ORONO – As far as football openers go, they don’t get much worse.

The University of Maine sputtered Thursday night against Albany, getting shut out 3-0 to start the season with a stunning loss in front of 7,610 fans.

Maine used two quarterbacks, going to former Portland High standout Chris Treister to start the second half after the offense struggled under Warren Smith.

Treister moved the chains better and picked up some momentum, but Maine still failed to get within field-goal range.

Time ticked away and the Black Bears walked off Morse Field with an 0-1 record, quickly tempering the optimism that had swirled for weeks.

“Our play in all areas (on offense) was suspect,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “We couldn’t run, block or pass protect. We didn’t hold the football. We didn’t catch the football well in critical situations.

“That was as disappointing a performance in some aspects as I’ve seen around here, especially with the optimism we entered into the thing with. Just a very, very disappointing loss.”

Albany had taken the lead on a 21-yard field goal at 7:44 of the first quarter following an interception on Smith’s first pass.

Maine picked up just 101 yards and three first downs in the first half, and Smith completed just 5 of 13 passes.

Several incompletions were low, others misplayed by receivers.

Defensive back Jerron McMillan recovered a fumble, giving Maine the ball on the Albany 34 with 1:17 to play in the half.

On first down, Smith ripped a long run up the middle that likely would have been a first down, but Josh Spearin got flagged for holding, and a chance to get into field-goal range was lost.

Cosgrove said he decided very quickly to go to Treister at halftime.

“We made a decision to start (Smith). I thought the ball was dramatically low. I didn’t feel the QB play we needed was taking place,” he said.

“We made a change. There was a surge of momentum in the second half but we didn’t finish plays.”

Cosgrove said he will sleep on things before deciding if a more permanent change at quarterback will be made.

“We feel like we have two great young men at quarterback,” said Cosgrove. “I’m going to rest on this one. We’ll have a game plan.”

Treister completed 7 of 17 passes for 63 yards. He spearheaded the best drive, which began with about 7:48 to play, picking up three first downs to go 50 yards from the Maine 20.

Jared Turcotte picked up a yard, but a pass to Tyrell Jones just shy of the end zone fell incomplete on second-and-9.

Turcotte had no gain on third-and-9, and Treister spun left as Maine went for it on fourth down, but his pass fell incomplete.

Treister, whose dream seemed dashed less than a week ago when Smith was named the starter, said he was excited to get in the game, but the outcome clearly tempered his joy.

“Yeah, absolutely, when you get in a groove on offense, are able to make plays continuously and keep moving the chains, get first downs, it’s exciting,” he said. “But you need to capitalize. We didn’t tonight. We came away with zero points and that’s unacceptable.”

Turcotte was helped off the field with 5:46 to play after taking a hit to the back below the ribs, said Cosgrove. His prognosis is unclear.

Maine’s defense held Albany to 250 total yards and just 5 of 17 on third-down conversions.

McMillan had 13 tackles, backed up by linebacker Donte Dennis and safety Trevor Coston with eight apiece.

Cosgrove said the Black Bears will build off the defense.

“I really thought defensively this was a challenging night. Field position was in favor of Albany all night long,” he said. “Our defense had to do a great job preventing points, not giving up big plays on defense the bottom line is how many points did you give up.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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