ORONO — With Division I Syracuse and four nationally-ranked FCS foes, including the defending national champion, on its schedule, 19th ranked Maine knew it’s 2009 knew it would face many road blocks on the journey back to the post-season.
The Black Bears probably never figured Division II St. Cloud State would try to put up the first road block before they even got out of the driveway.

St. Cloud threw a scare into Maine in its season-opener. Maine finally emerged with a 34-27 victory in overtime, but coach Jack Cosgrove knows his team still has a lot to address before Maine opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule at Northeastern a week from Saturday.

“I told guys that that team reminded me of Maine teams in the past that has gone into places like Mississippi State and Nebraska,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. “They played very well.”

“There’s nothing to be said here about us not showing up to play. We did not disrespect them,” he added.

“Assignment football is where we kind of fell short a little bit today, but we got it corrected and got the win,” said senior defensive end Jordan Stevens of Temple.

Playing without All-American sophomore fullback Jared Turcotte (strained groin), Maine won the toss and elected to start the extra session with the ball at the 25-yard line. Alternating runs by QB Mike Brusko and running back Derek Session got the Bears to the 1, where Brusko pushed it in on a QB sneak for the seven-point cushion.
St. Cloud State reached the 6 before an incomplete pass into the end zone by senior QB Mitch Watkins set up fourth-and-4.

Watkins rolled left looking for junior wide receiver Fred Williams, who drew a double team after burning the secondary for much of the night. With his top target covered, Watkins opted for the middle of the end zone, where he overthrew his receiver.

St. Cloud State drove 50 yards in 1:46 to send the game into overtime on a Tyler Aldridge 30-yard field goal. Watkins completed four passes to Williams, including a 24-yard toss on 4th-and-15 to keep the drive alive.

“We didn’t put a lot of heat on the quarterback,” Cosgrove said. “They won a lot of one-on-one battles in the passing game,” Cosgrove said.

“When we were in our base defense we were having a little trouble, and we had trouble containing (Watkins ),” Stevens said.
Maine took the lead briefly near the end of the fourth quarter, marching 80 yards on 14 plays. Session made a nice second effort to push through a stack of tacklers at the goal line and finish off a 10-yard scoring run that made it 27-24 Black Bears with 1:59 left.

“We felt like physically, we finally found a way,” Cosgrove said. “I think as the game wore on our players up front got better and perhaps wore them down.”

Only Maine’s special teams looked sharp in the first half. Desmond Randall answered a St. Cloud State first quarter field goal with an 80-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff..

“We’ve been practicing it since probably Day 1 of camp,” Randall said. “I told myself and told myself the first kick return of the year I was going to score.”

Maine’s offense, meanwhile, sputtered through its first three series, going three and out in each. The second possession ended prematurely on a Brusko fumble that set up St. Cloud State at the Maine 33. The Huskies used quick hitters in the passing game to drive to the 8, then Brandon Geiss squirted up the middle to the end zone to make it 10-7 with 13:14 remaining in the half.

Stevens and linebacker Brandon McLaughlin gave the Bears a spark when the latter strip-sacked Watkins and the former pounced on the ball at the St. Cloud 40. Session ran the Bears to their first two first downs midway through the second quarter to set up a 30-yard Waxman field goal that tied the game at 10-10.

Maine had to scramble to take the lead before intermission. Brusko was sacked on third-and-long, so Waxman and the rest of Maine’s field goal unit had to hustle onto the field with the clock ticking for a 39-yard try. The kick split the uprights just before the halftime horn to give the Black Bears a tenuous 13-10 edge.

“There were a lot of things to look back at that were so critical to the outcome of this football game and that was one of them,” Cosgrove said.

U Maine’s Steve Shea, left, keeps St. Cloud’s Josh Popanda from getting a grip on quarterback Mike Brusko in the first half of their game Thursday in Orno.

Desmond Randall leaves St. Cloud’s Chris Key, left, and Tony Kubes behind as he runs for Maine’s first touchdown on a 80 yard kick return in the first half Thursday.

The ball heads straight for St. Cloud’s Fred Williams and Maine’s Dominic Cusano in the first half of their game Thursday. Neither caught the pass intended for Williams.

University of Maine’s Mike Brusko looks to get past St. Cloud University’s Gyangelo Bradden with a quarterback keeper in the first half of their game Thursday in Orno.

Desmond Randall gets caught by Minnesota’s Tony Kubes, bottom, and Justin MacPherson in the first half of their game Thursday.

rsity of Maine’s Jerron McMillian takes down Minnesota’s Fred Williams just shy of the end zone in the first half of their game.

Maine’s Jordan Stevens mixes it up with Scott Ferguson during their first half thursday in Orno.


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