ORONO — This was a statement game, not just for the University of Maine football team, but particularly for its defense.

That statement in Saturday’s 31-17 upset of No. 6 Delaware? Go in for the kill.

Instead of playing conservatively to protect a lead, the Black Bears defense went all-out, intercepting Delaware quarterback Tim Donnelly four times, including a pair of picks in the fourth quarter that set up two key scoring plays. Pushaun Brown’s 5-yard touchdown seven minutes into the fourth and Brian Harvey’s 31-yard field goal less than three minutes later put the game away.

“That was the focus in practice for us this week, to go in for the kill,” said Maine linebacker Vinson Givans, who had an interception and seven sacks.

And unlike instances earlier in the season in which the Black Bears (3-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) allowed teams to creep back into the game in the second half, the Black Bears heeded Givans’ words in their CAA opener.

“We kept our focus,” Maine nose tackle Raibonne Charles said. “In the past, situations like that tend to get out of control but with leadership and everything the coaching staff has done, we were able to keep trust in our game plan.”

Maine’s defense limited the Blue Hens (3-2, 1-1 CAA) to one second-half touchdown, Andrew Pierce’s 13-yard run with 5:18 left in the third that gave Delaware a 17-14 lead.

After that, Maine quarterback Warren Smith said, the Black Bears made a decision.

“We said, ‘we’re not folding,’ ” said Smith, who finished 18 for 27 passing with 264 yards. “The whole second half was a statement. Offensively and defensively.”

The Blue Hens led 10-7 at halftime but after Pierce’s touchdown run, the Blue Hens struggled to sustain their offense.

“There were some opportunities that we had, and we always talk about turning the ball over,” said Delaware coach K.C. Keeler, whose team was outgained 477 to 278. “And we had too many turnovers and made too many mistakes.

“The opportunities we had, we didn’t capitalize on them. And when it seemed Maine got the momentum, they really got the momentum.”

Aided by key defensive plays, the Black Bears scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. With 21 seconds left in the third, Derek Session snagged Smith’s 56-yard pass to reach the Delaware 18 and, on the next play, Brown scored his second touchdown, followed by Brian Harvey’s point-after kick, to give Maine a 21-17 lead six seconds into the fourth.

Less than five minutes later, Givans intercepted Donnelly (24 for 45, 163 yards and four interceptions) at Maine’s 19, which set up Brown’s third touchdown three plays later, giving Maine a 28-17 lead with 8:01 left.

“There were things down low that made that catch difficult,” said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove, who earned his 100th win at Maine. “But it came right on the heels of an interception. There was the threat of them scoring again and we turned the field around.

“We took control of the game after that.”

On Delaware’s ensuing drive, Jerron McMillian intercepted Donnelly at Maine’s 47 and returned the ball 31 yards to help set up Harvey’s field goal.

“Our defense was relentless,” Cosgrove said. “We were a little bit concerned with the beginning of the third quarter, with the pass rush wearing us down a little bit, but the heartbeat came out in the fourth quarter big-time.

“We turned it around.”


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