June 19, 2018
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Poor run defense plagues University of Maine football team

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — When a team is winning, the credit gets shared by the various players and positional groups.

Sharing of the blame also holds true for a squad that is losing.

The University of Maine football team’s recent struggles trying to stop the run have been a major issue.

Villanova University piled up 314 rushing yards and 6.0 yards per attempt while setting the tone for Saturday’s 35-14 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the Black Bears at Alfond Stadium.

“We had a very difficult time defending the run, as noted by the statistics,” UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said Monday. “That’s glaring.”

Kevin Monangai racked up 192 yards on 30 carries as UMaine (1-3 overall, 0-1 CAA) suffered its second straight loss.

It marked the second game in a row during which the Bears surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground, as Albany churned out 247 a week earlier.

“They got on a plane, got together, came up to Maine on a mission and whipped us,” said Cosgrove, who was disappointed with the number of long runs, which he called “get-outs,” the Wildcats had.

UMaine allowed 12 runs of at least 10 yards. That included four 19-yard gains, two of 16, one 15-yarder and another that went for 14.

Those 12 runs alone netted 200 yards (16.7 yards per carry) for the Wildcats, who managed only 114 on the other 40 rushing attempts, a 2.9-yard clip.

“They have a good running team,” said UMaine junior cornerback Kendall James, who led the team with 10 tackles. “I thought we did a good job against the pass.”

Villanova threw to establish some balance, but only put the ball in the air 17 times (with 11 completions) for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

The Black Bears have been trying to rebuild their defensive front, which lost three veteran tackles to graduation, but also has two first-year starters at safety.

The new line crew includes graduate student David Toriola and sophomores Matt Wilson and Matt Pellerin of Turner, who saw his first action Saturday coming off a knee injury. Senior Kris Enslen is back after missing last season with a knee injury.

Ends Trevor Bates of Westbrook and Mike Kozlakowski also are first-time regulars in the front four.

UMaine also is breaking in safeties sophomore Khari Al-Mateen and junior Jamal Clay. Cosgrove said the responsibility is, again, a shared one.

“We didn’t get great run support on the edge,” Cosgrove told Rich Kimball on Monday’s “Downtown” show. “At lot of that’s secondary, linebacker; it really doesn’t involve the front — although we did get beat on the corner a couple times because of our edge play.”

Offense seeks consistency

The UMaine offense continued to demonstrate growth against Villanova, but encountered its share of difficulties.

After falling behind 28-7 early in the third quarter, the Bears were forced to abandon their preferred run-pass mix in favor of putting the ball in the air in an attempt to play catch-up.

“They really turned it into a game that was now a two-minute drill for us, and (we had to) throw the football to try to get back into it. Those are never good situations to be in,” Cosgrove said.

That enabled junior Marcus Wasilewski to continue heating up as he plays his first collegiate season at quarterback. He completed 31 of 53 passes for 409 yards — all career highs — and threw for a touchdown while being intercepted twice.

It was UMaine’s first 400-yard passing performance since Chris Treister of Cape Elizabeth threw for 468 yards against Rhode Island on Nov. 14, 2009.

“I think we made great strides offensively with improvements,” Wasilewski said. “You’re never going to play a perfect football game. There are a lot of little things that we need to clean up.”

The Bears had difficulty dealing with Villanova’s pass rush. The Wildcats sacked Wasilewski seven times and knocked him down on several other occasions.

Cosgrove said a handful of elements were at work, including Villanova’s skill, UMaine’s playing an untested center and Wasilewski hanging into the ball a few times when he should have thrown it away.

“There’s a variety of reasons for those things that lead to the sacks and all are negative, all of them set you backwards,” Cosgrove said. “Those are things that we’ve got to improve upon.”

Wasilewski has now completed 88 of 151 passes (.583) for 1,036 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. At least one of his interceptions Saturday hit the intended receiver in the hands.

The Bears also converted 7 of 17 third-down situations (41 percent).

“[Wasilewski’s] performance was one of great toughness, poise, and there were a ton of really good throw-and-catches on his part,” Cosgrove said on “Downtown.”

Williamson suffers ankle injury

UMaine played most of Saturday’s contest without the services of center Garret Williamson.

The senior, a third-year starter, suffered a right foot or ankle injury late in the first quarter when he made the tackle on an interception by Brenna Erbeznik.

Williamson did not return to the field and spent the second half on the sideline in street clothes. However, he was walking around without crutches.

Redshirt freshman Bruce Johnson replaced Williamson and played the final three quarters.

“This was really a bit of a baptism under fire, especially when he’s lined up on a noseguard, Mr. [Antoine] Lewis, who is a pretty good player, all-conference last year. He had quite a challenge on Saturday.”

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