The University of Maine was well aware its struggling offense would be significantly challenged against Stony Brook’s stingy defense Saturday night.
The Black Bears likely envisioned putting up more than 135 total yards and only one touchdown in what resulted in a 19-7 loss to the Seawolves.
UMaine’s offensive woes may have taken a significant turn for the worse.
Head coach Jack Cosgrove did not provide any details Monday but conceded an injury sustained by sophomore quarterback Dan Collins may have long-term implications.
“I think it’s pretty significant, and that’s kind of how we’re thinking right now in terms of his availability,” Cosgrove said during the weekly Colonial Athletic Association teleconference.
Collins injured his right throwing shoulder on the second play of the fourth quarter, when he was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Stony Brook’s Dante Allen at the Black Bears’ 4-yard line.
“Today’s a holiday, so he’ll see the doctor tomorrow (Tuesday) morning,” Cosgrove said Monday.
Collins, who won the starting job during training camp, has been under constant pressure this season, as UMaine tries to put together a cohesive group along the offensive line. The Bears were unable to generate any flow against a Stony Brook defense that ranks the best in the CAA and is one of the most potent in all of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“They pressured us. We didn’t handle some of the things they did very well, individually or as an offensive unit,” Cosgrove said. “We got beat man to man a number of times.”
Collins completed 12 of 24 passes for 117 yards against the Seawolves, including a 73-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Salmon on the second play of the game and an interception.
Collins was credited with three carries for minus-17 yards, all of which were sacks.
This season, Collins has gone 77 for 143 through the air (.538) for 908 yards and nine scores with only two intercepts. He has a pass-efficiency rating of 125.16.
If Collins is unable to play for any significant period of time, UMaine should benefit from the experience gained by Drew Belcher.
The first-year quarterback from Reading, Massachusetts, has appeared in four games, completing 6 of 18 passes for 64 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He has carried 18 times for a net 8 yards.
With Collins out, redshirt freshman Dan Hoffer would move into the backup role. The 6-foot-2, 210 pounder from Yonkers, New York, played at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York.
Injuries continue to pile up
Collins is on a growing list of Black Bears who are dealing with injuries.
On Saturday, starting safety Khari Al-Mateen and starting wide receiver Jordan Dunn left the game with undisclosed injuries.
Two more starters, tailback Nigel Jones and offensive guard Dan Carriker, did not make the trip because of upper-body injuries, while wideout Micah Wright missed his second-straight contest because of a bad shoulder.
That group accounts for the Bears’ leading rusher, one of two veterans on the offensive line, the “quarterback” of the secondary and two of their top receiving threats.
Growing pains grip offense
UMaine is mired in one of the worst offensive funks in recent memory.
The Bears were limited to 135 yards at Stony Brook, the fewest total yards by a UMaine team since it gained 104 in a 31-7 loss to James Madison in Orono on Nov. 3, 2012.
UMaine, which mustered just 139 yards in its 40-10 setback at Boston College on Sept. 20, has scored 10 points or fewer in four of its six games this season.
Its problems were magnified against a Stony Brook defense that has afforded its opponents to a CAA-low 12.1 points and 216.3 total yards per game, including only 80.4 yards per game via the run.
“We really, as a young group, just weren’t able to match them physically in some situations and then schematically,” Cosgrove said. “We had some problems executing against them.”
The Black Bears, who employ a quick offensive pace, have had the ball less than any team in the league this season. UMaine has an average possession time of only 25 minutes, 43 seconds per game.
That also means its defense is only the field longer than all of its opponents (34:17).
That means a greater propensity for the UMaine defense to get worn down later in the game, particularly against teams such as Stony Brook that present a physical style of play featuring big, tough running backs.
“They’re standing up against good rushing offenses,” Cosgrove said of his team’s difficulties in stopping the run against Stony Brook and previous opponents.
“We’ve got our guys playing hard, fighting hard,” he added. “I think we have a good group of run-stopping linebackers, but they’ve (opponents) been better than us in that regard and it’s really that simple.”
UMaine returns to Alfond Stadium on Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. Homecoming game against the University at Albany.