NEWARK, Del. — Despite recent results to the contrary, University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgove had an inkling.
Cosgrove felt the Black Bears had ability that hadn’t quite surfaced, and he’d seen the signs in practice and in games.
On Saturday, he saw it on the scoreboard at Delaware Stadium, and it was a pretty sight.
Maine sacked Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley nine times and handed the 16th-ranked Blue Hens a humbling 26-3 defeat before a stunned Parents Day crowd of 21,506.
Damarr Aultmann caught the first of his two touchdown passes from Marcus Wasilewski on Maine’s first possession and the Black Bears were on their way to their fourth win over Delaware in the schools’ last six meetings.
“I’m not a real animated guy pregame,” Cosgrove said, “but I was in the locker room today and I was going to make sure if we had it in us, we were going to get it out of us today, and we did. Now it’s easier for it to become part of our equation … They got it in them, I know they do.”
Cosgrove got both the execution and emotional effort he demanded as Maine improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association after dropping consecutive home games to Albany and Villanova. Delaware fell to 4-2, 1-2.
Wasilewski completed 12 of 18 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns for Maine, which outgained Delaware 331-224 in total yards.
“It was just a matter of time before we pulled everything together,” the junior quarterback said.
David Hood picked up 103 yards on 14 carries and Rickey Stevens supplied 67 on 13 runs for Maine.
The nine sacks of Hurley tied the record allowed by Delaware set in a 35-25 loss to Villanova in 1997. Defensive end Michael Cole had five of them. Cole was unavailable for postgame comment because he was getting medical treatment.
“We thought this was a more inexperienced line than we’ve seen the last two weeks,” Cosgrove said of a Delaware offensive front with one returning starter and no seniors. “The lines we saw at Albany and the line we saw at Villanova are darn good, and big. This was an inexperienced group, you could tell, and we saw some things New Hampshire did last week (in a 34-14 win). We hoped we would get that kind of pressure. We never envisioned nine sacks.”
The Blue Hens missed All-CAA tailback Andrew Pierce, who was limited by a hamstring injury and carried twice for 10 yards. With backup David Hayes sidelined by a foot injury, Julian Laing handled the workload and gained 74 yards on 18 carries in his first college start. He also had 51 yards on five receptions.
Hurley, somewhat hobbled by an injured left foot, completed 22 of 35 passes for 177 yards.
The Black Bears led 16-3 at halftime and quickly padded their lead on their first possession of the second half. Maurice McDonald’s 16-yard TD reception from Wasilewski closed an 89-yard drive that needed just five plays and was aided by a Delaware personal foul. It began with Stevens’ 20-yard run and Hood’s 30-yard run on the first two plays as Maine went ahead 23-3.
Delaware had a chance to close the gap on its next possession as it had a first-and-goal at the Maine 3. But on second down from the 1, quarterback Trevor Sasek, in as a situational substitute for Hurley, tripped over the leg of retreating center Jake Geiser and fumbled as he tried to hand the football to Laing. Maine linebacker Donte Dennis recovered.
The Black Bears later added Sean Lecloux’s 34-yard field goal with 6:32 left.
Not counting the 60 yards Delaware lost on the nine sacks, it gained just 107 yards on 38 rushing attempts. Last week Villanova piled up 314 rushing yards.
“I really feel like we played to our full potential,” Dennis said. “We had to learn from that mistake. Villanova exposed us on the edge and it was something we worked on all week in practice. We knew Delaware would try to run it down our throats. We played real good stopping the run and that was our main goal so we knew we had a chance to win.”
Maine moved 75 yards on just eight plays on the game’s first possession to take a 7-0 lead. Wasilewski passed in the left flat to Aultman, who shook off a tackle for a 22-yard touchdown.
“That not only sets the tone,” Wasilewski said, “but it gives us momentum for the defense and for us going in the next drive.”
Delaware responded with a drive of its own, reaching the Maine 13 before settling for Sean Baner’s 27-yard field goal with 6:08 left in the first quarter.
Maine had a chance to extend its lead later in the first quarter but Decloux’s 34-yard field-goal try was blocked by Laith Wallschleger, his third blocked field goal this season and school-record tying fourth of his career.
But another UD kicking mistake benefited the Black Bears. Delaware punter Rawley Zaragoza mishandled the snap on a fourth down from the Hens’ 17 and kicked the football out of the end zone for an intentional safety and a 9-3 Maine lead with 6:39 left in the second quarter.
Three plays into its subsequent possession, Maine increased its lead to 16-3, which it took into halftime. From the 50, Wasilewski threw a short pass to Aultman across the middle and he outran several defenders en route to the end zone with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
“I’ve got to give credit to my receivers,” Wasilewski said. “It was short passes where they made the move and went down the field . . . We were just on the same page all day and this is what results.”