The ability to respond to adversity is one of those intangible qualities that separates championship teams from middle-of-the-pack teams.
The University of Maine football team continues to demonstrate resilience and the ability to respond to challenges by opponents as it continues its climb in the Football Championship Subdivision rankings.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears are back in both major national polls, earning the No. 21 spot in The Sports Network Poll and the No. 23 position in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, after knocking off then-No. 13 Massachusetts last weekend in Amherst.
UMaine is relishing the chance to be playing in November with something important (a possible postseason berth) riding on the outcome.
“It’s new territory for us and certainly we’re not going to try to pretend we’ve got a lot of experience with it,” Cosgrove said. “But it is exciting, that’s for sure and it’s nice to see the synergy in the guys as they move through this successful period that we’ve had here.”
The most recent example of the Bears’ resolve came Saturday after the Minutemen, playing on their home field, scored 14 unanswered points to open the second half. Those touch-downs tied the game 14-14 and seemed to turn the momentum in UMass’ favor.
Instead, the Bears shook off the first interception of the season by quarterback Mike Brusko, which set up the Minutemen’s game-tying drive. UMaine rode the dominating play of its offensive line to a 12-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6 minutes, 42 seconds.
A 3-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston, and Jordan Waxman’s PAT kick, gave the Bears the margin of victory.
“We’ve talked a lot this year, what makes a good team is how you respond,” Brusko said. “You always hear people say, it’s not how you act when times are good, it’s how you respond when things aren’t going so well, so that was huge for us.”
The Bears stuck with the game plan and showed no signs of panic and they went back to executing with the same effective play mix that had enabled them to dominate the first half.
“It was a huge drive. It was huge for everybody’s confidence just to put us back on top,” Brusko added.
The experience and leadership provided by UMaine’s senior class has been instrumental in making sure the Bears don’t wilt when confronted with challenges in key situations.
The Bears have shown their intestinal fortitude on several occasions, which has enabled them to win two key road contests against ranked opponents in Delaware and UMass.
“[UMass] came out storming in the second half, tied it up, and we really were at a critical point of response,” Cosgrove said. “I thought we anted up pretty good and had a nice 73-yard touchdown drive to take the lead early in the fourth quarter and kind of withstood the frenzy at the end and got a great win for our program.”
UMaine is preparing for Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association game at Rhode Island.
UM baseball to read in schools
Members of the UMaine baseball team embark today on a monthlong reading program in Bangor-area schools.
Coach Steve Trimper said several members of the squad will visit Fruit Street Elementary School in Bangor today and Friday and will spend time reading books to the children in grades K through 3.
“Everybody sees these guys as athletes all the time, but we’re trying to give something back to the community,” Trimper said. “The kids are going to talk about baseball and going to college and that the reason they’re able to go to college is they can read.”
Six student-athletes will be at Fruit Street today from 1-2 p.m. and then a group of 12 players will be there from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Friday.
Trimper said the UMaine baseball team will continue its reading effort in the Orono-Old Town area later this month and next month.