The University of Maine football team will, as linebacker Donte Dennis may have said best, keep moving forward.

“Everybody is tired of losing,” said Dennis. “But the only way to live is to keep looking forward. (If you) live in the past, you have no future. Keep moving forward.”

The Black Bears closed their season Saturday with a 14-10 loss to James Madison, finishing 4-7.

The loss capped a frustrating year that began with a 3-0 defeat against Albany – a game that foreshadowed problems to come.

Maine buckled during a gauntlet of five early games in which it faced either a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent or a team that ultimately qualified for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. That stretch began with a 38-14 loss at Syracuse on Sept. 18. Over the next four weeks, the Black Bears lost to William & Mary, beat New Hampshire, then lost to Delaware and Villanova.

Maine struggled with penalties, turnovers, a lack of playmakers and a poor pass defense. Along the way, the Black Bears lost several key players to injury, including running back Jared Turcotte, linebacker Mark Masterson, and top receiver Tyrell Jones.

Now, the Black Bears start preparing for next season.

“We need to develop a stronger physical and mental makeup,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “A stronger mental makeup in terms of handling that adversity that comes with the game of football. There were times (in game situations) that we just didn’t display enough of the maturity and poise that you need.”

Maine had a small senior class of 11, with few impact players.

Next year’s senior class will include Dennis, who on Monday was named a third-team All-CAA selection. He’ll be joined by fellow linebacker Vinson Givans, and defensive backs Trevor Coston and Jerron McMillian. McMillian made the CAA second team.

Top returnees on offense include running backs Pushaun Brown and Turcotte, and quarterbacks Warren Smith and Chris Treister, all of whom will be seniors. Brown ended the season with three straight 100-yard games.

Maine also expects to return its entire starting offensive line and its front four on defense.

“We have a lot of seniors coming back,” said Dennis. “Everybody that was playing this year will be coming into their own. You look at other teams, say Delaware, they had like 20 seniors. That holds your team together. You bring that together, everybody will be hungry.”

There’s likely to be competition at the quarterback position in the spring, not only between Smith and Treister, who saw limited action before suffering a season-ending hand injury in the next to last game, but also from Marcus Wasilewski, a redshirt freshman.

“Certainly in the spring we’re going to want to find out more about him,” said Cosgrove. “We’ve got to get better at that position, protect the ball better and be more efficient overall at that position.”

Smith, who started 10 of 11 games, was 197 of 304 for 1,857 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Smith said he’s optimistic both he and the offense can fix their shortcomings.

“We know as an offense and a team we have a lot of things to work on. I have a lot of things I need to do,” said Smith. “I need to work on my turnovers. In a league like this we can’t be turning the ball over.

“We’re going to look back on the film, see the mistakes, learn from them. And watch some film on good quarterbacks, see what they’re doing.

“We have a lot of guys coming back. We need to cut down on mistakes. The season could’ve gone a whole other way.”

Ultimately, said Cosgrove, there is a lot to be done.

“Internally we have a lot of guys who need to get bigger, faster, stronger,” said Cosgrove.

 

NOTES: Maine will play the University of Pittsburgh at Heinz Field for its FCS game next year. The remainder of the schedule has not been released. … Six Black Bears were named to CAA all-conference teams. Tight end Derek Buttles joined McMillian on the second team, and wide receiver Derek Session, offensive lineman Chris Howley and defensive back Steven Barker made the third team along with Dennis.

 

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