CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Lining up against a quintet of players that averaged nearly 6 feet, 6 inches and 300-plus pounds, the University of Maine defensive line faced a huge test Saturday.
The Black Bears, with a handful of new contributors, held their own in the 34-3 loss to Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
UMaine allowed 166 rushing yards and afforded BC 385 total yards, thanks in part to a front four led by Mike Cole. The junior end made five tackles, including two quarterback sacks, and also forced a fumble that led to the Bears’ only points of the day.
“I think Mike was, by far, our best player on the defensive side of the ball,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He had a real presence throughout the game.”
Experience was at a premium at the defensive tackle and nose guard spots, where graduate student David Toriola, who played at Marist, and redshirt freshman Matt Wilson made their UMaine debuts.
They were supported inside by senior Kris Enslen, a converted end working his way back from a nagging knee injury, along with redshirt freshman Trevor Bates of Westbrook (3 tackles), who also saw time at end.
Redshirt freshman end Mike Kozlakowski led the line unit with six tackles, including two for a loss, while junior end Erwin Roach and sophomore tackle Devin Clark also played.
Cole, an All-Colonial Athletic Association second-team pick last season, said taking on the big boys has benefits in the long run.
“It’s a real good experience to play against ACC linemen. It’s a different breed of a guy,” Cole said. “I feel like going against BC will get us a lot of experience and it will definitely will help us out with our next opponents.”
The UMaine group, which was more undersized than usual against BC’s big front five, gave Cosgrove reason for optimism after some initial trepidation.
“I liked our competitiveness in there,” Cosgrove said. “We were nervous, let’s face it.
“We measured up in some ways that I’m pleased with,” he added.
Cosgrove pointed out UMaine achieved better pressure on BC quarterback Chase Rettig than Miami had a week earlier. The Bears had six hits on the QB, including the two sacks, with Cole leading the charge.
“That was a real impressive thing that we saw from a very inexperienced defensive line, outside of Michael Cole,” Cosgrove said. “We had great production from two young players, Trevor Bates and Mike Kozlakowski at the end spots. And Matt Wilson, a first-time starter inside, really elevated his status with the team Saturday with his play — against a huge offensive line.”
Rettig, who threw for 441 yards against Miami, was only 16 of 32 for 219 yards (3 TDs) against UMaine.
The Black Bears were without sophomore tackle Matt Pellerin of Turner, who strained his left knee during training camp. UMaine hopes to have him back in the next two or three weeks.
The Black Bears expected to be tested by the Boston College defense, but Cosgrove came away believing his team could have performed much better.
Junior Marcus Wasilewski made his starting debut by completing 20 of 42 passes for 134 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
“I think Marcus played well in spots and not so well in others,” Cosgrove said. “It was a tough first game for a first-time starter at quarterback in regard to some of the things that he was facing when you play an ACC football team.”
The offensive line made sure Wasilewski was not sacked, but a lack of throwing accuracy and issues with the receivers conspired to hamper the passing game.
“It’s disappointing that we missed some throws,” Cosgrove said. “[I’m] disappointed that we didn’t make some plays that were there for us to make, whether it was the receiver or the quarterback on his read. It was not a real high-level-functioning pass game.”
UMaine just missed on a long throw on the first play of its second possession. Wasilewski dropped back and launched a pass of more than 50 yards to senior wideout Maurice McDonald, who got behind the secondary.
The ball, thrown with a stiff wind at Wasilewski’s back, barely eluded McDonald’s grasp.
“That was right on my fingertips,” McDonald said. “I should have laid out [dived] for it. It was a great ball by ‘Wash.’”
UMaine was 3 for 18 on third-down plays. Wasilewski, who had several balls batted down either at the line of scrimmage or in the secondary, credited the Eagles for their play.
“Their offensive line are some big dudes,” offered the 6-1 Wasilewski.
“When you’re coming down to your check-down routes, where they’re a little short, if a guy gets the hand up at the right time, he’s going to bat it down,” he explained.
The Black Bears had highs and lows involving their special teams at BC.
Sophomore Jeff Ondish, making his debut as the punter, averaged 44.5 yards on eight kicks, including a wind-aided 63-yarder.
However, he dropped a punt snap at the 9-yard line that led to BC’s second touchdown.
The booming punt also resulted in an 82-yard return for a touchdown by Spiffy Evans.
Senior place-kicker Brian Harvey also missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt (narrowly past the right upright) in the third quarter after drilling a 19-yarder to give the Bears an early 3-0 lead.