Thursday, April 17, 2014
(Continued from page 1)
Maine running back Nigel Jones (26) is pursued by Rhode Island defender Shomari Watts, 50, and Adam Parker (46) in the first half of Saturday’s game in Orono.
The Associated Press / Michael C. York
Coach Jack Cosgrove celebrates with his players after UMaine toppled Rhode Island 41-0 on Saturday to capture the CAA regular-season championship.
Michael C. York/The Associated Press
WHO: No. 4 Maine (10-1) vs. No. 21 New Hampshire (6-4)
WHEN: Noon Saturday
WHERE: Cowell Stadium, Durham, N.H.
RADIO: WLOB-1310 AM
“We addressed (pass protection) real hard during the week and I think, overall, it was much better,” said Cosgrove, who said his offensive line was not entirely to blame earlier this month. “We felt a couple times against Albany that (QB) Marcus (Wasilewski), instead of stepping up in the pocket, he kicks outside and disrupts the protection. So it’s a group effort.”
Returning to the lineup Saturday after missing two games with an injury was freshman Jeremy Salmon, the backup short snapper who filled in for senior tight end Justin Perillo, who is also out with an injury. Sophomore place-kicker Sean Decloux, who missed two PAT attempts and a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the 33-27 victory at Albany, was perfect on seven kicks Saturday, including field goals of 36 and 38 yards that gave him 13 for the year and tied the school’s single-season record.
He is the leading scorer among kickers in the CAA, which named him Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.
“Most people don’t realize the impact a snapper can have,” Cosgrove said. “We think (Salmon) is as good as we’ve ever seen … as a freshman. Our operation times were outstanding.”
Senior tailback Rickey Stevens, a walk-on who transferred from an NAIA school in Cleveland, broke by 1 yard the school record for longest run from scrimmage with his 90-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Saturday. Carl Smith broke an 89-yard run against Rutgers in 1991.
“Rickey is one of our truly great stories,” said Cosgrove, who learned of Stevens only because Maine was recruiting his high school teammate, center Bruce Johnson. “In our run game, he’s the guy who fits into the scheme the best. He’s the most patient runner we have. He finds ways to be faster than the clock tells you he is. He finds ways to catch footballs and read blocks and make our screen game better all the time.”
One area of concern Saturday was penalties. Maine had seven for 71 yards, including an unusual sideline interference call on Cosgrove for inadvertently tripping a referee. Among CAA teams, only Towson has been penalized more than Maine, which averages 61 yards in penalties per game.
Five other teams in addition to Maine have secured berths in the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning conference championships: No. 1 North Dakota State (Missouri Valley), No. 3 Eastern Washington (Big Sky), No. 2 Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley), No. 8 Southeastern Louisiana (Southland) and unranked Sacred Heart (Northeast). The announcement of the field will be televised at 11:30 Sunday morning on ESPNU.
In the meantime, CAA championship T-shirts and sweatshirts are on sale in Orono and on the school’s athletic website: goblackbears.com. Cosgrove is confident archrival New Hampshire will be higher in the minds of his players.
“Like young people tend to do, they can go on that social media and find somebody to tell them how great they are,” he said. “So this is a game we should be grateful is on our schedule right now.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 orGjordan@pressherald.comTwitter: GlennJordanPPH