HARRISONBURG, Va. — Watching a replay of the final play of Saturday’s game at No. 7 James Madison, Maine quarterback Warren Smith mouthed the word “Wow,” as his coach answered a question in the postgame media session at Bridgeforth Stadium.

Smith was stellar all day, passing for 295 yards and a touchdown, but it was his backup, senior Christopher Treister, who produced the awe-inspiring play that gave Maine a 25-24 victory, the No. 19 Black Bears’ first over the Dukes since 2003.

After Smith connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass with tight end Justin Perillo in overtime to counter JMU’s score, Jack Cosgrove called an eccentric play that worked when Treister, running to a near-empty right side of the field, converted a two-point conversion when he dove at the 2-yard line and helicoptered into the end zone after a collision with JMU linebacker Vidal Nelson.

“As soon as I decided to tuck the ball and run it, I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me, whether it was Ray Lewis back there or anybody,” Treister said. “I was going to get into the end zone because I knew how much it meant for this team to get a ‘W.’ “

It’s the first time Maine (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) has won four of its first five games since 2002, when it started 6-0.

When asked why he gambled with a two-point conversion instead of trying to prolong the game with an extra point, Cosgrove asked, “Why not?” It was far from the ordinary two-point call.


Cosgrove put his offensive line on the left side of the field, with running back Pushaun Brown behind them and two receivers wide to the right. Perillo, the tight end, was on an island in the center of the field standing sideways and snapped the ball underhanded to Treister, who was seven yards behind the ball.

Treister dropped back for a pass option, then decided to run — taking off just in time to get to the goal line.

“We’ve got a guy in charge who we have complete confidence in,” Cosgrove said of Treister, a 6-foot, 195-pounder from Portland. “He’s as sharp and smart a football player and competitor as we have in our program. We felt it would be something that would have a chance to work, especially with him there.”

JMU (4-2, 2-1), the CAA’s top rushing offense, piled up 304 yards on the ground, including 212 from backup running back Jordan Anderson, who got the bulk of the carries in the second half after starter Dae’Quan Scott fumbled. The Dukes played with a lead for much of the game and never trailed until the final whistle.

The Dukes took a 17-14 lead with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter when kicker Cameron Starke made a field goal to cap a 13-play, 67-yard drive that covered 6:54. Maine, led by the accurate Smith, then drove 47 yards and set up a successful field goal by Brian Harvey with 44 seconds left.

“I’ve never seen anybody play like he did tonight,” JMU coach Mickey Matthews said of the Black Bears’ quarterback. “If he’s not the national Player of the Year, I don’t know who is.”

Madison shut down star running back Pushaun Brown, who was limited to 54 yards on 15 carries. But Maine used its passing game to do damage.

Smith found Perillo nine times for 101 yards. He connected with junior wide receiver Maurice McDonald nine times for 67 yards. Arthur Williams and Derek Session had four catches apiece.

“We were all on the same page the whole game,” Smith said. “You’ve got to credit everybody.”

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