Thursday, December 5, 2013
ORONO - The season's first offensive series for the University of Maine football team did not go as scripted.
John Ebeling finds a way to stay on the field at the University of Maine, including catching passes. He had TD receptions in each of the two playoff games last season.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
WHO: Maine (0-1) at Bryant (0-2)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium, Smithfield, R.I.
RADIO: WLOB-AM (1310)
MAINE OUTLOOK: Maine beat Bryant 28-13 last year in Orono. DE Michael Cole had two sacks and forced a fumble against BC. LB Donte Dennis led the team with 13 tackles. K Brian Harvey was 1 of 2 in field-goal attempts, successful from 19 yards but not from 43. QB Marcus Wasilewski was 20 of 42 with 2 INTs. His favorite targets were WR Maurice McDonald (six catches, 37 yards), WR Derrick Johnson (5-37) and TE Justin Perillo (4-25). TB David Hood ran for 67 yards on 21 carries. Maine has won three straight games against regular-season nonconference FCS opponents.
BRYANT OUTLOOK: Coming off a 39-28 loss at St. Francis after opening with a 35-10 home loss to Marist. Senior RB Jordan Brown led the FCS in rushing last season with 1,815 yards and was second in the country with 2,500 all-purpose yards. He ran for 125 and a TD last weekend, the 22nd time he surpassed 100 yards. Junior DB Jeremy Woodson returned a fumble 95 yards for a TD and also intercepted a pass against St. Francis. WR Jordan Harris has caught a TD pass in nine of his past 10 games and needs just 75 receiving yards to become Bryant’s all-time leader.
– Glenn Jordan
A 6-yard completion to veteran tight end Justin Perillo. A shotgun snap through the hands of new quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. An incompletion on third-and-long to John Ebeling, the backup quarterback turned slot receiver.
On came the punt team. All of them, that is, except for Ebeling, the long snapper, who headed to the sideline after running his pass route.
"This was my first game playing receiver full-time," said Ebeling, a junior from Mahwah, N.J. "So after Marcus threw me that ball, my first reaction was to go over to Marcus and talk to him about what he saw. I wasn't thinking that we had to go punt."
Wasilewski already was on the headphones with offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin when Ebeling approached, only to be snapped out of his reverie by yells of "We need you, John!"
Ebeling sprinted back onto the field, where his teammates already were in punt formation, awaiting only the man in the middle.
"We had three seconds left on the (play) clock but I got it off," Ebeling said. "It definitely won't happen again."
After opening with a 34-3 loss to Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Black Bears travel south again to face an opponent on the other side of the spectrum. Bryant University is in its first year of eligibility for the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision playoffs after making the transition from a Division II program.
The Bulldogs are 0-2 after losses to Marist and St. Francis (Pa.). The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Smithfield, R.I.
"We have to have the same mind-set preparing for Bryant as we did preparing for Boston College," Ebeling said. "There can't be any letdown. They're still a (FCS) team and anything can happen."
Ebeling may have finished second in the starting quarterback competition but that doesn't mean he'll be strolling the sideline with a headset, a clipboard and no helmet. As one of Maine's better all-around athletes -- voted the team's best basketball player in a recent informal poll -- Ebeling promises to see plenty of action this fall, catching passes, snapping for punts and tackling punt returners.
"He's a kid who can do a lot of things for us," Bourgoin said. "I'm sure he wants to play quarterback, but he's smart enough, talented enough and athletic enough to play another position.
"We've always had a philosophy at Maine that we're going to play our best 11 players. It's an opportunity for us to get another good football player on the field, a kid who can help us win."
When Ebeling arrived in Orono in the fall of 2009, he saw Mike Brusko lose his starting quarterback job to Warren Smith, a transfer from Iona, then watched Brusko reinvent himself as a proficient receiver and punter while remaining a team leader.
The transition from thrower to receiver is not that complicated, Ebeling said, at least not mentally.
"When you're getting yourself ready to play quarterback, you understand all the concepts on the field and what everyone has to be doing to make the play work," he said. "So going to receiver, I already had an understanding of what my job was on each play, whether it was to make a block or run a route."
The transition actually began a year ago when injuries thinned Maine's receiving corps. Ebeling learned the position and wound up catching a touchdown pass in each of the two playoff games.
All that running and blocking in practices and games does take a physical toll but Ebeling is adjusting. Bourgoin also loves the calmness Ebeling brings to the offense.
(Continued on page 2)