Joe Fagnano of the University of Maine looks for running room against Albany's Hayden Specht (27) during their March 13, 2021, Colonial Athletic Association game in Orono. Credit: Ronnie Gillis / UMaine Athletics

University of Maine starting junior quarterback Joe Fagnano, who hasn’t played since suffering a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of a 55-7 loss at James Madison on Sept. 11, was expected to practice with the team on Monday night.

The Black Bears are preparing for Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association game against visiting Stony Brook. It will be UMaine’s last home game and will kick off at noon.

UMaine, 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the CAA, will be looking for its fourth straight win and Stony Brook (2-3, 3-5) will be gunning for its third in a row and will be rested after coming off a bye week.

Fagnano completed 28 of 47 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns before getting hurt. He was intercepted twice.

Redshirt freshman Derek Robertson has filled in nicely for him, completing 86 of 169 passes for 1,081 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception.

Robertson threw a career-high four touchdown passes in Saturday’s 45-24 road win over No. 24 Rhode Island.

Fagnano was an All-CAA second team this past spring when he completed 67 of 116 throws for 795 yards and eight touchdowns in four games. He had one interception.

In 2019, he took over in a 24-17 loss to Richmond on Oct. 12 after Chris Ferguson suffered a season-ending foot injury. He wound up going 121-for-184 for 1,835 yards and 17 TDs to go with three interceptions for the remainder of the campaign.

“Joe is practicing and we’ll see how he progresses. Derek is starting and we’ll continue to evaluate all positions as the season continues,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said.

UMaine has road games remaining against Football Bowl Subdivision team University of Massachusetts and archrival New Hampshire.

If Fagnano plays in any of the three remaining games, it will cost him a year of eligibility because he will have played in the second half of the season.

If he doesn’t, he can petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt and not lose a year.

Under NCAA guidelines, a player has to suffer the injury in the first half of the season and has to appear in less than 30 percent of the team’s games.

The JMU game was the second of UMaine’s 11.

Two UMaine players received weekly honors from the CAA for their play against URI as sophomore running back Freddie Brock was named the Rookie of the Week as he rushed for a career-high 123 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown for the third straight game.

He also caught a pass for 8 yards.

 

Graduate student/transfer linebacker Ray Miller was the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Week after making a game-high 11 tackles including a career-high 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss.

The UMaine defense held URI to 68 rushing yards, 10 first downs and a 2-for-12 showing on third down.

“Freddie had a very big impact on the game,” Charlton said. “One of the things we have been missing and needing in the run game is explosive plays. Getting the ball on the perimeter and being able to make one guy miss (a tackle) and ultimately making it an explosive play. And Freddie did that a number of times in the ballgame.”

Miller has an “obvious impact on the game,” Charlton said.

“He is an outstanding human being. He is a leader on this football team. He has a tremendous presence on the field. He made a huge impact in that ballgame and the stats reveal that.”

He was pleased with his defense, saying it came up with a number of “big stops” in the second half.

The offensive balance was also noteworthy as UMaine amassed a season-high 528 yards with 264 on the ground and 264 through the air.

Elijah Barnwell played his first full game after coming off an ankle injury and ran for 84 yards on 18 carries to complement Brock.

UMaine had 44 rushing plays and Charlton pointed out that UMaine has lost just one game in three years when it has had at least 40 rushing plays.

He said Barnwell’s return was important.

“If you’re going to run the ball 40 times, you need multiple backs. Elijah has a lot of experience,” Charlton said.