornerback.

“But if Coach Cos wants to do something, some kind of package …”