The University of Maine football team earned their first home win of the season at Morse Field, defeating Georgia State 51-7, and bid 12 seniors a happy farewell Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium.
The Black Bears had huge offensive efforts from junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, who finished 11-of-17 passing for 264 yards and four touchdowns, and junior running back Ricky Stevens, who finished with 179 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
The Black Bears scored the first 31 points of the game and gained 594 yards of total offense as the seniors enjoyed their last game on Morse Field. The Colonial Athletic Association victory improved UMaine to 4-6 on the season and 3-4 in the CAA. Georgia State drops to 1-10 with the loss and said goodbye to lustrous head coach Bill Curry, who played 10 years in the NFL, had stints as an assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers and was head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide at one point in his career.
“I’m happy for our football team, and I’m happy for our seniors,” UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said.
The Black Bears got off to a quick start as Wasilewski scrambled on the first play from scrimmage for a gain of 46 yards. Wasilewski finished the nine-play, 90-yard drive by hitting senior wide receiver Maurice McDonald on a 17-yard post route in the middle of the end zone to give the Black Bears the early 7-0 lead.
Stevens would break a run for 28 yards on the next possession leading to a 41-yard Sean Decloux field goal, and the Black Bears led 10-0 in a blink of an eye.
“We had a great start and we talked about that being important,” Cosgrove said. “We’re a team that has had a great first quarter scoring percentage ratio this year and they are not, and we got out to a 10-0 lead, and it was kind of what the doctor ordered.”
UMaine would continue to get big plays from their offense. With just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter, freshman running back Nigel Jones caught a screen pass, slipped a would be Georgia State tackler and scampered 76 yards for the touchdown giving the Black Bears the 17-0 lead. Jones would also add 76 yards rushing and a touchdown.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win, and they played lights out,” Curry said. “When they play at their best, they are a really good football team.”
After Georgia State kicker Will Lutz came up short on a 48-yard field goal attempt, the Black Bears went right back to work. Sophomore wide receiver Damarr Aultman slipped behind the defense and Wasilewski found him for the 69-yard touchdown, giving the Black Bears a 24-0 lead. Aultman would be the leading receiver for the Black Bears with 96 yards.
“It was nice to see the big plays again,” Cosgrove said.
On the following possession, it would be time for Stevens to get involved. Stevens took a carry right up the middle 58 yards but would be tripped up short of the end zone. UMaine went right back to the 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound running back and he delivered, punching one in from eight yards out giving UMaine the 31-0 lead. It was Stevens’ first touchdown as a Black Bear.
“The offensive line did a great job. They executed perfectly,” Stevens said. “It felt good to get that first [touchdown] as a Black Bear.”
Georgia State got one touchdown before the half as quarterback Ben McLane found wide receiver Danny Williams on an 8-yard pass after a 42-yard pass to Albert Wilson put them deep in Black Bear territory, putting the score at 31-7 at halftime. Despite the late first-half touchdown, the Black Bears played great defense, forcing four interceptions and limiting the Panthers to 213 yards of total offense and only 59 yards rushing.
The Black Bears continued to play great two-way defense in the second half, holding the Panthers scoreless, and getting a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Jones and a 24-yard touchdown reception from junior tight end Justin Perillo. Decloux tacked on field goals from 20 and 18 yards out to give the Black Bears the 51-7 victory.
After the game, UMaine presented Curry with a pair of L.L. Bean boots in honor of his amazing career. The Black Bears will finish their season next weekend at the University of Rhode Island.