Is Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove comfortable with his quarterback rushing the football 25 times in a game?

“I’m not uncomfortable,” he said Monday, two days after sophomore Drew Belcher gained 65 rugged yards in a 23-10 victory over Stony Brook. “This is a hard game. Stony Brook’s a hard team. Drew’s a hard kid. So I guess that fits.”

Cosgrove said it’s safe to assume that Belcher and junior Dan Collins will continue to split time leading the offense when Maine (3-4, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association) takes the next step in its quest for a playoff berth with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday at Villanova (3-4, 2-2 CAA). But it was Belcher who got the bulk of the snaps Saturday in relief of Collins, and he carried out a low-risk game plan that saw him taking off on designed runs, but also keeping the ball while sprinting out wide on run-pass option plays.

“He’s a good decision-maker, I think, in those instances,” Cosgrove said. “You do what you’ve got to do to win a football game, and that’s what took place with him in particular on Saturday.”

Belcher scored the lone offensive touchdown on a 2-yard run and also completed 11-of-16 passes for 109 yards. Most important, he didn’t turn it over. Collins had a near-interception on his opening pass and later lost a fumble that led to Stony Brook’s only touchdown.

Belcher’s play was in contrast to Villanova signal-caller Zach Bednarczyk. The redshirt freshman is starting in place of injured star John Robertson and had a pair of disastrous throws in his team’s 28-21 loss at Towson on Saturday. Both were returned for touchdowns.

Cosgrove said he was impressed with how calm Belcher was.

“His overall quarterback game has improved tremendously in front of our eyes since the start of the season,” Cosgrove said.

While Belcher was solid, it was defensive end Trevor Bates who was the star Saturday. The senior from Westbrook had seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown to push the Black Bears’ lead to 20-10 in the fourth quarter. He was rewarded for his efforts by being named the CAA defensive player of the week.

Less heralded was the effort of punter James DeMartini, who averaged 50 yards on four punts and ranks second in the conference with a 37.7-yard net average in his debut season for Maine.

“He’s certainly come in and kind of been an unknown little secret here,” Cosgrove said of the junior, who played the previous two seasons for Dean College. “You saw those bombs that he hit Saturday. They were impressive and we’re fortunate that, in a game where field position was so important, that he was able to do that for us.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE, like Villanova, is surprised to find itself out of the league title race midway through the season. New Hampshire (3-4, 1-3 CAA) has appeared in 11 consecutive FCS postseasons, but that streak is in serious jeopardy after the Wildcats fell 31-14 at Delaware on Saturday.

New Hampshire has seen its normally explosive offense subdued three times this season by conference opponents, being held to 18 or fewer points in each loss, something that didn’t happen all of last year.

Quarterback Sean Goldrich returned from an injury the past two weeks, but hasn’t been as effective. He passed for just 129 yards against Delaware as New Hampshire converted only 3 of 15 third downs.

Coach Sean McDonnell said there were bigger problems for his offense, though.

“The one pick he threw was a tough one. The route wasn’t run the way we needed it to be run against man coverage. He’s finally getting back to almost full health. You watched him Saturday as he got going in the game, I thought he did fine,” McDonnell said of Goldrich. “We didn’t knock people off the ball. We’ve got to get better in our physicality on the offensive line.”

KNOCKING DEFENDERS off the ball is precisely what enabled Richmond (6-1, 4-0 CAA) to vault into first place in the conference on Saturday when it defeated previously unbeaten James Madison, 59-49. The win elevated the Spiders to the No. 6 ranking this week.

“That offensive line I really thought set the tone for the football game,” Richmond Coach Danny Rocco said after seeing his team pile up 720 yards. “They were creating space in there. They were getting some legitimate movement. And movement isn’t always knocking guys off the ball. Sometimes it’s moving them horizontally and we were creating creases in there.”

Tailback Jacobi Green gained 236 yards and scored five touchdowns. James Madison quarterback Vad Lee left with a foot injury and will be out at least one more week, Coach Everett Withers said. The Dukes fell to No. 9 in the polls.

“I think we become a little more the bull’s-eye,” Rocco said. “Now we’ve got to deal with some success and I’m hopeful that we can keep that edge.”


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