ORONO — For one sequence of plays Tuesday, it looked as though Drew Belcher was going to make Coach Jack Cosgrove’s most vexing decision easy.

Belcher , a sophomore, connected with Jaleel Reed on a deep pass down the far sideline. He then found Justin Flores for a 21-yard touchdown.

Finally, a starting quarterback may have emerged, with UMaine’s opener at Boston College only 11 days away.

But the offense never looked that good again in the final scrimmage of the preseason. Cosgrove, once again trying to decide between Belcher and junior Dan Collins at his most important position, was left to offer a familiar observation.

“Nobody’s kind of really asserted themselves. They’ve both been very, very good at times, and then it’s been OK, letting the other guy catch up, both ways,” Cosgrove said. “There’ve been ups and downs that have kind of brought them back together.”

On Tuesday, it was Belcher who was up, especially early. In addition to the touchdown drive, he threw another perfectly placed pass down the right seam that Reed dropped, costing the offense a potential score.

Collins, meanwhile, was inaccurate on his throws for much of the 90-minute session and left the field discouraged.

“I didn’t play how I should play. I feel like I can play a lot better,” he said.

“I just missed the target. My footwork, or my reads, wasn’t there. That can’t happen with me.”

Collins eventually won the job over Belcher a season ago. But by the third game, also at Boston College, Cosgrove decided to also give Belcher, a true freshman, some snaps. That rotation continued until Collins suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the sixth game, at Stony Brook.

The quarterbacks put up similar numbers. Collins completed 77-of-143 passes for 908 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 42 yards rushing. Belcher was 77 of 152 for 740 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, but 312 yards on the ground.

Neither threw an interception Tuesday, which was an improvement from the first scrimmage a week ago. But neither led another touchdown drive after the initial one from Belcher.

“I thought I did better the first time than this time, which is bad. I should be progressing,” Collins said.

Belcher thought the offense was “right around 50/50” in terms of good and bad plays. When penalties or sacks occurred, the offense couldn’t overcome them.

“I think we need to do a better job of getting mentally tough and, when we make mistakes, not letting them topple over or snowball,” Belcher said.

Both quarterbacks were measured in their response when asked about the decision of who will start, saying it’s the coaching staff’s decision to make and that it will be what is best for the team.

Cosgrove said he will make a decision before next week, when preparation for the game begins. He said he prefers not to enter the season planning on playing both. Last year, he said he did so because neither player had much experience. Since then, both have proved they can win games. Collins did so twice and Belcher three times in a 5-6 season.

“I had higher expectations of our performance, so that kind of eats at me a little bit right now,” Cosgrove said.

“There was a somberness on the offensive side that just bugged me. They walked up at the end like they were going to a funeral. Attitude is so important to me in how you play. I don’t think we bounced back from some of the bad situations we put ourselves in. We kind of hung our heads and it really was disappointing to see.”

NOTES

Defensive end Trevor Bates and wide receiver Jordan Dunn both played after sitting out the first scrimmage while recovering from offseason surgery. Both made some big plays. … Tight end Jeremy Salmon was cleared to return to full contact at practice after his shoulder surgery, but did not play in the scrimmage. … Cabrinni Goncalves, a starting linebacker the past two seasons, lined up as the second-string tailback and had a solid day. The senior came to Maine as a running back but was switched to defense after one year on the scout team. Cosgrove said he was looking for more size in a thin backfield behind starter Nigel Beckford, and the 220-pound Goncalves impressed him. The plan is to use him on both offense and defense for now. …

Freshman quarterback Jack Walsh, sophomore wide receiver Marquise Adams and freshman tight end Mason Phoenix left the scrimmage after appearing to sustain injuries.

 


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