Nobody involved with the University of Maine football team wants to admit it openly, but it appears there is such a thing as a moral victory.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (2-2) have gained additional confidence in their abilities after a solid showing in Saturday’s 22-0 loss to 25th-ranked Boston College.
“It does you a lot of good in the intangible areas,” Cosgrove said Monday. “You don’t look up and see a ‘W,’ but we found out that we’re tougher than we were a week ago.”
UMaine’s showing wasn’t enough to help it climb into The Sports Network Division I-AA Top 25, but the Bears are “also receiving votes.”
Looking back on the first four games, Cosgrove believes the Bears are improving.
“I think we’re probably a little ahead of schedule,” he said.
With the Bears facing seven straight Atlantic 10 games, starting with Saturday’s clash at unbeaten Towson (4-0), UMaine must start clicking.
“We’re getting better, it’s just you don’t have a lot of time to keep saying that,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine did a solid job containing the Eagles’ bigger, faster offense while its own offense showed continued signs of development despite failing to score any points.
Though UMaine unveiled a conservative offensive package against BC, it seemed to establish a better rhythm with both its play-calling and execution. The Bears also were able to control the ball and the clock for extended periods.
Senior quarterback Ron Whitcomb was 15-for-22 passing for 77 yards with an interception. In the process, he logged his 648th completion and became UMaine’s all-time leader in that category.
Whitcomb, who ranks eighth in Atlantic 10 history, passed Mickey Fein (1995-98), who had 644 career completions.
“In evaluating our pass game this week from last week, we’re way ahead of where we were, which is very encouraging,” Cosgrove said.
One bright spot was freshman wide receiver Ryan Callahan, who cut back against the grain and nearly broke an option run for a score. However, his 34-yard jaunt was negated by a holding penalty.
“It was a great experience. I’ve never played in front of a crowd this big before,” said the diminutive speedster.
Callahan also absorbed the hit of the game when he got blindsided while pursuing on punt coverage early in the fourth quarter. He only got the wind knocked out of him.
That same play ended when punter Kash Kiefer cut tackled BC return man DeJuan Tribble at the sideline to end the run.
“[Kiefer] won some respect [on that play], I’ll tell you that, from me and his teammates,” Cosgrove said.
Senior Arel Gordon said the BC experience should pay dividends for the defense in Saturday’s key game at Towson.
“It’s a huge steppingstone to be able to play a team [BC] this fast and then go to a team that has a spread offense like Towson does,” Gordon said.
Bears avoid serious injuries
UMaine has come through the first five weeks (four games) of the regular season relatively unscathed as far as injuries are concerned.
Even after facing Boston College, Cosgrove (who would be quick to knock on wood) expects everybody to be available for today’s practice.
That said, the Bears were a bit shorthanded Saturday. Junior tight end Matt Mulligan of West Enfield missed the BC game after he was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
His long-term status has yet to be determined.