EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The University of Maine lost another offensive weapon for its opener Thursday night at the University of Connecticut even before the team reached Rentschler Field.

Late Wednesday, first-year head coach Joe Harasymiak and the Black Bears were informed that running back Zaire Williams, second on the depth chart behind starter Nigel Beckford, was ineligible for the game. Williams transferred to Maine from Temple University and has yet to be academically cleared to play by the NCAA.

He is expected to be able to play next week, when the Black Bears play at Toledo.

With Williams not playing, freshman Josh Mack moved into the No. 2 slot. And Mack, from Rochester, New York, made an immediate impression.

Mack got in on Maine’s third series and scored the Black Bears’ first touchdown of the season. Maine drove 95 yards in seven plays on the drive, with Mack scoring on a 20-yard swing pass to the left by quarterback Dan Collins. Mack was wide open when he caught the ball, then dove into the end zone as he was being tackled.

He had two carries for 12 yards on the drive and was Maine’s leading rusher at the half.


MAINE WAS already without Micah Wright, its leading receiver last year. Wright was suspended for two games for a violation of the university’s student-athlete code last May when he was arrested for disorderly conduct at an off-campus party.

James DeMartini, last year’s punter, was also not available. He was suspended one game for a violation of the university’s student-athlete code for an incident last spring.

ZORDAN HOLMAN, the former Cheverus High star from Portland, saw action for the Huskies during the first half on special teams. Holman, now 6-foot-5, 256 pounds, is a red-shirt freshman for Connecticut.

CONNECTICUT QUARTERBACK Bryant Shirreffs scored an apparent touchdown on a scramble early in the second quarter. But the play was blown dead at the 1-yard line because Shirreffs’ helmet went flying off when he was hit by Maine cornerback Najee Goode. Shirreffs also had to sit out a play after losing his helmet, but the Huskies scored anyway on a fourth-down, 1-yard run by Ron Johnson.

Shirreffs was the leading rusher in the first half, with 56 yards – most on scrambles out of the pocket.

LIAM COEN, Maine’s new offensive coordinator, was walking through the press box before the game, looking for his perch to oversee the field.


“Nervous?” he was asked.

“Excited,” he replied. “And a little anxious, too.”

Coen has injected a new look into Maine’s offense, with multiple formations and personnel groupings.

“We want to be able to be multiple, and by multiple I mean multiple formations, personnel groupings, tempos,” he said. “We want to attack the defense in every way, shape and form possible so that they can’t get a bead on what we’re trying to do.”

The Black Bears had a couple of impressive drives in the first half, which ended in a 7-7 tie. Maine outgained Connecticut 164-141 in the first half and Collins was 9 of 13 for 140 yards. His favorite target was junior wide receiver Jaleel Reed, who caught five passes for 105 yards in the first half.

Interestingly, Collins and Reed live about 20 minutes apart – Collins in Williamstown, New Jersey, and Reed in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania – and often drive to and from Orono together.

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