Monday, December 9, 2013
Two games into his second season as starting quarterback of the University of Maine football team, senior Marcus Wasilewski has moved into eighth place on the school's career passing yardage list.
Bryant at Maine
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
The guy he just bumped to ninth?
Head coach Jack Cosgrove.
"Good for Marcus," Cosgrove said when he learned he had been passed, beneath the stands at Gillette Stadium, where his Black Bears had just handed the University of Massachusetts a 24-14 setback in the former rival's attempt to climb from Football Championship Subdivision status to the more elite Football Bowl Subdivision.
Cosgrove amassed his passing totals over four seasons. From 1974 through 1977, he threw for 2,836 yards.
Wasilewski, who took over the reigns last season, passed for 267 yards Saturday against UMass to reach a career total of 2,840 in 13 games.
"He's way better than me," Cosgrove said. "It's that simple."
Wasilewski started the season ranked 11th. He passed Dave Wing (1967-69) and Rich Labonte (1981-84) before Cosgrove. Next up his Dick DeVarney, who amassed 3,384 yards between 1963 and 1965.
The Black Bears have three quarterbacks who surpassed 8,000 yards through the air. Mike Buck (1986-89) leads the way with 8,491 followed by Ron Whitcomb (2003-06) and Warren Smith (2008-11). Smith's totals include his 2008 season at Iona, which subsequently disbanded its program.
Wasilewski also ran 10 times Saturday, all in the second half, for a team-high 78 yards. His 39-yard quarterback draw gave Maine a 24-7 lead and he helped keep the UMass defense from focusing entirely on either Rickey Stevens, Zedric Joseph or Nigel Jones, the trio of running backs who combined for 175 yards on 33 carries.
"Everybody rips us for running Marcus, and look what he does," Cosgrove said with a wry grin Saturday afternoon. "It's risky to run your quarterback, but if you go into any endeavor where you're worried about that kind of stuff, you're never going to have success. We've got to play to win, and we've got to use our best players."
Besides, Cosgrove said of Wasilewski, a native of Kulpmont, Pa., "He's a Pennsylvania kid. He's tough as heck. So when he's got the ball in his hands, we feel pretty good."
Cosgrove was not pleased with Wasilewski's performance in the season-opening 23-6 victory at Norfolk State, and did not hide his displeasure from the quarterback.
"He didn't give us the kind of quarterback play we needed," Cosgrove said in a conference call Monday morning. "He really did Saturday. That guy has got to be a great decision-maker, a great manager and a productive guy and he was all of that Saturday. I'm real pleased with how he bounced back."
Wasilewski completed his first three passes on Maine's opening drive ... and then forced a floater while being hit and saw the pass intercepted in the end zone.
"Dumb play," Cosgrove said. "He knows it. We know it. He shouldn't have forced it, but he really settled down and ran our offense after that."
* * *
The victory over UMass was Maine's second in 12 games against FBS opponents. The other victory was a 9-7 upset of Mississippi State in Starksville in 2004. The Black Bears have also played, and lost, at Nebraska (25-7 in 2005), Iowa (46-3 in 2008), Syracuse (41-24 in 2009 and 38-14 in 2010) and Pittsburgh (35-29 in 2011). They travel to Illinois later this month to play Northwestern, currently ranked 17th in the Associated Press poll and 16th in the coaches poll.
Beating UMass was nice, but not on the same level as the victory over Mississippi State.
"I want to say this the right way," Cosgrove said. "There was more familiarity with this FBS opponent than any of our other FBS opponents, simply because we had played them as recently as 2011. Their fifth-year seniors and our fifth-year seniors had played in that game and we recognized a lot of those names. ... So this was something that was not quite like going to Iowa or going out to Pittsburgh or places like that."
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