Maine Dominates Fourth Quarter To Defeat No. 6 Delaware, 31-17; Snaps Hens’ Three-Game Win Streak
October 1, 2011
Photos Courtesy of Mark Campbell
ORONO, Maine -- The University of Delaware took a three-point lead late in the third quarter on a 13-yard touchdown run by Andrew Pierce, but Maine scored the final 17 points of the game as the Black Bears won their Colonial Athletic Association opener with a 31-17 victory over the sixth-ranked Blue Hens Saturday afternoon at rain-soaked Alford Stadium.
Delaware, which dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play, had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 10-4 all-time in Orono. The Blue Hens had won two straight over Maine, and had taken three of their last four trips to Alfond Stadium.
The Black Bears, whose only loss this season came by six points to Big East opponent Pittsburgh, improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the CAA. Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove picked up his 100th career victory in his 19th season at Maine.
Maine trailed 10-7 at the half, but after holding the Blue Hens on the first drive of the third quarter, took over on its own 17 yard line and quickly marched down the field in just five plays to regain the lead. The drive culminated with quarterback Warren Smith connecting with Damarr Aultman for a 37-yard touchdown strike to put the Black Bears in front, 14-10, with 8:58 remaining in the stanza.
However the Blue Hens would answer right back, engineering an 11-play, 74-yard scoring drive to go back on top. Running backs Andrew Pierce and David Hayes combined for 43 yards on the drive, which ended with a 13-yard touchdown scamper by Pierice that make it a 17-14 Delaware advantage.
The UD defense then held Maine to a three-and-out but the Blue Hens’ ensuing possession would stall, and the Black Bears dominated from there.
Maine took over at its own 26 yard line with 21 seconds left in the quarter, and Smith quickly found Derek Session for a 56-yard bomb on the final play of the period. Pushawn Brown then opened the fourth with an 18-yard touchdown run to put Maine in front for good.
After each team punted on its next possession, the Blue Hens looked to respond when they earned a first down on the Maine 25 yard line. However on third and 15 Delaware quarterback Tim Donnelly was picked off by Vinson Givans, who returned the ball to the Maine 25. The Black Bears immediately took advantage as Brown exploded for 70 yards, and two plays later he scored from five yards out to make it a 28-17 game.
Following another interception of Donnelly by Jeron McMillian, the Black Bears’ Brian Harvey drilled a 31-yard field goal with 5:30 left to close the scoring.
Brown ran 23 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns for Maine, while Smith finished 18 of 27 for 264 yards and a touchdown.
Donnelly, who entered the game having thrown just one interception through the first four weeks, was 24 or 45 for 163 yards and a touchdown but was picked off four times during the afternoon.
Pierce (at right) ran 24 times for 120 yards, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season and moving into 10th place on the al-time UD rushing list with 2,146 yards. Nihja White caught seven passes for 52 yards and recorded his 100th career catch in the first half, becoming the 14th Blue Hen in school history to reach that milestone.
“There are a lot of teams in our league just like ourselves, and Maine is one of them,” said Blue Hen head coach K.C. Keeler. “I thought Jack (Cosgrove) put together a good game plan and attacked our secondary. It was pretty obvious that was what they were to going to try to exploit, and it worked for them. We just could not get the momentum tonight even though we had some opportunities. We had way too many turnovers and way too many mistakes.
"Maine is a good football team and dramatically improved from last year, and I thought that going in," Keeler said. "I told our kids we’re going to have to really earn this one because we were playing a good team. When Maine got the momentum, they seized and rode it. We gave up some big plays, and our turnovers gave them more opportunities. We are going to see a lot of games like this over the next 5 or 6 weeks, so we need to put this one behind us and move on. There was a time we had the lead and I thought if we got some momentum we would be fine. Sometimes one play can change a game. We just never grasped the opportunities that we had.”
Maine struck first after an interception by Trevor Coston deep inside Maine territory set up an 89-yard drive that was capped by a 26-yard run by Brown. Delaware’s Mark Schenauer appeared to be open on a post pattern down the center of the field but Coston came out of nowhere to pick off Donnelly’s pass at the 11-yard line. Donnelly had gone 55 attempts without an interception up to that point.
Seven plays later, Maine took a 7-0 lead as Brown swept to the right side, found a wide open gap, and then cut back at the five-yard line to go untouched for a 26-yard score with 6:13 left in the opening stanza.
The Blue Hens came back to knot the game at 7-7 two possessions later when Donnelly capped a 10-play, 59-yard drive with a 17-yard scoring toss to Colin Naugle (at left) for the senior tight end’s second scoring grab of the year. The Hens used a pass interference penalty by Maine in the end zone to get the ball at the Black Bear 19-yard line.
After moving to the seven, the Hens took a step back when Donnelly was sacked by by Raibonne Charles at the 17-yard line. But Donnelly regrouped on the next play and lofted a perfect pass to the left end zone where Naugle made a nice over-the-should grab just before stepping out of bounds for the score. Baner’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 13:48 remaining.
Delaware then took the lead on its next possession when an interception by sophomore linebacker Jessel Curry set up Sean Baner’s fifth field goal in the last two games. Curry, on the field for the first time since leaving the West Chester game Sept. 10 with a concussion, jumped to pull down a throw by Warren Smith in the open field at the Maine 21-yard line. Four plays later Baner converted a 46-yard field goal that just sneaked over the goalpost to give UD a 10-7 lead with 11:23 left.
Neither team was able to score again during the half as interceptions and a blocked field goal thwarted drives. After Baner had a 49-yard field goal attempt blocked, Delaware got the ball back moments later when Travis Hawkins stepped in front of a Smith pass and notched his first interception of the season at the 50-yard line.
But Delaware gave the ball right back as Donnelly had a pass slip out of his hands and Darlos Jones intercepted at the Maine 38-yard line. A desperation pass by Smith on the last play of the half sailed out of the end zone.
Following each team’s touchdown in the third quarter, the Black Bears dominated the fourth to pull away.
“They have some great athletes but a lot of it falls on us,” Donnelly said. “We just didn’t execute the way we should have today.”
Delaware lost despite converting 9 of 17 third downs while holding Maine to just 1 of 9 third down conversions. Opponents are now just 8 for their last 49 on third down conversions against the Blue Hens.
"I thought that we had the momentum,” said Pierce. “We just shot ourselves in the football too many times. It was a tough night.”
Delaware will return to action next Saturday when the Blue Hens host rival William & Mary at 6 p.m. at Delaware Stadium. The game will be a matchup between the two teams that shared the CAA title in 2010.
Hen Scratchings: The late Ron Rogerson, who served as head football coach at Maine and was a former Delaware assistant, was honored during the game. Rogerson’s wife and son were on hand to be recognized for a scholarship that will honor Ron’s memory...WR Nihja White extended his streak of catching a pass to 26 straight games and his third catch in the first half was the 100th of his career, making him only the 14th player in UD history to reach that plateau.