ORONO, Maine — With the clock winding down and the University of Maine trying to close out a victory over Massachusetts on Saturday, the Black Bears kept the ball in the hands of their most productive running back.
Marcus Wasilewski carried the ball six times on the drive, including the clinching kneel-down play, to help UMaine earn a noteworthy 24-14 victory over the Minutemen of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The senior quarterback has been a productive passer to help the Bears post a 2-0 start, but he also has developed as the team’s leading rusher this season.
Wasilewski gained a game-high 76 yards on 10 carries Saturday and scored a touchdown, pushing his season total to 130 yards (65 yards per game, 6.2 yards per carry).
UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove believes the quarterback must be a component of the run game.
“The game at quarterback has changed,” he said. “You have to be able to test opposing defenses with the quarterback because he’s really the extra guy [who’s unaccounted for] in the blocking schemes.”
Wasilewski enjoyed one of his career highlights against the Minutemen. On a first-down play from the UMass 39-yard line, he kept the ball on a QB draw.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Kulpmont, Pa., headed up the middle, shedded a couple of hits and ran untouched the rest of the way for a TD.
“I’ve never experienced a run like that before, so it was pretty cool,” Wasilewski said. “The O-line popped that hole open.”
Some of his teammates had joked that Wasilewski isn’t a running quarterback.
“He proved us wrong there, didn’t he?” quipped safety Khari Al-Mateen.
Cosgrove said he isn’t overly concerned about having Wasilewski run with the ball fairly often.
“It’s risky to run your quarterback, but if you go into any kind of endeavor where you’re worried about that, you’re never going to have success,” he said. “We’ve got to play to win. We’ve got to play with our best players.”
Wasilewski also turned in an efficient passing performance on Saturday. He completed 20 of 28 throws good for 267 yards and was intercepted once.
With the effort, he pushed his career passing yardage total, in 13 games, to 2,850. In doing so, Wasilewski passed Cosgrove (2,836) for ninth place on UMaine’s career passing yardage list.
“Good for Marcus,” said Cosgrove, who saw some encouraging developments in the UMass contest.
Wasilewski bounced back after being intercepted in the end zone on the Bears’ first possession against UMass.
“He played far better than he did last week [at Norfolk State],” Cosgrove added. “He stepped up like he needed to. I thought the offense demonstrated a greater level of consistency, which is what we were looking for.”
Wasilewski is 35-for-56 passing good for 476 yards, one TD and two interceptions this season. He has only been sacked once thus far.
He leads the Colonial Athletic Association thus far, averaging 303 yards of total offense.
UM HofF inductions Friday
Baseball standout Chad White of Brewer is among six former athletes who will be inducted into the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night.
White will be joined by basketball star Francois Bouchard, top hockey performer Jack Capuano, swimmer Susan Lizzotte, track and field’s Gerard LaFlamme and football player Carleton “Speed” Merritt.
A reception in the Hall of Fame lobby in Memorial Gym begin at 6 p.m. Friday, with a 7 p.m. dinner and induction to follow at Wells Conference Center. The honorees will also be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Maine-Bryant football game Saturday at Alfond Stadium.
Tickets are $40 and are available by calling the Black Bear ticket office at 581-2327 or 800-756-8326. Tickets must be purchased by noon Wednesday.