ORONO – Emotions were running high Saturday for the University of Maine football team.
Determined to avenge a demoralizing blowout loss at Hofstra last year, and committed to impressing the Homecoming faithful, the Black Bears came out firing on all cylinders.
UMaine scored three touchdowns in the first 20 minutes, then rode another smothering defensive effort to a 21-10 Atlantic 10 victory over the Pride in front of 6,458 fans at chilly, windswept Alfond Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s 19th-ranked Bears (5-2) limited Hofstra to 109 total yards, including minus-9 yards rushing, on the way to their third straight win.
“That was just a big emotional high that we used as motivation for us,” senior Arel Gordon said of the aforementioned factors. “The fire just kept growing and growing up to the opening kickoff and we just ran with that and got a lot of points real early, so that basically was a key factor for our win.”
UMaine improved to 4-0 in the Atlantic 10 and won its fourth consecutive home game while keeping pace with Massachusetts (6-1, 4-0 A-10) atop the North Division.
“We did enough good things to win an A-10 football game, so we’re very happy,” Cosgrove said.
“This is no fluke that we’re 4-0,” he added. “We’re better than the teams we’re playing, and we beat them.”
The Bears’ defense continued its domination of league opponents. Hofstra (2-5, 1-3) put together only one significant offensive possession. UMaine combined to sack Pride quarterbacks Anton Clarkson and Dennis Davis five times.
“We were expecting them to come out and establish the run, especially with the wind factor today,” said Bears senior defensive end Matt King. “After we stopped that … they tried to go through the air and we blitzed them, got sacks, like we’ve been doing the past couple weeks.”
Linebackers John Wormuth and Andrew Downey sparked the Bears with nine and eight tackles, respectively, while Jovan Belcher and Mike DeVito each registered 11/2 sacks.
While the UMaine offense managed only 239 total yards, it was prolific early.
With a fierce wind at their backs, the Bears blew 67 yards on nine plays on their opening possession. Gordon (20 carries, 118 yards; six catches, 32 yards) peeled off a key 27-yard jaunt around left end to spark the drive, then capped it with a 6-yard run.
Devin McNeill’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with 6:47 to play in the first quarter.
The defense helped set up the next score as tackle Bruno Dorismond stripped the ball from Clarkson on a sack and DeVito recovered at the Hofstra 45. UMaine needed only eight plays to score.
Quarterback Ron Whitcomb’s 6-yard option run for a TD on the first play of the second quarter and McNeill’s kick made it 14-0.
Special teams made their presence felt on the ensuing kickoff. Freshman Luigi Sebastiani executed a nifty pop-over kick down the right sideline that was recovered by UMaine’s Lionel Nixon Jr. at the Hofstra 37.
Later, faced with fourth-and-goal at the 5, the Bears lined up for a short field goal. Instead, holder and backup quarterback Mike Brusko took the snap and ran the ball into the end zone.
McNeill’s kick made it 21-0 with 10:45 left in the half.
“We got outcoached on special teams today, without question,” said Hofstra coach Dave Cohen. “Their special-teams staff did a great job today.”
The Pride found some life after Davis (9-for-19, 80 yards) replaced starter Clarkson midway through the second quarter. He immediately engineered a 10-play, 58-yard scoring drive, hitting Shaine Smith on passes of 15 and 16 yards to help set up a 7-yard timing toss to the end zone, also to Smith.
Rob Zarrilli’s PAT cut the deficit to 21-7 with 4:17 to play in the half.
After the hosts went three-and-out, Zarrilli drilled a career-long 52-yard field goal to make it 21-10.
Hofstra would not move past its own 39-yard line the rest of the way.
“I was really hoping for a little bit more competitive comeback from Hofstra in the second half,” Cohen said. “Obviously, we weren’t able to generate that.”
The Pride kept the Bears out of the end zone for the remainder of the contest, although UMaine kept the ball for 221/2 minutes in the second half to preserve the victory.
“I was really proud of the offense. We did a nice job even though we didn’t get points,” Cosgrove said.
Whitcomb completed 12 of 19 passes for only 65 yards and was intercepted once. He was sacked three times and gave way to Brusko for UMaine’s game-clinching series.
The Bears travel to Rhode Island for a league game Saturday at noon.
BLACK BEARS 21, PRIDE 10
Hofstra (2-5) 0 10 0 0 – 10
Maine (5-2) 7 14 0 0 – 21
M – Gordon 6 run (D.McNeill kick)
M – Whitcomb 6 run (D.McNeill kick)
M – Brusko 5 run (D.McNeill kick)
H – S.Smith 7 pass from D.Davis (Zarrilli kick)
H – Zarrilli 52 field goal
First downs 9 15
Rushes-yards 24-(minus 9) 47-174
Passing 115 65
Comp-Att-Int 14-26-0 12-19-1
Return Yards 3 19
Punts-Avg. 7-36.3 5-33.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 4-39 4-40
Time of Possession 23:19 36:41
Hofstra: Huggins 11-19, Crenshaw 4-9, D.Davis 4-(minus 3), Clarkson 5-(minus 34). Maine: Gordon 20-118, Fluellen 5-29, Whitcomb 14-16, Brusko 3-12, Callahan 2-4, Team 3-(minus 5).
Hofstra: Clarkson 5-7-0-35, D.Davis 9-19-0-80. Maine: Whitcomb 12-19-1-65.
Hofstra: S.Smith 5-49, Sullivan 5-36, Crenshaw 2-14, Brooks 1-8, Riley 1-8. Maine: Gordon 6-32, Pierre 2-12, L.Williams 2-10, Callahan 1-10, Fluellen 1-1.