DURHAM, N.H. — Long after the final whistle had blown, University of Maine football players gathered on their sideline at Wildcat Stadium, hugging family members and friends, and each other.

Wide receivers Andre Miller and Jacob Hennie grabbed a water bucket and chased down Coach Nick Charlton, dousing him with a shower.

The Black Bears had much to celebrate Saturday.

For the first time in 20 years, Maine won a football game at New Hampshire, shrugging off a lackluster start and pulling away in the second half for a 33-20 victory before a crowd of 8,573. The Black Bears trailed by 13 twice in the first half, but dominated the second half as their defense intercepted four passes and held New Hampshire 95 yards of offense – only 16 on the ground.

The win snapped Maine’s nine-game losing skid in Durham that dated back to 2001. It also enabled the Black Bears to finish the season with a winning record at 6-5 overall, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

In losing its eighth consecutive game, New Hampshire finished 3-8 overall, 2-6 in the CAA.

And, of course, the Black Bears earned the right to carry the Brice-Cowell Musket back to Orono.

“It changes the whole outlook,” said junior quarterback Joe Fagnano, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. “The season didn’t go exactly how we wanted it to, but it’s a good note to end on. It’s a big goal for this program, and now going into the offseason, having that momentum will help us.”

Rich Carr, a senior cornerback for Maine, had one of the four second-half interceptions. He said this was a much better day then the last time he played here, a 28-10 New Hampshire win that ended any playoff hopes for the Black Bears in 2019.

“That’s all I could think about this whole week, just remembering that feeling and not wanting to feel like that ever again,” he said.

It didn’t look good at the start. New Hampshire thoroughly controlled most of the first half as quarterback Tommy Herrion, making his first start, picked Maine apart. He threw three touchdown passes, staking New Hampshire to a 21-7 lead. The Wildcats gained 299 yards in the first half.”

“We played very well in the first quarter, a little bit into the second quarter, and then they responded,” said Wildcats Coach Sean McDonnell. “Probably just like they responded their whole season, when they started 1-3, 1-4, and then bounced back the way they did.”

Maine tied the game at 20 before halftime when Jonny Messina kicked a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.

Then the defense took over.

“We just got back to who we are, playing our brand of football, hard-nosed, disciplined, everybody running to the ball,” said Carr. “We kind of got away from that early. Once we realized what we needed to do, we got the job done.”

A diving interception by freshman cornerback Kahzir Brown at the New Hampshire 34 jump-started the comeback. Two plays later, Fagnano found a ridiculously open Andre Miller for a 30-yard touchdown pass that gave Maine a 27-20 lead with 7:42 left in the third.

Another Brown interception and a good return to the New Hampshire 49 led to a 34-yard field goal by Messina and a 30-20 lead.

Carr stopped New Hampshire’s next drive with the third interception off Herrion. And then Shakur Smalls intercepted a tipped pass at the Maine 40 early in the fourth, leading to a 33-yard field goal by Messina that made it 33-20 with 6:05 left.

“It feels great,” said Charlton. “This is a rivalry game and we kept talking about how we had to go out and take it, they weren’t going to give it to us. And we had to go out and take it.”

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