ORONO — On most football offenses, there are skill players and then there are blockers.

Dan Collins was a mixture of both for Maine on Saturday, and the result was a 27-17 victory over Rhode Island, followed by some rare but hard-earned smiles.

The Black Bears had fizzled during a pair of road losses to open the season, generating a mere 10 points.

Finally getting to play at Alfond Stadium – where a crowd of 7,535 showed up on a sunny fall afternoon – seemed to rejuvenate the offense. Lining up against a team perennially at the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association certainly helped as well.

Whatever the case, Maine’s fortunes turned in a hurry, thanks to a series of big plays. Reserve quarterback Drew Belcher faked a run and then stepped back to fling a pass that Micah Wright snatched away from helpless Rams safety Tim Wienclaw for a 51-yard touchdown to put the Black Bears ahead 7-3 late in the first quarter.

“Drew threw up the ball for me to go up and get, and I made the play on it,” said Wright, who caught seven passes for 139 yards. “That simple.”


Sherrod Baltimore got the ball right back for Maine, cradling an interception along the Rhode Island sideline after quarterback Paul Mroz scrambled from the pocket and appeared to be trying to throw the ball out of bounds.

“I honestly knew he was going to do that. Because scramble drills, we practiced that all week,” said Baltimore, who had also picked off Mroz earlier in the quarter. “I was just ready.”

Two plays later, Collins, Maine’s starting quarterback, tucked the ball into tailback Nigel Beckford’s midsection and then decided to become a pulling guard.

Beckford followed a block by Collins into the end zone for a 21-yard score. In a 47-second span, the Black Bears (1-2, 1-0 CAA) produced more points than the first 134 minutes of the season.

“We were making jokes that I was going to get moved to H-back after that,” Collins said. “It’s a read play, so I was just carrying out my fake and I saw the huge hole after the ‘D-end’ spiked down and I realized that Nigel was behind me. I saw a linebacker come over the top of the play. I just thought I was either going to be in the way or going to make the block, so I decided to make the block.”

Beckford struck again in the third quarter, finding a huge hole on the right side of the offensive line and then plowing over an unfortunate defensive back en route to a 28-yard touchdown that gave Maine a 24-3 lead.


“The receivers, they finished the play. They blocked where they were supposed to block downfield, and I just followed right behind them and just became a running back,” Beckford said. “I’m a physical running back, so if someone’s in my way, it doesn’t matter to me. I saw the end zone; I was getting to the end zone.”

It wasn’t a complete laugher for Maine, though, because Rhode Island refused to yield. The Black Bears helped by committing 14 penalties for 118 yards, including one that nullified a Collins touchdown pass to Jared Osumah. Senior kicker Sean Decloux also opened the door by uncharacteristically missing field-goal attempts of 25 and 43 yards in the first half. He later connected from 43 and 23.

The defense, which limited Rhode Island to minus-8 yards rushing on 29 attempts, surrendered 240 passing yards, 176 in the second half.

“I thought that Maine did a really good job up front,” Rhode Island Coach Jim Fleming said. “They’ve got some big, stout guys that are playing good run defense, and we couldn’t get much of a crack.”

The Rams (0-4, 0-2) scored two short rushing touchdowns to stay in the game before falling to Maine for a ninth straight time.

They also dampened the mood of Black Bears Coach Jack Cosgrove.

“The way we finished is lingering here, because it was pretty much backyard football at the end of the game, throwing the ball up in the air and then making plays,” Cosgrove said. “So that was disappointing that we couldn’t finish the game the way we started.”


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