WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — The University of Maine took a three-touchdown lead late in the first half Saturday.

Easy victory? Guess again.

The Black Bears ended up needing a pair of fourth-quarter fumble recoveries to hold off William & Mary and come away with a 35-28 victory in a Colonial Athletic Association football game.

It was the fifth straight win for the Black Bears, who are 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the CAA with a home game looming against nationally ranked Villanova (6-2, 4-1) next Saturday.

Maine, which led 28-7 late in the first half, may be making a late bid for a postseason spot after being picked to finish ninth in the CAA.

“We feed on the doubt,” said Darian Davis-Ray, who gained 24 yards in eight carries for Maine.

The Tribe, picked to finish second in the CAA, fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the league before a crowd of 9,124.

“I think we are trying to learn to put teams away,” said Maine’s first-year coach, Joe Harasymiak. “We knew they were going to come back. I think it’s huge for our program. It’s great to play in this environment. To get a win over a program like this is awesome.”

Maine free safety Darrius Hart, who was sick during the week with a sore throat, did not start. Then defensive backs Manny Patterson and Sinmisola Demuren had to miss plays, leaving at different times in the third quarter with minor injuries.

But reserve defensive back Tayvon Hall, who tied for the team high with nine tackles, recovered a fumble at his 16 with eight minutes remaining in the game as the Tribe was driving for a possible tying touchdown with the score 35-28.

Sterling Sheffield (eight tackles) of the Black Bears caused the fumble after a catch by Kendell Anderson, who rushed for 154 yards and caught four passes for 36 more.

“I just dove on it,” Hall said. “All of us (defensive backs) have experience.”

Then Maine starting strong safety Jason Matovu, who also finished with nine tackles, came up with a fumble at his own 20 with 39 seconds remaining as the Tribe was driving again for a possible score.

“We rotate a bunch of guys back there,” Harasymiak said of his defensive backfield.

Maine quarterback Dan Collins completed 14 of his first 19 passes, and finished 19 of 33 for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Collins bounced back after completing just 13 of 30 passes the previous week against Rhode Island.

“Dan is a guy that keeps fighting back,” Harasymiak said. “He did a great job this week. We will keep believing in Dan.”

Micah Wright returned 67 yards for a touchdown with 6:45 left in the third quarter to give Maine a 35-21 lead.

He also caught a touchdown pass from Collins in the first quarter.

“I felt like they were trying not to kick to me all day,” Wright said of his punt return. “I had excellent blocking.

“It means a lot bouncing back from last year. We have a big game coming up with Villanova next week. We take it game by game. That is what you have to do in this league.”

The Black Bears, with 466 total yards of offense, got balanced running from Josh Mack (59 yards), Zaire Williams (54) and Collins (52).

“I wanted to get back to playing the way I can play,” Collins said. “I told myself I was going to have a good game no matter what. I kept my head in the game.”

“Dan knew he had to come out and have a better game,” Wright said. “He was on point in the first half. He threw me the touchdown and that really started things off for us.”

Maine has now beaten William & Mary three straight times. The Black Bears also won here in 2012.

“Basically we put ourselves in a big hole in the first half,” said Jimmye Laycock, in his 37th year as the William & Mary coach. “When we were rolling (on offense) we were good. In the second half we pitched a shutout (on defense) except for the punt return.”

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