BROOKLINE, Mass. — Ever since training camp began, the University of Maine’s backup quarterback job was up for grabs between sophomores Warren Smith and Chris Treister of Cape Elizabeth.
As of Saturday, Smith has earned the nod — and is likely to be more like quarterback 1A.
The sophomore transfer completed 10 of 13 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown to help the Black Bears grind out a 17-7 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Northeastern at rainy Parsons Field.
Smith, who accepted a scholarship from UMaine after Iona College dropped its football program last November, provided the strong throwing arm that has been missing with senior starter Mike Brusko.
“Mike’s the starter, he’s going to be the starter,” Smith said. “I just come in and change it up a little bit, throw the ball around a little bit.”
Brusko took 43 snaps at quarterback, while Smith was in for 16 plays from scrimmage. UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove said the Bears had planned to use both players against the Huskies (0-2, 0-1 CAA).
“Warren, he’s too talented [not to play]. You see what he can do,” Cosgrove said.
Brusko, the poised field leader, finished with 39 rushing yards on 12 carries and was 5-for-7 passing good for 11 yards. He was sacked three times.
Smith’s 47-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Landis Williams on a post pattern with 5:34 left in the third quarter gave the Bears (2-0, 1-0 CAA) some breathing room in a hard-fought contest.
“Warren threw a great ball. I just tried to make a play,” said Williams, who missed the opener with a broken hand.
Smith, who had one carry for five yards, also was intercepted once and had a low shotgun snap ricochet off his leg, resulting in a fumble. However, his presence was key for the Bears.
“We talked about a 2-to-1 rotation,” Cosgrove said of the plan to use Brusko for two series and Smith for one. “We got to the second half, we went 1-to-1.”
Sophomore tailback Derek Session was again the workhorse in the UMaine backfield. He netted 114 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.
The Bears were again without sophomore fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston, who was held out for the second straight week with a groin injury.
UMaine made things interesting, committing three of its four turnovers in the final 10½ minutes.
“Obviously, we didn’t finish the game the way we wanted to, turning the ball over in the fourth quarter,” Cosgrove said.
Northeastern hung tough behind its opportunistic defense. Outside linebacker Jason Vega blocked a field-goal try and a punt and recovered a fumble.
The Huskies were limited with backup quarterback Matt Carroll. They rushed for 166 yards, led by tailback John Griffin (18 carries, 85 yds.,), but redshirt freshman Carroll passed for only 112 yards (15-for-24) and was intercepted twice.
Starter Alex Dulski sat out with an injury.
Northeastern also was plagued by penalties (10 for 117 yards), including seven holding calls. UMaine had seven penalties for 126 yards, but worked around them.
Redshirt freshman safety Trevor Coston had both interceptions for UMaine and was in on four tackles. Junior Ryan McCrossan stepped in after a leg injury to starting linebacker Mark Masterson and posted 7½ tackles.
The Bears surrendered an early TD run on an end-around, but were able to turn back the Huskies’ later threats. UMaine twice halted NU inside the 15-yard line in the last five minutes.
“We made adjustments through the coaches and we just kept gaining momentum from everything that happened, from the interception, from big plays in the backfield and sacks,” Coston said.
UMaine took a 10-7 lead into halftime after Jordan Waxman’s 40-yard field-goal attempt blocked on the last play of the second quarter. Smith went 8-for-8 (62 yards) on the drive that set up the try.
Coston’s first interception of Carroll helped set up UMaine’s go-ahead score. The Bears went 42 yards in nine plays, with Brusko completing a key 9-yard pass to Williams on fourth down to keep the drive moving at the NU 22.
Session carried on three of the Bears’ last four plays, including a 1-yard scoring plunge with 8:13 left in the half.
UMaine jumped out to a 3-0 lead on its opening possession, sparked by Session’s 39-yard jaunt on the first play. Waxman capped the five-play drive with a 37-yard field goal.
Northeastern got on the board on its second possession after Darryl Jones recovered a Session fumble, forced by Mike Lukenda, at the UM 33.
On the next play, wide receiver Greg Abelli lined up wide to the right, but came around to the left and took a handoff 33 yards for a touchdown with 8:02 left in the first quarter.
UMaine returns to action Saturday with a 4 p.m. nonconference game at Albany.