ORONO — A month ago, Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove awarded the starting quarterback job to Dan Collins, saying he hoped the sophomore took every snap this season.

In the third game of that season Saturday, Cosgrove reversed course, turning to freshman Drew Belcher as a complement to Collins.

On Wednesday, he said the two could be sharing signal-calling duties for the rest of the autumn as Maine enters Colonial Athletic Association play with a 1-2 record and an urgency to start scoring more points.

Cosgrove said it wasn’t a sign that he was disappointed in Collins.

“I think Danny’s gotten better. But I think quite frankly the other kid (Belcher) got our attention, and continues to. Not that Danny hasn’t,” Cosgrove said. “It just became part of something we thought was a necessary step for us to get better. We play different guys at every position. The quarterback’s got the halo over it or something that you don’t do it. But I know a bunch of good programs that have done this, and it’s worked for them, and we’re going to see if it can work for us right now.”

It can be a delicate balance, trying to help each quarterback maintain his confidence while essentially sending the message that you don’t feel either is ready to be the clear leader of your offense.

Cosgrove said reopening the quarterback competition has benefited both quarterbacks. He said they have been more decisive in practice this week while preparing to play at Towson (2-2) on Saturday.

“People might assume, ‘Oh, they must be mad at each other.’ That’s not it at all,” Cosgrove said. “They’re team guys first. And they’re competing against each other, yes, but they’re also competing with each other.”

Collins is 26-of-54 for 356 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception, which is something Cosgrove values highly.

But Maine has had trouble sustaining drives, converting just 8-of-40 third downs while managing only 10 points in each game.

Hence the switch in philosophy regarding the quarterback position. Collins said he wasn’t taken aback when informed before Saturday’s game at Boston College that Belcher would also see action for the first time.

“I think any competition helps in football,” Collins said. “If you have two Tom Bradys out there, if you have two great quarterbacks going against each other, they’re obviously going to get better, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

Collins had arguably his best half of football of the season in the 40-10 loss at Boston College. He completed 4-of-8 passes for 90 yards, picking up another 4 on his lone carry, and the Black Bears picked up five first downs. They had only one in the second half.

Belcher took over on Maine’s third series of the game, as planned, and misfired on both of his pass attempts. He was stuffed for a 1-yard gain when Maine brought him in for one play near the goal line. That was an attempt to take advantage of the 6-foot-3 1/2, 230-pound quarterback’s proficiency at the outside zone run, a play on which he later gained 19 yards.

Belcher said getting his first collegiate playing time was beneficial.

“I did pretty much what I was supposed to do on most of the plays,” he said of the 15 snaps he took. “Playing your first college game, you get the experience but also you get more confidence.

“To be able to see how practice translates to the game, it just allows you to trust yourself more.”

Belcher and Collins both said that competing for playing time hasn’t been awkward and that they remain friends.

“We know that the coach is doing what’s best for the team, and we know when we get out there we’ve just got to do what we can and do our best,” Belcher said. “We both know that it’s just competition.”

Cosgrove said there will be a detailed plan of which quarterback will take the field for which series of plays, and that both will be informed in advance. There may also be more situational substitutions, as when Belcher relieved Collins for the one goal-line play Saturday.

If either quarterback elevates his play significantly, or fails to rise to the challenge, the job-sharing could be declared over, Cosgrove said. But he doubts that’s going to happen in the near term.

“I think this is something that’s going to be competitive for a while here,” Cosgrove said.

“My hope is that it impacts the whole football team in a way that we win. We need to help our defense by moving the football.”

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