Delone Carter scored four touchdowns and Syracuse overcame Maine's bag of tricks to beat the Black Bears 41-24 on Saturday night.
It was the second straight win for the Orange (2-2) and it put them at .500 for the first time in three years, a span of 35 games.
Maine (2-2) made it interesting, though, flawlessly executing two onside kicks and two fake punts, and led 17-13 at halftime. The Black Bears, who were hurt by 17 penalties for 132 yards, failed to score again until the final minute.
Carter caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and scored three times in the second half on runs of 9, 5 and 3 yards to rally the Orange.
Greg Paulus finished 21-for-28 for 270 yards and two touchdowns for Syracuse, including a pretty 17-yarder to Marcus Sales to give the Orange a 27-17 lead late in the third.
Warren Smith was 24-for-35 for 305 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and Landis Williams had 102 yards receiving, including scoring catches of 56 and 14 yards to lead Maine.
Syracuse began the season with three straight games against the Big Ten, one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, and in this decade, the Orange had played and defeated only two teams from college football's second tier before Maine came to town.
The Black Bears are accustomed to moving up in class _ this is the sixth consecutive season Maine has played an Football Bowl Subdivision team _ and though the Black Bears had yet to win when they entered the Carrier Dome, they had to create quite a stir in the Syracuse locker room after building 17-13 lead and outgaining Syracuse 256-149 in the first half.
Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said his team would have to play its best and hope Syracuse would struggle. He never mentioned trick plays, but the Black Bears caught Syracuse napping twice in the first half and again early in the third quarter.
Maine was shaky at the outset, getting called for four penalties on the first eight plays from scrimmage. Three infractions on their first possession pinned the Black Bears at their 8 and Syracuse's Mike Jones returned a short punt to the Maine 31.
The Orange quickly took advantage as Paulus hit Carter with a scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone. Carter made a juggling catch on his knees after Paulus almost ran out of options on a scramble.
Maine quickly got untracked and stunned Syracuse by scoring twice in an 11-second span, and the Orange were lucky it wasn't more.
The Black Bears had to settle for Jordan Waxman's 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter after they were whistled for a false start on a fourth-and-1 play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Waxman executed a perfect onside kick, recovering it himself at the Maine 44. Smith, a transfer from Iona making his first start for Maine, then took the first snap and hit Williams in stride near the Syracuse 10. Williams outfought Nico Scott for the ball and scored to make it 10-7 early in the second.
Syracuse tied it 10-10 less than 4 minutes later on Ryan Lichtenstein's 28-yard field goal, but the Black Bears kept on tricking.
On a fourth-and-1 play late in the second from his own 26, quarterback Mike Brusko took the snap in punt formation and completed a 35-yard pass to a wide-open Desmond Randall.
Five plays later, Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue deflected Smith's 14-yard pass as it traveled toward the end zone, but Williams made a sliding catch to give the Black Bears a shocking 17-10 lead.
Hogue secured his revenge late in the third, intercepting Smith and returning it to the Maine 10 to set up Carter's third score.