Work Samples

Maine gets low marks in football

The Black Bears are in seventh place among 10 teams in the CAA preseason poll.

July 29, 2010

By David Driver
For the Portland Press Herald
Used with permission

BALTIMORE - This has been a busy summer for University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove, and his hectic pace doesn't have anything to do with the team.

Cosgrove and his wife, Marilyn, have four teenagers, and he's been attending his children's games in softball, baseball and basketball.

But those leisurely summer evenings are quickly fading for Cosgrove, 54, who has been the Maine football coach since 1993. His 18th team will report to campus Aug. 6 and open the season Sept. 2 against Albany in Orono.

Cosgrove had an early-morning departure Wednesday out of Portland for a direct flight to Baltimore, where he attended the annual Colonial Athletic Association media day at M&T Bank Stadium. Once he arrived at the home of the Baltimore Ravens, he learned his team was picked to finish seventh among the 10 teams in the league, which has had a team in six of the last seven title games at the Division I-AA level.

"It's a more experienced team than last year," Cosgrove said. "We were forced to learn on the run last year. It took us awhile to develop this running game we never really did. Hopefully we can get a better blend this year between run and pass. That will be a key for us."

Villanova, the defending national champ, was picked first, followed by William & Mary, New Hampshire, James Madison, Delaware, Richmond, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Towson.

"It's scary strong. It's the best league in the country," Cosgrove said of the CAA, which has won the last two national titles. "Each year it gets better and better if you look at the landscape of the league. There are some haves and have-nots, and we've been one of the have-nots."

Cosgrove hopes that will change this year. Maine was 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the CAA last season, and has had just two winning seasons since a 7-5 record in 2003.

"We feel we can compete in this league. We belong in this league. We feel strongly about that," Cosgrove said.

Two of Maine's wins last year came at Northeastern and Hofstra, which dropped their programs after the season.

"It does shake up the conference. We lost bus trips and two of our best rivals," Cosgrove said. "That's going to hurt. The balance of power shifts further to the south numbers-wise."

The Black Bears will play Sept. 11 at Monmouth, then face Division I Syracuse on the road Sept. 18 for the second straight year.

"The league likes it and we like it," Cosgrove said of playing Division I teams. "We had Syracuse last year (in a 41-24 loss). We're excited. We've been there before. It's exciting to see that happen. It speaks to the credit of the league" for a CAA team to face Syracuse.

The CAA schedule for Maine includes games against William & Mary, New Hampshire, Delaware, Villanova, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Towson and James Madison.

"I feel like they are a real scrappy team," UMass standout linebacker Tyler Holmes said of Maine.

"We have Maine at home this year," said UMass Coach Kevin Morris. "Last year we turned the ball over six times (in a 19-9 loss). We are looking forward to making amends to that" on Nov. 6.

"The last three games we have had with them have come down to the fourth quarter," said New Hampshire Coach Sean McDonnell.

The Black Bears will be home Oct. 2 against New Hampshire.

"They're one of our biggest rivals," said New Hampshire defensive back Dino Vasso.

"We get up for them every year. They've played us tough every year."

Maine will begin August practice with Warren Smith as one of the two possible starting quarterbacks. He's one of the nine returning starters on offense; the Black Bears return seven defensive starters.

Smith was injured late in the 22-14 loss Nov. 7 at James Madison. After Smith was hurt, the Black Bears used Chris Treister at quarterback.

"Both will compete. These are two quality young men. We have two quarterbacks. We are going to play one of them," said Cosgrove, who doesn't like the idea of rotating two quarterbacks in the same game.

NOTE: Maine had no players gain preseason all-CAA honors when the team was released Wednesday. Maine didn't bring any of its players to the annual CAA media day.