ORONO, Maine -- The University of Maine football locked up its second straight Atlantic 10 Football Conference Championship, and retained possession of the Brice-Cowell Musket, with a 31-14 win over the University of New Hampshire, Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
The victory all but assures the Black Bears (10-2, 7-2 Atlantic 10) of their second consecutive at-large berth in the NCAA I-AA playoffs, when the 16-team bracket is unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m. on ESPNEWS.
The 10-win season is the first in program history.
"The goal today was to get the Brice-Cowell Musket," said UMaine Head Coach Jack Cosgrove, referring to the trophy that goes to the winner of the annual football meeting between UMaine and UNH. "Now our goal is a bigger trophy."
The Black Bears won the Brice-Cowell Musket, thanks largely to a ground game that amassed 223 yards. Sophomore Marcus Williams (Amherst, Mass.) logged 96 yards on 105 carries, while Onyi Momah (Greenlawn, N.Y.) had 48 yards on six carries.
"We knew coming into the game that New Hampshire didn't have a great run defense," said Williams. "We wanted to make things easy for (Jon) Meczywor."
Guiding the offense was sophomore Jon Meczywor (Lanesboro, Mass.), who completed just seven of 20 passing attempts for 72 yards, however two of those completions were for touchdowns. Meczywor was tapped as the starter after injuries last weekend to senior Jake Eaton (Rutland, Vt.) and freshman Chris Legree (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
"We got enough offense to do the job," said Cosgrove. "This (Meczywor) is a tough kid that got no reps, and all of a sudden he's the guy."
Tight end Danny Fusco (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) pulled in the two TD passes, for nine and six yards respectively. Freshman Ryan Waller (Chester, Va.) pulled in a pair of passes for 37 yards, and Christian Pereira (Bronx, N.Y.) had two receptions for nine yards.
The Wildcats (3-8, 2-7) held a 7-3 lead after the first quarter, but UMaine pulled ahead on Meczywor's first TD hookup with Fusco with 9:41 remaining in the half. Momah scored on a 33-yard touchdown run with just 4:26 left on the clock, and UMaine went into the lockerroom at halftime with a 17-7 lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Black Bears began to pull away from UNH in the fourth.
Fusco made the score 24-7 in the Bears' favor after pulling in a six yard scoring strike from Meczywor.
New Hampshire's Mike Granieri completed 13 of 38 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Taylor caught four passes for 88 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats.
The two teams traded touchdowns in final nine minutes of the game, but the Wildcats could get no closer to the Black Bears.