ORONO — Micah Wright was seething.

The University of Maine had just lost its third consecutive football game, 31-20 to James Madison – after leading 20-17 entering the fourth quarter.

As the team walked off, Wright, a sophomore wide receiver, turned to assistant coach Nick Charlton and said, “I’m done losing. We’re done losing.”

Now, nearly six weeks later, he adds, “I think we’ve had a pretty good run since.”

That they have. Maine has won five straight since that loss to climb into the Colonial Athletic Association race. And Wright, who missed the first two games of the season because of a suspension, has been at the forefront.

He is Maine’s leading receiver with 27 catches for 421 yards (15.6 yards) and five touchdowns. Wright also leads the CAA in punt returns with a 15.2 average, including a 67-yard return for the winning touchdown in last week’s 35-28 victory at William & Mary, a play that earned him CAA special teams player of the week.


“He just gives us a spark,” said Joe Harasymiak, Maine’s first-year head coach. “He’s a kid who absolutely loves football, he’s a high-level competitor and he’s just fun to watch.”

On Saturday, Maine (5-3, 4-1 CAA) plays Villanova (6-2, 4-1) at noon at Alfond Stadium. The two are among six CAA teams competing for four probable NCAA playoff spots. Maine is ranked 24th in the nation in the Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll. The Wildcats are ranked 14th (Athlon), 10th (STATS FCS) and 12th (FCS Coaches). They have the CAA’s top-ranked defense, allowing a league-best 15.9 points, 259.8 total yards and 96 rushing yards per game.

“They’re pretty good,” said Wright.

Wright, from Newark, New York, has been exceptional since rejoining the Black Bears. He was suspended for two games because of an incident that occurred in May at an off-campus party. Originally charged with disorderly conduct, the 20-year-old Wright admitted to a civil violation – illegally possessing alcohol – and paid a $300 fine in September.

The games he missed have gnawed at him.

“I was sitting in my house watching the games and was really angry with myself for not being on the field with my teammates and letting them down,” he said of Maine’s 24-21 loss at Connecticut and 45-3 loss at Toledo. “I think I matured as a man sitting out those two games and probably as a player, seeing how I let my team down, not being on the field and not knowing how it might have potentially cost us a game or two.


“I won’t ever know what would have happened if I was on the field and it drives me crazy to this day.”

Harasymiak said he saw a changed person when Wright returned. “He’s definitely matured,” he said. “And he realizes some mistakes he’s made.”

Wright led Maine in receiving a year ago so his success there isn’t a surprise. His contributions on special teams have been instrumental in Maine’s success.

In addition to scoring the winning touchdown last week on a punt return – Maine’s first punt return for a score since 2011 – Wright returned a punt 53 yards to set up a touchdown in a come-from-behind win over Bryant.

“He has great football instincts,” said Charlton, Maine’s special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. “He does a nice job seeing the game out there. And he does a good job reading his blocks. He’s a special talent and as a unit, we’ve made a big emphasis on punt returns.”

Last year Maine has some of the worst special teams in the CAA, averaging just 3.5 yards per punt return and 17.3 on kickoff returns. This year Maine is second in punt returns (12.1) and kickoff returns (23.5).


Wright was initially hesitant to return punts. Two years ago he suffered a separated left shoulder in his third game while returning a punt and received a medical redshirt.

“That was a hump I had to get over,” he said. “That’s kind of why I had trouble feeling comfortable doing it last year.”

But last spring and during training camp, Harasymiak and Charlton convinced Wright that he was the best returner they had. Now he embraces punt returns.

“Within each game is hidden yardage which actually can make or break the game,” said Wright. “In most cases if you win that hidden yardage, you have a better chance of winning the game. A lot of that comes from special teams.”

When the ball is punted to Wright, he takes a quick peek at the long snapper – to see how fast he’s gotten off the line – and then the gunners on the outside – to see how quickly they are closing on him. Then, he said, “I don’t worry about anything else except catching the ball and scoring.”

Charlton said catching a punt “is one of the hardest football things to do.”

But Wright is making it look easy.

“He’s just a playmaker,” said quarterback Dan Collins. “By his own athleticism and ability, he can turn nothing into something. And everyone on our team knows that.”

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