Senior quarterback Dan Collins has had his share of ups and downs with the University of Maine football team.
The strong-armed native of Williamstown, New Jersey, has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career but he has also been a source of frustration to Black Bear faithful as he has tried to force ill-advised passes into double and triple coverages and had them intercepted.
In UMaine’s come-from-behind 35-31 win over Bryant University two Saturdays ago, he was a dismal 5-for-19 passing for 47 yards and three interceptions as the Black Bears fell behind 21-0.
But he closed out the first half with a 31-yard pass to Micah Wright and then tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Wright on the last play of the half.
He wound up completing seven of 10 passes in the second half and threw a 38-yard TD pass to Jaleel Reed.
He followed that up by throwing for a career-high 307 yards in the 28-21 win at Delaware last Saturday. He completed 21 of 33 passes on the wet afternoon and UMaine coach Joe Harasymiak said his statistics would have been even better if his receivers hadn’t dropped five balls.
He was intercepted once.
UMaine is 2-3 overall, 1-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
A consistent Collins and a more diversified offense — thanks to the inclusion of the tight ends in the passing attack — should make the Black Bear offense more explosive and harder to defend.
It also should help open up the running game, which was held to 68 yards on 28 carries at Delaware.
“Some quarterbacks have trouble throwing in the rain. He threw a great ball in the rain,” said Harasymiak. “And the nicest thing to see was the job he did with the progression.
“The best play he made came on a third-and-four. He checked down at the line of scrimmage and picked up the first down (with a short pass) rather than forcing the ball down the field,” said Harasymiak.
Harasymiak said the tight ends have always been part of the equation in the passing attack but Collins hadn’t been able to get them the ball during his progression (of receivers).
“Saturday, he was able to find the tight ends which was nice,” said Harasymiak.
Jeremy Salmon made two receptions for 30 yards, Jason Simonovich caught one pass for 12 yards and Michael Supp caught a 1-yard TD pass.
Collins has completed at least one pass to 14 different receivers and six have caught at least five balls.
Jaleel Reed (18 catches, 321 yards) and Wright (16-235) lead the way followed by Marquise Adams (9-102) and Jared Osumah (9-98). Freshman Earnest Edwards has caught four balls for 78 yards and a TD.
Harasymiak pointed out that senior Jordan Dunn (5-30) , who caught 56 passes a year ago and ranked second on the team behind Wright (61), has been getting more playing time as his knee continues to get stronger after offseason surgery.
“Micah Wright is a big-time receiver,” said Albany coach Greg Gattuso, whose 4-1 Great Danes (1-1 CAA) invade Alfond Stadium for Saturday’s noon Homecoming game. “He has been fantastic. But they have other guys who are just as good.”
Harasymiak said his team is going to have to run the ball more effectively against Albany and noted that Temple transfer Zaire Williams had some big runs on their last drive, which resulted in a missed field goal. He gained 41 yards on five carries during the drive and finished with a team-high 47 yards on nine carries.
UMaine is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Harasymiak said the Black Bears will continue to work on the kicking game as sophomore Patrick Leonard is just 1-for-5 and missed a 35-yard field goal which would have broken a 21-21 tie with 2:05 left.
“We have to be able to kick a 35-yard field goal,” Harasymiak said emphatically.
Leonard and redshirt freshman Derek Deoul will continue to compete for the job as they have all season.
UMaine is recruiting a kicker for next season.
Harasymiak has liked the other special teams.
Senior James DeMartini is averaging 42.3 yards per punt, Wright is averaging 10.14 yards per punt return and DeAndre Scott has returned kickoffs an average of 26.86 yards.
Harasymiak said he expects to get leading tackler Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga back for the Albany game. Tshimanga, UMaine’s leading tackler with 44 and a former All-CAA first-team pick and Defensive Rookie of the Year, missed the Albany game with an upper-body injury.
Harasymiak said the Black Bears must shore up their run defense after Delaware’s Wes Hills ran for 242 yards on 24 carries and was named the CAA’s Offensive Player of the Week.
“We have to tackle better,” said Harasymiak.