ORONO – The Maine Black Bears are who they thought they were, at least based on their season opener.

Maine’s special teams made a couple of big plays in the first half, then the defense shut down Monmouth in the fourth quarter and made Jhamal Fluellen’s 12-yard TD run with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter hold up for a 21-14 victory in the 2007 season opener at Morse Field.

Fluellen ran for 129 yards on 25 carries and sophomore QB Michael Brusko added 109 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries as Maine ate up 285 yards on the ground compared to 91 for Monmouth.

“We weren’t consistent in the first half,” Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove said. “The second half, maybe physcially we were able to get to them a little bit. We had the ball quite a bit “

With Brusko taking over the controls of their no-huddle spread formation, the Black Bears termed their offense a work in progress heading into the season, and they struggled in the passing game. (11-for-19, 84 yards, 1 interception).

But with an offensive line that averages 280 pounds per man, Maine held the ball for more than 36 minutes and was able to either wear down or just out-work, depending upon whom you ask, Monmouth’s smaller defensive front.

“The size of their offensive line against our defensive front definitely did (wear us down),” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said. “We were a little bit concerned about that going into the game.”

“Even with the size advantage we had, they played us very well,” said West Paris’ Jacob Folz, who started at left guard but had to move over to right tackle when starter Christopher Parcells limped off the field just before Fluellen’s game-winning TD run. “They rotated guys in, so I don’t know how much we wore them down as much as we kept playing our calls, kept doing our pull work, kept putting our head in the right places and just kept playing hard.”

Manzi Pierre set up Maine’s last score with a circus catch on the Black Bear sideline, tipping the ball in the air, spinning and then hauling it in inbounds for a first down at the Monmouth 12. Fluellen then busted up the middle and bounced off a couple of tacklers to give Maine the lead for good.

The defense buckled down after that, holding Monmouth without a first down and just 11 total yards of offense in the final 16 minutes.

Maine’s special teams started the game just as strongly. Lamir Whetstone fielded the opening kickoff at his own 19, burst through an opening at the 25, weaved his way through traffic near midfield, then turned on the speed again before getting dragged down at the Monmouth 22. Fluelllen and Brusko alternated carries on the next four plays until Brusko scored on an 8-yard keeper less than two minutes

Monmouth needed only five plays to tie it with its first possession on a 28-yard run by Dave Sinisi. Maine’s next drive stalled at the Hawks’ 25, but the Bears’ defense was able to maintain the advantageous field position with back-to-back three-and-outs, setting up their next big play in the kicking game, a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown by sophomore linebacker Mark Masterson with 3:25 to go in t he first quarter.

Monmouth punter Jack Daniels bobbled the snap and could just barely manage to boot the ball on a line drive just before Maine’s Jovan Belcher could get to him.

“It took a real nice bounce right into my hands and…there was a lot of daylight,” Masterson said. “I saw Jerron Pearson make a block for me and that was it.”

With the ball to start the second half, the Hawks needed just three plays to knot the game at 14. Brett Burke connected with Adam San Miguel, who beat Whetstone in one-one-one coverage on a post pattern, for a 58-yard scoring strike just 1:13 into the third quarter.

Maine notes: Jonathan Pirruccello of Turner started at nose tackle and registered an assist. Temple’s Jordan Stevens registered a tackle and an assist playing mostly special teams. Levi Ervin of Lisbon backed up at free safety and also collected a tackle and an assist. Livermore Falls’ Shawn Demaray drew the start at left tackle as the offensive line didn’t allow a sack. Lewiston’s Jared Turcotte dressed but did not see any action on the field…This was the first meeting ever between Maine and Monmouth. The Hawks were the 87th different opponent the Black Bears have faced…The Black Bears snapped a four-game losing streak in season-openers. Their last win to start a season came against Central Connecticut, 52-3, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland…Maine is now 62-49-5 in home openers and has won their last four. They beat Shaw, 62-12, in last year’s opener…Maine travels to Division I-A Connecticut next Saturday at 7 p.m. The Black Bears’ next home game will be Satuday, Sept. 22 at 2:30 p.m. against third-ranked UMass.

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