ORONO – Middle linebacker Donte Dennis had the angle. He had the speed. He had quarterback Marcus Wasilewski 5 yards from the end zone.

Dennis reached out and lightly tapped both hands against the red jersey of Wasilewski, who continued across the goal line and performed a celebratory flying side bump with a teammate, leaving Dennis standing with arms out wide.

“I’m being nice,” Dennis said later with a smile on his face. “Don’t try to take my niceness for a weakness! I touched him. Everybody’s celebrating, but it was alright. I had him.”

The University of Maine football team spent a little more than an hour after practice Monday afternoon for its first intrasquad scrimmage of training camp on the artificial turf of Morse Field.

The offense wore blue, the defense white and only Wasilewski donned the hands-off red.

His competition for the starting quarterback job, fellow junior John Ebeling, wore a blue jersey with No. 11 because he also ran plays as a slot receiver.

“There were some highlights, but there were some mistakes,” said Dennis, a fifth-year senior. “I’m happy we made mistakes, because we can learn from them.”

Dennis had plenty of time to learn last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery to his elbow, missing the entire season after leading the Black Bears in tackles the two previous years.

Eventually, he was able to practice and perform with the scout team, but Dennis never received clearance to play with the other members of his incoming class, who wound up leading Maine to a 9-4 season and NCAA quarterfinal appearance.

“I don’t know how Donte got through last year and kept his sanity,” said Coach Jack Cosgrove. “He was attached at the hip to (fellow linebacker and roommate) Vinson Givans, and he was very close with (safeties Trevor) Coston and (Jerrod) McMillian and all those guys. But he had to sit out.”

Dennis took the year as a medical redshirt and is now one of the leaders of a defense that appears strong on the outside (with experienced linebackers, ends and cornerbacks) but unproven up the middle (with new interior linemen and safeties).

In Monday’s scrimmage, the first-team defense allowed only one touchdown, on the opening drive, and stood strong when the offense began in the red zone and near the goal line.

With regular kicker Brian Harvey unavailable because of injury, sophomore Jeffrey Ondish kicked field goals of 21, 22 and 39 yards. Freshman Sean Decloux was 1 of 2 in field-goal attempts, successful from 20 yards but wide left from 37.

There were two touchdowns. The first came on a 5-yard run by David Hood to cap a 65-yard drive engineered by Wasilewski, who completed all four of his passes, including three to Maurice McDonald.

The other touchdown came on the last of roughly 60 plays run from scrimmage. Freshman quarterback Daniel Collins showed a strong arm by rifling a 25-yard pass between two defenders to fellow freshman Jordan Dunn. Collins completed 3 of 5 passes on the 55-yard scoring drive, but he’s not in competition for the starting job.

For that, both Wasilewski and Ebeling showed some strengths as well as some areas of improvement. Wasilewski completed 6 of 8 passes for 95 yards. He was also sacked three times, intercepted once (by cornerback Darlos James) and lost a fumble on a snap.

As for the interception, Wasilewski saw man-to-man coverage on McDonald and figured he’d take his chances.

“Darlos made a heck of a play,” Wasilewski said. “Credits to him for playing great defense.”

Ebeling completed 7 of 15 for 100 yards. He also was intercepted (by freshman Javar Coleman) and showed some scrambling ability.

“I did some good things, I did some bad things,” Ebeling said.

Ebeling’s interception came on his final pass after he had plucked a low shotgun snap from the turf. His best pass was of 20 yards to Derrick Johnson to convert a 3rd-and-16 into a first down.

Another scrimmage is scheduled for next Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of positives, but (the turnovers) are going to be detriments to success,” Cosgrove said. “We did such a good job last year of not hurting ourselves with penalties and turnovers that when I see a flag or I see a turnover it’s a real concern. Playing so you don’t beat yourself has got to be a mantra we live by.”

Despite a veteran offensive line, the Black Bears didn’t move the ball much on the ground. Hood, a sophomore, and Rickey Stevens, a junior, had most of the carries.

“The things that happened out there, they happened fast and I thought they happened with some zest to it,” Cosgrove said. “Now it’s us saying: What did we do well? What are we not doing so well? What do we have to do to fix those things?”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH