The Saints didn’t heed the warnings from coach Juwuane Sandridge — warnings that Maret would still be looking for a game in the second half despite trailing by 24 points.
Instead, Saint James came out flat in the second half, and the Frogs did indeed creep back into the game, just as Sandridge said they might.
But big plays in the fourth quarter by Garrett Blank on defense and Nick Hubbard on offense righted the ship and helped the Saints seal a 37-17 win over the Frogs in a Mid-Atlantic Conference game on Saturday.
The Saints had a seemingly comfortable 31-7 edge at halftime, but didn’t take Sandridge at his word.
“I told the guys that (Maret) wasn’t done, that they would come out and fight in the second half,” Sandridge said. “I guess they had to see it to believe it. You know how kids can be sometimes.”
The Saints (4-4, 1-3) staked themselves to the halftime lead with a couple of big plays in the first quarter and sustained drives in the second.
Saint James also protected the ball in the first half, but a fumble and an interception on back-to-back possessions in the third led to a 23-yard field goal by Sam Appleby and a 1-yard touchdown run by Mario Tornillo that pulled Maret to within 31-17 through three quarters.
The Saints’ offense, which gained nearly 250 yards in the first half, continued to sputter in the second half as Scott Manesh threw his second interception early in the fourth quarter.
The Frogs (3-5, 0-3) moved the ball inside the Saint James 15 as Tornillo connected with Tre Bowens for gains of 23 and 21 yards. But Bowens was called for offensive pass interference — which includes a loss of down — on a third-down play from the 13.
On fourth down from the 28, Tornillo dropped back to pass and was buried from his blind side by Blank to give possession back to the Saints. It was one of five sacks on the day for Blank and all were clear shots on Tornillo from the blind side.
“That’s his total for the year,” Sandridge said. “Five sacks for the day? He has five for the year. He’s always quick off the ball, but he had a good matchup today and he took full advantage. And that one came at a perfect time.”
Three plays later, Nick Hubbard took a handoff from Manesh and quickly broke free, tearing down the Maret sideline for a 71-yard touchdown that pushed the lead back to 20 points for the Saints.
Hubbard, who usually plays out of a receiver slot, finished with 109 yards on 11 carries.
“That was a huge run by Nick,” Sandridge said. “I don’t have him in the backfield often, but I saw something there that we could use. I knew he was going to break one eventually. I just wished it had come 10 runs earlier.”
Manesh completed 13 of 18 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns for the Saints, with much of that yardage coming in the first half.
He hit Sherman Harris for a 67-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 10-yard score in the second. Hubbard also caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Noah Cisse started the ball rolling for the Saints by returning the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. He also scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter.
“I’m really happy for the guys. This was our first MAC win in two years and they’ve worked really hard off of a couple big losses,” Sandridge said. “I’m very happy for them.”