ORONO — Time after time, Norfolk State took over the football on Maine’s half of the field Saturday, needing just one score to steal a victory.

The Black Bears never wavered.

The unit that calls itself the “Black Hole” was never entirely whole because of injuries and a key player being suspended. But they were stout when it mattered, pummeling the Spartans into submission for a 10-6 win in the season opener before an announced crowd of 6,951 at Alfond Stadium.

“It probably wasn’t artistic and it probably wasn’t pleasing to the crowd but that’s OK. We won a football game and we’re 1-0,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said.

“There was a great response by the team, for the most part, when we really needed something to be done.”

Defensive end Trevor Bates responded with the finest catch of the game, diving on his stomach to corral a pass he had deflected, setting up a Maine field goal.

Defensive tackle Patrick Ricard responded with Norfolk State at Maine’s 14 in the final minute, bursting through blockers to sack Terrance Ervin for an 8-yard loss that effectively sealed the victory.

And middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga responded to having two first-time starters on either side of him, guiding the novices throughout the game while rampaging from sideline to sideline to record a game-high 14 tackles.

“That’s what we do. We get our back against the wall and we just keep focused, we just keep playing,” Mulumba Tshimanga said.

“Everybody just kept calm. We knew what we were doing. Nobody was nervous.”

Maine was without starting cornerback Axel Ofori Jr. because of an ankle injury. And linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves was suspended for violating the university’s code of conduct. That put Austin Brown and Najee Goode into the starting lineup for the first time. Linebacker Randy Samuels and safety Davonte Burke were already making their first starts.

During the game, cornerback Sherrod Baltimore and defensive end Michael Kozlakowski had to depart because of injuries.

Maine absorbed those hits and kept delivering its own.

Norfolk State forced eight Maine punts and recovered two fumbles. Five times the Spartans took possession in Maine territory, including three times in the fourth quarter.

Norfolk State managed just two first-quarter field goals and 100 yards of offense on 58 plays.

“It’s really kind of our mentality when they get in the red zone, no touchdowns,” Bates said.

Maine’s offense, directed by sophomore Dan Collins for the first time, was bogged down for much of the game as well. Collins completed 8 of 20 passes for 92 yards and ran 13 times for 28 more. But his starting debut got off to an inauspicious start when he couldn’t handle a first-quarter snap and then couldn’t fall on the ball before Norfolk State’s Lynden Trail did.

“I’ve got to be able to see the ball into my hands. No snap’s really that bad,” Collins said. “I didn’t see the ball and I kind of kicked it around.”

That set up the Spartans’ second field goal and put Maine in an early 6-0 hole. Collins didn’t let the early-game jitters linger, though.

On the final play of the first quarter, he found tailback Nigel Jones for his first completion, which resulted in a 16-yard gain and the Black Bears’ initial first down. Soon Collins was rolling out of the pocket, and finding wide receivers Jordan Dunn for 14 yards and John Hardy for nine. Finally he faked a handoff to Nigel Beckford, drifted to his left and spotted Damarr Aultman open in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown that was all the Black Bears would need.

It was a play Maine had run successfully in practice.

“I saw the inside coverage. I rolled out and I knew I was throwing it to him,” Collins said of his first collegiate touchdown pass. “Damarr was going to run a great route. He’s a great receiver, so it was a big play for us.”

There were very few others. By the second half, Maine was content to hand the ball to Jones, a workhorse who picked up 67 tough yards on 25 carries. With the Black Hole swarming, it became a matter of just chewing up enough clock without coughing up the football.

“It wasn’t what I expected or what I would have liked, but we had to do what we had to do,” Jones said. “We have to get better and help out the defense more because they definitely held us down today.”

NOTES: Goncalves, a junior who recorded 101 tackles last year, and senior wide receiver Arthur Williams did not suit up for Maine. They were suspended one game for an unspecified code of conduct violation that occurred in January. … Norfolk State safety Keenan Lambert was ejected in the third quarter after being flagged for targeting Hardy after an incomplete pass. … Kozlakowski’s shoulder injury was particularly worrisome to Cosgrove. Kozlakowski was being checked by doctors after the game and no prognosis was available. Kozlakowski missed last season because of a ruptured bicep. … Maine has a bye next weekend before traveling to face Bryant on Sept. 13.

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