Tailback Doug Dorsey and wide receiver Chris Gsell, players who 10 days ago did not figure prominently in Maine's plans, each played outstandingly today as the Black Bears spoiled Howard's season debut, 35-12, before an estimated crowd of 6,400 at Alumni Stadium.
Dorsey, a freshman from Marlton, N.J., who started because Maine's top two tailbacks are hurt, rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries as Maine won its third game in as many tries against the Bison.
Gsell, a senior who had caught only two passes in three seasons, became a starter Friday when Dan Gordon injured his hip. Gsell caught five passes for 61 yards today, including one for a 17-yard touchdown.
"I didn't know what to expect myself," said Dorsey, who scored twice on one-yard runs and again on a 36-yard run. "We planned to throw more, but I guess the coach decided to go with what was working. On all three touchdowns, I went behind the blocks of our fullback, Todd McAniff. On the long touchdown, they (the Bison) had about nine guys up on the line and, once I got through, there was no one in front of me."
The Bison did not play much better today than in the last two seasons, when they totaled three victories. Although the game did not become a rout until the Black Bears scored twice in the last eight minutes, Howard showed little offense and demonstrated no improvement in its pass defense, which yielded 144 yards per game last year.
Maine's sophomore quarterback Bob Wilder, throwing out of the multiple-I offense of first-year Coach Eugene (Buddy) Teevans, completed 17 of 31 passes for 200 yards. In addition to the pass to Gsell that gave Maine a 14-3 lead with 1:10 remaining in the first half, he threw a 23-yard pass to Sergio Hebra that increased Maine's lead to 28-12 with 7:26 to go.
"We had a couple of players today who didn't hear all the calls," said Howard Coach Willie Jeffries. "A lot of the plays they made big yardage on, we had the right calls -- we just didn't execute. Last year, it was a lack of experience. This year, a lot of these players are sophomores and they shouldn't be making the same mistakes."
Howard's dive-option offense failed most of the day. The Bison had only senior Jon Nicolaisen's career-best 46-yard field goal to show in the first half.
Early in the second half, with the Black Bears leading by 14-3, a 47-yard drop-back pass from Leon Brown to Tyrone Prather gave the Bison a first down at the five, but the Bison settled for a 20-yard field goal. Jeffries blamed a mix-up on third and goal at the three for an incomplete pass.
Howard's only touchdown came on a drop-back pass. On a first down at the Howard 13, Brown threw to Tony McClain on a fly pattern down the left side for an 87-yard touchdown to make the score 21-12 with 9:39 remaining. Harvey Reed (101 yards on 15 carries) was stopped trying to run for the two-point conversion, and, about two minutes later, Wilder's touchdown pass to Hebra put the game out of reach.
Linebacker Mark Coutts of Maine said the Bison's offense varied little from that which the Bears had prepared for all week. "Our whole defense was designed around stopping the option, and we had everything covered," he said. "They never really did anything to surprise us."
Jeffries, who devised the dive-option offense, said the loss may change his thinking a little.
"We are going to stick with what we are doing," he said. "But with the way Leon Brown is throwing the ball, and with some people who can catch like Prather, maybe we will look at trying to throw more drop-back passes than we have been."