The University of Maine football team has moved into preparations for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Colonial Athletic Association home game against longtime rival Massachusetts.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears had a bye last week, which gave them time to rest injured players and seek better execution and performance.
“We’ve just been working on trying to make improvements in our areas of concern,” he said. “It’s been productive.”
The most obvious missing ingredient in recent weeks has been the run game. The transition under sophomore quarterback Warren Smith has meant good production through the air, but the ground game has been ineffective.
“He [Smith] gave us an opportunity to do more, to diversify our offense and to be more problematic for opponents,” Cosgrove said. “Unfortunately, along with that came a bit of a transition, run to pass.”
Cosgrove said the theme of bye week practices was to get the run game back on track. That means polishing the play on the offensive line and getting tailbacks Derek Session, Roosevelt Boone and Pushaun Brown room to run and the chance to develop a rhythm.
“We need to improve our run game productivity,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine ranks third in passing offense with 209.6 yards per game, but the Bears are an uncharacteristic 10th in rushing (125.1 ypg). They’re eighth in total offense at 334.7 ypg.
Cosgrove said the key is executing well while providing a good play-calling mix that will keep opponents off-balance.
“You don’t want to become one-dimensional,” he said. “We’re concerned about that, working hard at it and hoping that through the growth of the inexperience that we have up front in doing both run and pass that we’re going to get better as the season moves along.”
Turcotte shut down for season
Cosgrove revealed during Monday’s CAA coaches conference call that fullback Jared Turcotte will not return to the field this season.
The bruising sophomore from Lewiston had surgery Sept. 21 to repair a lower abdominal injury and will sit out the remainder of 2009.
“We’re not going to see him this year, but the prognosis for the future’s real good for him,” Cosgrove said. “We miss him and certainly look forward to him coming back with us.”
Turcotte, an All-CAA first-team fullback and a second-team All-American, was UMaine’s offensive catalyst in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder rushed for a team-high 625 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 285 yards and a TD.
Masterson may return for 2010
Mark Masterson, who has been out of action since suffering an ankle injury during the Sept. 12 game at Northeastern, may wind up applying for a medical redshirt during the offseason.
The senior linebacker was a key cog in the Bears defense before his injury, but has been unable to practice regularly or get back into a game. He is receiving daily treatment.
“We’re going to find out how he gets through these two weeks,” said Cosgrove, who conceded Masterson probably won’t be able to play this fall.
“We haven’t got to that point yet,” Cosgrove said of the decision to have Masterson apply for a redshirt. He meets the criteria if he doesn’t play again.”
Under NCAA rules, Division I student-athletes have five years to complete four years of athletic eligibility once they have begun classes as a freshman. Masterson enrolled at UMaine in 2006 and began playing as a freshman.
UMaine club team wins division
The UMaine club football team improved to 5-0 Saturday with a 14-0 victory over the Northeastern Wolverines of Nashua, N.H., at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
The Black Bears have clinched the New England Football League 2 East Division title and have earned the right to host a divisional playoff game Nov. 14 on Morse Field.
The UMaine club squad travels to Thompson, Conn., for Sunday’s game against the 4-0 Connecticut Spartans. The winner is likely to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the NEFL2 and gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.