by: Michael Schuman
A full 60-minute effort and an impressive performance from second-year quarterback Drew Belcher powered the Maine Black Bears to a 23-10 victory over conference opponent the Stony Brook Seawolves.
Belcher was successful on the ground as well as through the air, completing 11 of 16 passes for 109 yards. He also rushed 25 times for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Third-year quarterback Dan Collins played in two series before Maine Head Coach Jack Cosgrove elected to use second-year Drew Belcher for the remainder of the game. Collins went 1-3 for 18 yards.
Maine had a multifaceted offense, kicking three field goals in addition to Belcher’s touchdown. The defense also added a score on fumble recovery, when fifth-year defensive end Trevor Bates recovered a fumble and took it 34 yards to the end zone.
“We did a good job of executing today. Everyone was on the same page,” Belcher said. “The [offensive] line was great today, picking up all the blitzes. The receivers played well…overall it was just good execution.”
Maine only had 220 total yards of offense, 127 of those yards coming through the air. First-year receiver Micah Wright led all receivers with four catches for only 17 yards. Simonovich led the team in receiving yards with 42.
On the ground, Belcher was Maine’s leading rusher, with second-year back Nigel Beckford getting the bulk of the other carries, running the ball for 22 yards on nine carries.
“[Belcher’s] strengths fit this football game,” Cosgrove said. “He’s tough. We know that, that’s him. He’s a quarterback but he’s also a football player. He’s a tough kid.”
Stony Brook only had 171 total yards of offense thought the day as the “Black Hole defense” gave their offensive line trouble.
Third-year linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga led the Black Bears in tackles with nine. Four different players had sacks, and Bates returned one of three fumbles recovered for a touchdown.
The Seawolves used five different running backs throughout the day, but could only muster 10 yards of rushing offense. A big step forward for the Maine defense, who were not able to stop the run last week against Yale.
Through the air, Stony Brook went 18-36 between fourth-year quarterback Conor Bednarski and first-year Joe Carbone. Bednarski had the team’s only touchdown.
Second-year receiver Ray Bolden led Stony Brook’s receiving core with nine catches for 97 yards.
After beginning their first few possessions inside their own 10-yard line, Maine would put together a solid drive and score on one of fourth-year kicker Sean Decloux’s three field goals.
Belcher led the Black Bears 66 yards on 11 plays that was made possible by a 32-yard pass to second-year tight end Simonovich that put Maine in prime field position. After a few Belcher quarterback power run plays, Decloux made a 43-yard field goal to put Maine up 3-0.
“Today was a good representation of the season, I’ve had my ups and downs,” Decloux said. “As a kicker you have to be able to forget about things as your only as good as you last of next kick.”
Stony Brook would bounce back to tie the game in the second quarter, after a Maine punt put them in good field position at their own 37-yard line.
The “Black Hole Defense” would force a fumble during the scoring drive when fourth-year linebacker John McCabe made a huge hit on Seawolves running back Isaiah White. White coughed up the ball, but it bounced right to Bolden who recovered to keep the drive alive.
Maine’s defense would keep them out of the end zone, so Stony Brook settled for a 27-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3.
Maine would go three-and-out on their next drive, ending with a Collins sack and fumble recovered by Stony Brook.
The Seawolves would take the ball all the way to the Maine 2-yard line after recovering the fumble. Maine’s defense could not hold them out of the end zone on this occasion, as Bednarski found a tight end open in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal to give his team the 10-7 lead with 4:10 remaining in the half.
Maine would try to tack on a 44-yard field goal with two seconds to play in the half to cut the lead to four, but the kick was too low and was blocked.
The Seawolves took the 10-3 lead into the half.
That would be all of the points the Maine defense would allow, as the Black Bears went on to score 20 points in the second half. After one possession, the defense again set the offense up for a scoring drive.
After three consecutive running plays, McCabe was able to force another Stony Brook fumble. This time, fourth-year linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves pounced on the loose ball, recovering it at the Stony Brook 31-yard line.
Belcher’s legs allowed the Black Bears to get into the red zone, after a 12-yard carry brought them to the 1-yard line. After a Beckford run was stopped, Belcher decided to take the ball to the end zone himself for a 2-yard score.
“I’m a bigger kid, I can take a few more hits, so I don’t mind putting my shoulder down for a couple of extra yards,” Belcher said. “I’ll do whatever my team needs me to do.”
Maine would expand their lead just a few seconds into the fourth quarter after an 18-yard pass was completed on third down to move the ball to the Stony Brook 1-yard line. From there, the Seawolves defense kept the Black Bears from getting six, but Decloux added three more to Maine’s total, making the score 13-10 Maine.
On the ensuing Seawolves possession, the defensive line was too much to handle, as Bednarski was sacked for a loss of six on their down, all while fumbling the football.
Bates was right there to scoop up the loose ball and run it back untouched to the end zone for his first defensive touchdown of the season to increase the Black Bear’s lead to 20-10.
“I just did my job and tried to contain [the play],” Bates said on his fumble recovery. “It was a gift from God. The ball just came down, and I just took off and got into the end zone.”
“We weren’t able to sustain a line of scrimmage. They have a talented front, and we weren’t able to sustain a line of scrimmage when the game was over,” Stony Brook Head Coach Chuck Priore said.
Maine would add one more field goal after the defense kept Stony Brook off of the scoreboard again. Maine would take that 23-10 lead to the final whistle.
“We need to obviously right the ship on our end,” Priore said. “This isn’t the outcome you look for, we want to win on Saturdays. We certainly didn’t represent ourselves.”
“Obviously we’re pleased with the win. We were a much better team this week then we were last week,” Cosgrove said. “We took a real important step as a team today. Understanding the game better, you have to play 60 minutes and you have to play together and we were. We got a great reward.”
“[The Conference win] is huge. I think it’s going to catapult us,” Bates said on the victory. “We’re still going to prepare and perform as great as we can for Villanova, but that’s what we needed to take a step in the right direction.”
With the win, Maine improves to 3-4 (3-1 CAA) and moves into a tie for third in the conference with William and Mary. After their fourth straight loss, Stony Brook falls to 2-4 (1-4 CAA).
Maine will be on the road for their next game, another conference tilt with fourth place Villanova on Oct. 31. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.