There is plenty of frustration and disappointment among the players on the University of Maine football team, but they aren’t going into panic mode.
The Black Bears are looking to regroup this week after host Albany rallied to score 17 fourth-quarter points Saturday and eke out a 20-16 victory.
UMaine, which dropped out of the top 25, needs to look back only as far as last season, when the Bears started 2-3 but won six straight games to earn an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth.
Senior tri-captain Mike Brusko said the onus is on UMaine’s veterans to demonstrate maturity and help the team bounce back.
“It’s only one loss, it’s the third game of the season, so we can turn things around if we make that decision,” Brusko said, “but it’s going to take a whole lot of focus, a whole lot of pride and a lot of heart.”
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears (2-1) seemed to fall victim to their relative youth against the Great Danes, playing a strong first half before having a lackluster second half for the second straight week.
“We realize that we’ve got a lot of inexperienced players out there and we’ve got to keep grinding in those areas, work-wise,” Cosgrove said.
The offense was ineffective during the second half Saturday. The Bears couldn’t keep their run game moving (53 yards) and the passing attack (6-for-14, 30 yards) was spotty.
Cosgrove accepted blame for UMaine’s conservative play-calling after intermission, when the offense was unable to execute efficiently.
“I think we felt out of sorts,” he said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t coming off the football. We weren’t doing the things you need to do to put a team away.”
The Bears again alternated series between QBs Brusko and sophomore Warren Smith.
Brusko directed both of UMaine’s scoring first-half scoring drives, which featured the strong running of sophomore tailbacks Derek Session and Roosevelt Boone, respectively. The second included a 15-yard scoring toss from Brusko to Landis Williams.
Brusko, who took 41 of the 73 snaps (56 percent), rushed for 19 yards on 10 carries and completed four of six passes for 29 yards. The Bears scored 14 points and netted 142 yards with him in the game (seven possessions).
Smith ran 32 plays and picked up 17 yards on eight carries. He went 8-for-16 passing with 67 yards and an interception. UMaine gained 85 yards with him at the helm.
The pressure on the quarterbacks has been increased by a young offensive line and the absence of dynamic fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston, UMaine’s leading rusher and receiver last season.
Cosgrove confirmed Saturday what Turcotte had published on his Twitter page last Thursday, that the sophomore has been told he needs surgery to repair an injury. The specifics of the condition have not been disclosed, but it is believed to be in the groin area.
UMaine athletics spokesman Andrew Mahoney said Monday more information about Turcotte’s situation likely would be forthcoming today. Turcotte has missed the first three games of the season after being sidelined during training camp.
The Bears continue to groom an offensive line that on Saturday included three redshirt freshman starters in left guard Chris Howley, center Garret Williamson and right tackle Matt Spearrin of Limington.
Sophomore guard Steve Shea of Corinna missed the game with an ankle injury.
Cosgrove said UMaine realizes this offense is not equipped to operate like last year’s group and is re-evaluating the situation in terms of personnel and play-calling.
“We’re probably trying to do right now more than we’re quite capable of doing,” Cosgrove said during Monday’s Colonial Athletic Association conference call.
“We’ve got to cut some things back and focus in on the things that we’re doing well and reduce our play book a little bit,” he explained, “because we’re just not performing the way we’re capable of, especially in pressure situations or close-out-game situations.”
The Bears’ defense, which was without starting senior linebacker Mark Masterson (ankle/foot injury), seemed to wear down in the second half.
UMaine, which also lost backup middle linebacker and long snapper Ryan McCrossan to an injury in the game, had its back against the wall often.
“We put our defense in a terrible situation in the fourth quarter,” Cosgrove said, “and a group that had been playing well throughout the course of the game ended up feeling the brunt of the heat.”
UMaine is preparing for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Big East member Syracuse (1-2) at the Carrier Dome.