In 2007, Jared Turcotte won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the top senior football player in the state of Maine.
Saturday night, the former Lewiston High School star had a breakout performance for the University of Maine.
With senior tailback Jhamal Fluellen sidelined by a shoulder injury, the redshirt freshman showed he is capable of giving the Black Bears a potent backfield presence.
Turcotte carried 11 times for 82 yards (7.5 yards per carry) in UMaine’s 24-10 loss to No. 2 James Madison. He also caught two passes for 27 yards.
“We were really able to kind of just ride him a lot,” said Bears quarterback Adam Farkes. “He was making plays. He was making first downs for us, helping us move the ball. He played real well.”
Turcotte, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week, enjoyed the opportunity to carry the ball again. His role as an H-back, a hybrid fullback/tight end, has been mostly as a blocker and pass receiver.
“I didn’t really expect to get as many touches as I did, but my coaches have confidence in me and I’m going to show them I can get the job done and just take advantage of any opportunities that they’ll give me,” said the 6-foot-2, 232-pounder.
“I give all the credit to the offensive line and all the blocking,” he added. “Anybody could have run when their blockers are [playing] like that.”
Turcotte, who shared the workload with classmate and fellow H-back Derek Session (4 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 32 yards), demonstrated power and persistence as he bulled through the James Madison defense.
“His role will increase, obviously, with the loss of others,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “I thought both Jared and Derek Session really had outstanding football games.”
With Cosgrove’s tone seeming to indicate Fluellen may be sidelined indefinitely, Turcotte and Session may well become the Bears’ primary ballcarriers. That means adjusting the offensive game plan to accommodate their talents — and lack of experience.
“The thing that’s frustrating is these are first-year players and a lot of the mistakes they make can be more catastrophic during the course of a game,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve got to simplify and really make it so our young men in these positions are going to be very successful on Saturdays.”
Onside kick elicits discussion
The decision by the UMaine coaching staff to attempt a second onside kick early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to James Madison was a popular topic among Bears fans.
Cosgrove reiterated his belief that UMaine needs to take some risks in order to have a chance to beat a team the caliber of James Madison, which is now the top-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“We had had a difficult time in the red zone and moving the football against them and I didn’t think that was going to change,” Cosgrove said.
“It was just one of things we felt we had to do. You have to be aggressive in your thinking and your play and also take some shots and chances. We did and this one didn’t come out the way we wanted it to.”
Cosgrove said freshman Jordan Waxman’s popover kick, which was supposed to land behind the front line of JMU’s kick return unit, simply didn’t go far enough. As a result, the Bears were whistled for interfering with the Dukes’ opportunity to field a free kick.
Waxman successfully executed a “bunt” onside kick in the first half. On that play, he grounds the ball straight ahead on the ground and attempts to fall on it himself when it has gone the required 10 yards.
UMaine senior Lamir Whetstone supports Cosgrove and the staff making such calls.
“I think that’s very exciting for us as players when you we see the coaches have the confident in us to be extra aggressive in special teams, offense and defense,” he said. “It lets us know that they believe in us and they’re putting all their faith in that particular play. I think they did the right things by calling those plays.”
UMaine looks to regroup
The Black Bears are hoping to rest up and regroup this week as they head into a bye weekend.
UMaine next plays Oct. 11 at No. 16 Delaware, which will be the Bears’ third consecutive top-20 opponent after games against then-No. 2 Richmond and now-No. 1 JMU.
“We’re going to be well-served by the bye week in terms of something that we have to do internally to build,” Cosgrove said. “I think it’s a great challenge for us. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves the last couple weeks. It has had a significant impact on the growth and personality of this team for the better.”