July 29, 2010

Maine begins 18th season under Cosgrove

Portland Press Herald

BALTIMORE -- This has been a busy summer for Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove, and his hectic pace doesn't have anything to do with the Black Bears. Cosgrove and his wife, Marilyn, have four teenagers and the veteran coach has been attending his children's youth games in softball, baseball and basketball.

But those leisurely summer evenings are quickly fading for Cosgrove, 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 flight Wednesday out of Portland for a direct flight to Baltimore, where he attended the annual CAA 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 out of 10 teams in the CAA, which has had a team in six of the last seven title games at the Division I-AA level.

"It is a more experienced team than last year," Cosgrove, 54, 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 champs, were picked first, followed by William and Mary, New Hampshire, JMU, Delaware, Richmond, Maine, UMass, Rhode Island and Towson.

"It is scary strong. It is the best league in the country," Cosgrove said of the CAA, which has won the past two Division I-AA 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 have been one of the have nots."

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

"We feel we can compete in this league. We belong in this league. We feel strongly about that," Cosgrove said, overlooking a field that is home to former CAA star quarterback Joe Flacco (Delaware) of the Ravens.

Two of Maine's wins last year came on the road against Northeastern and Hofstra, two schools that dropped their programs after the 2009 season. "It does shake up the conference. We lost bus trips and two of our best rivals," Cosgrove said of the loss of those programs. "That is going to hurt. The balance of power shifts further to the south numbers wise."

The Black Bears play Sept. 11 at Monmouth then face Division I Syracuse on the road Sept. 18 for the second year in a row.

"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 are excited. We have been there before. That is exciting to see that happen. It speaks to the credit of the league" for a school CAA team to face Syracuse.

The CAA schedule for Maine includes games against William and Mary, New Hampshire, Delaware, Villanova, Rhode Island, UMass, Towson and JMU.

"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 Kevin Morris, the head coach at UMass. "Last year we turned the ball over six times (in a 19-9 loss). We are looking forward to making ammends to that" in Amherst on Nov. 6.

"The last three games we have had with them have come down to the fourth quarter," said Sean McDonnell, the head coach at New Hampshire. The Black Bears host New Hampshire on Oct. 2.

"They are one of our biggest rivals," said New Hampshire defensive back Dino Vasso. "We get up for them every year. They have played us tough every year."

Maine will begin August practice with Warren Smith as one of two possible starting quarterbacks. He is one of nine returning starters on offense and the Black Bears return seven defensive starters. Smith was injured late in the Nov. 7 game in a 22-14 loss at James Madison in Virginia. 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 does not like the idea of rotating two quarterbacks in the same game.

Notes: Maine had no players gain preseason all-CAA honors when the team was released Wednesday in Baltimore ... Maine did not bring any of its players to the annual CAA media day.

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