Count Michael Cole among the least recognized names on the University of Maine football depth chart earlier this season.

His known quantities entering the season: He’s 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. He wears jersey No. 99 and is one redshirt year removed from North Brunswick Township High School in central New Jersey.

Today, as Maine (3-6, 2-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association) looks for a win at struggling Towson, Cole will start his fifth straight game at defensive end. He’s had three sacks and 28 tackles as a redshirt freshman.

He’s an upside in a down year for Maine.

“I remember the first few games things were moving very fast. I wasn’t used to it,” said Cole. “As I got more and more reps, it slowed down. I’m able to get my technique down and play fast and physical.”

Cole has played in all nine games and earned his first start at Delaware, partially because of injuries but also for his skill.

“He’s advancing at a pretty significant rate,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “He’s kind of won that spot. I don’t want to shortchange him. He’s not just playing because there’s been injuries. He’s taken advantage of it.

“He’s earned it.”

Maine, which lost its sixth game to rival Massachsetts last week, has had its share of injuries this season.

The team is expected to be without running back Jared Turcotte for the rest of the season.

He hasn’t played for two weeks.

“He’s not going to (play) this week either. It’s probably something that’ll stay the same for next week,” said Cosgrove.

The silver lining is playing time for younger or less utilized players.

Pushaun Brown, for example, rushed for a season-high 141 yards at UMass last week, including a 20-yard touchdown run.

“It feels good to be out there playing a lot more reps, but at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to win the game,” said Brown, who previously split time with Turcotte at a ratio that favored Turcotte. “For me, it was a little frustrating.

“I want to be out there every single rep. But I was trying to stay focused, patient and focus on what was best for the team. I was just trying to play my role and when I get in there, make as much of an impact as I could.”

Cole meanwhile, hopes his experience this season makes him more prepared for his sophomore campaign.

“I hope it translates into getting better and better game by game, play by play,” he said. “We have a lot of potential. We have a lot of high hopes for next year.”

Towson is struggling this season at 1-8, 0-6 in the CAA. The team’s junior quarterback Chris Hart was suspended indefinitely.

“You’re playing for a win at this time of the year,” said Cosgrove. “An opportunity to enhance your record on the season. You’re not playing for the playoffs. Not for a championship. You’re playing for a win.”

Agreed, said quarterback Warren Smith, who will try to put behind him three interceptions last week, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

“Being a quarterback you’re going to get praised one week, blamed the next,” said Smith. “You just have to move on … Obviously we’ve been struggling making plays and doing what we need to do. We know we have two games left. We want to finish on a good note. We’re 3-6. We can’t blame anyone else but ourselves.

“We have to go out and play like that. We can’t put our head down and say the season is over. We just have to keep fighting and preparing and practicing. Right now we’re playing for the program.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: [email protected]