ORONO — The University of Maine trailed by four points late in the second quarter Saturday when Micah Wright struck a spark.

Wright, in his second game back from a suspension that caused him to miss the first three games, returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown to give Maine the lead for good in a 51-27 victory over Rhode Island at Alfond Stadium.

Wright, a junior wide receiver, fielded the punt from Satchel Denton at the Maine 23, side-stepped two Rhode Island players, then burst up the middle. Denton was the last player with a shot to stop him at the Rhode Island 30 and Wright made a quick move to the left to race past him.

It was Wright’s second career punt return for a touchdown and gave Maine a 23-21 lead with 1:02 remaining in the first half.

“That was a pretty big deal,” said Rhode Island Coach Jim Fleming. “Huge momentum swing.”

Wright knew he had to make a big play.

“I saw somebody ran down the field untouched so I knew I had to make him miss,” said Wright, who also caught four passes for 28 yards. “After that the blocking took care of itself. I made one guy miss and ran right up the chute.”

And what was he thinking when he made the player miss?

“Showtime,” he said. “It’s my time to make a play and try to electrify the game a little bit.”

That he did. Maine scored on all four possessions in the third quarter to take a 51-21 lead.

“That gave us the energy we needed,” said quarterback Chris Ferguson. “Obviously early we were flat and then we started rolling. The punt return sparked everything, sparked the stadium, sparked our guys, sparked the defense. It’s kind of lights out from there.

CORNERBACK NAJEE GOODE suffered a rib injury in the first half and didn’t play again. Coach Joe Harasymiak said X-rays were taken at the half but he didn’t know the results.

MIKE FLYNN, who played offensive line at Maine from 1992-96, then had an 11-year NFL career, was honored after the first quarter. Flynn was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor, joining wide receiver Thurlow Cooper, linebackers John Huard and Chris Keating, and Coach Harold Westerman.

Flynn played on the Baltimore Ravens’ 2001 Super Bowl championship team.

THIS WAS Maine’s 11th consecutive win over Rhode Island. The last time the Black Bears lost to the Rams was on Oct. 28, 2006, a 3-0 decision at Kingston, Rhode Island.

It was also Maine’s 10th consecutive victory over the Rams in Orono. In 1998, Rhode Island last won here, 18-17.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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