ORONO — With the season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium two weeks away, the University of Maine football players knew the significance of Wednesday’s final scrimmage of training camp.

“We all knew that this was the last real scrimmage, the last live game simulation we would have,” said Mike Gerace, a senior center from Bel Air, Maryland. “And all the guys knew they’ve got to make the most of this opportunity.”

Fofie Bazzie, a senior defensive back and transfer from Maryland, said Wednesday morning’s scrimmage will go a long way toward identifying what players will play key roles on offense, defense and special teams when the Black Bears host Delaware at 7 p.m. Sept. 2.

“We had a great first scrimmage, and this scrimmage, we felt we needed to crank it up and identify those guys,” he said. “I feel we did well on both sides of the ball. Now we’ll watch film, look to improve and go from there.”

It was an interesting scrimmage, with the offense and defense making plays, and both units showing they need to work on things. The offense had a good day passing the ball, especially on third down. The defense did a good job against the run.

Overall, the Black Bears ran 85 plays – 38 by the first unit. That, said Coach Nick Charlton, “is more than what we intended for (the first unit). But we kind of wanted them to play the game. We need to make sure they’re conditioned and ready to go for when we have a game in two weeks.”


The importance of the scrimmage, said Charlton, was its game replication. He noted it was the first time in two years the Black Bears scrimmaged with officials, a play clock and the full range of game rules.

“I was pleased with that, there’s (game) management with that,” he said. “The only way to replicate that is by doing. That’s what I keep telling the players, ‘We’ve got to play the game before we play the game.’ And today I think we did that.”

The players saw the value as well. For example, on the first series of the scrimmage, the offense faced a third-down play on four occasions and converted each time. The first was a third-and-20, which was converted on a 30-yard pass to Jacob Hennie; the last resulted in a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Fagnano to running back Freddie Brock, a sophomore who impressed last spring.

“You never want to be in that situation,” said Fagnano, a junior who will be starting his third season. “But it happens and you’ve got to practice those type of things. On that third-and-long, Hennie ran a good route and I was able to lay it out for him. He made a play. You need things like that to happen, you need guys to make a play and keep the offense rolling.”

Even a defensive back like Bazzie, who played two games last spring, could appreciate the offense learning to execute in a difficult situation. “You don’t want them to make a play, but if they do, you’re not mad at that,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re on the same team and it’s great to know they can do that.”

Notable players held out of the scrimmage for various injuries included wide receivers Andre Miller and Montigo Moss, linebacker Ray Miller, defensive back Robby Riobe, running back Jordan Rowell, defensive lineman John Costanza and kickers Jonny Messina and Vladimir Rivas. Charlton said all should be ready for the opener.

At this point of training camp – the final practice is Monday – Charlton noted, “when you look at the grand scheme of things, you’ve got to be healthy and you have to have your players in order to win.”

NOTES: Charlton said many players were receiving COVID-19 vaccinations following lunch on Wednesday. The University of Maine system is requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for all on-campus students this fall. Friday is the deadline for verifying vaccination status. Charlton said this round of vaccinations – about 20 players were getting their second shot and others were getting their first – will put the Black Bears over 90 percent. He said they should have no trouble reaching 100 percent. UMaine Athletic Director Ken Ralph, who was watching the scrimmage at field level, said other teams, such as women’s soccer and field hockey, are already at 100 percent. “Our students have done a really good job,” said Ralph. “I think we’re in a very, very good spot. Our medical team did a good job of educating everybody.” …  Freshman wide receiver Logan Martin, of Dover-Foxcroft and Foxcroft Academy, suffered a left leg injury late in the scrimmage and had to be carted off the field.

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