ORONO — Same stuff, different year.
The University of Maine football team went through a spirited intrasquad scrimmage on a gorgeous late-summer Tuesday afternoon at Alfond Stadium.
With the Black Bears’ season opener against Bryant University a mere 10 days away, the starting quarterback job is — again — still up for grabs.
For the second straight season, the combatants are fellow seniors Warren Smith and Chris Treister.
“We wanted to see if we could make this one the (tide)-turner,” UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said of the scrimmage.
The pair had dueled it out prior to last season before Smith, a transfer from Iona, was named the starter on Aug. 29, 2010.
That could mean Sunday will be decision day for Cosgrove and offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin. Yet, there’s no definitive timetable.
“It’s one of those things that we’ve been talking about on a regular basis,” Cosgrove said. “We want to make the right decision, do the right thing at the right time.”
Smith, from Forked River, N.J., appeared to be the more effective quarterback during Tuesday’s scrimmage. He overcame a 1-for-6 start in the passing department and completed 14 of 23 passes (13 of his last 17) for 159 yards.
That included a 29-yard touchdown pass to fifth-year wide receiver Roosevelt Boone. Smith was sacked three times, but was not intercepted.
“I think overall I’ve felt pretty comfortable,” Smith said. “I’ve felt good. I feel healthy, that’s the main thing.”
Treister, a Cape Elizabeth resident who played at Portland High School, competed 10 of 16 throws for 65 yards. He was intercepted once, by sophomore linebacker Shawn Bodtmann, and was sacked twice.
The two quarterbacks alternated working with the starting offense and the second unit.
“I thought both of them had good things, both of them had some bad things out here today,” Cosgrove said.
“At times, their teammates didn’t help them,” he added. “They throw the ball on the money, it gets dropped, or they don’t protect and there’s a sack. The evaluation of that is something that we need to be real thorough with and the tape is kind of a sanctuary for that.”
Smith, who stressed that he, Treister and the rest of the Black Bears are worried more about winning as a team than their individual situations, is nonetheless anxious to find out who will start.
“This competition’s good, because it makes us bring our ‘A’ game to the table every day,” Smith said. “Overall, that brings our offense to a higher level of play.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he added. All we want to do is win. That’s all we care about right now.”
The defensive unit had the better of the play during the scrimmage, but junior wide receiver Maurice McDonald (five catches, 40 yards) and redshirt freshman wideout Damarr Aultman (5 rec., 47 yds) were able to get open on the outside.
The defense held the run game pretty well in check, limiting No. 1 tailback Pushaun Brown to 44 yards on nine carries and Terrel Walker to 46 yards on 14 attempts. Redshirt freshman David Hood (2 att., 3 yds.) left the scrimmage early with a toe ailment.
“I think the scrimmage was a reality check,” McDonald said. “I think the defense did a great job. They showed why they’re ‘The Black Hole.’”
The defense was led by the likes of redshirt freshman linebacker Arron Achey and junior transfer linebacker Sam Shipley, both of whom were in on a half-dozen tackles. Junior linebacker Troy Eastman, redshirt freshman cornerback Patrick Pascal and sophomore safety Troy Eastman were in on four tackles apiece.
“I’m very excited,” Achey said. “Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do yet.”
On special teams, redshirt freshman Jeff Ondish performed a little extra place-kicking duty Tuesday with junior Brian Harvey nursing a hamstring strain.
Ondish, the backup punter and place-kicker, came on during the Bears’ overtime drill with the second offensive unit facing a fourth-and-13 from the 28-yard line. After a couple of slaps in the leg from holder Smith, Ondish drilled a 45-yard field goal.
‘Meet the Black Bears’ event Wednesday night
The UMaine football team will take a break from its busy preseason workout schedule Wednesday night to conduct its annual “Meet the Black Bears” event.
The function, held in conjunction with the Friends of Maine Football booster group, will run from 6-8 p.m. at Alfond Stadium. It will feature a free youth football clinic with UMaine coaches and players, who will autograph free posters. All participants also will be treated to a free barbecue.
To register, contact Kate Stoess at 581-1086 or via email at Katherine.Stoess@umit.maine.edu(.)