Sunday Hat Trick: UMaine football impressive in new coach’s debut

Sometimes, you learn more from losing than you do from winning.

The University of Maine football team, picked to finish 9th in the Colonial Athletic Association, arguably the best conference in the Football Championship Subdivision, sought to prove something in their opener at FBS foe Connecticut on Thursday.

Even though the Black Bears were on the short end of a 24-21 score in coach Joe Harasymiak’s debut, Maine can certainly build on that effort heading into this weekend’s contest at another FBS opponent in Toledo.

Using a new offensive system implemented by Harasymiak and new offensive coordinator Liam Coen, Maine’s offense looked far different than the moribund unit that struggled to score points in 2015.

Quarterback Dan Collins showed why he should be Maine’s No. 1 guy, completing 19 of 33 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

What was more impressive to me was the number that doesn’t jump out most stat sheets: Zero turnovers. Collins looked confident, poised, made some excellent reads and took great care of the football.

Junior wide receiver Jaleel Reed proved to be Collins’ favorite target with an 8-catch, 169-yard breakout performance and a touchdown, stepping up in the absence of suspended wideout Micah Wright.

Maine’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, as it’ll host CAA power James Madison in its home opener two weeks after taking on Toledo, but the rest of the league should be put on notice after the UConn game.

The Black Bears are not going to be an easy foe for anybody, and with an improved offense and an always-tough defense, should be in the thick of every game.

Longtime tradition returns to Bangor

The Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial end of summer, one last chance to gather at camps or beaches before the leaves change colors and kids head back to school.

In the Maine running community, the first Monday of September includes one of the state’s grandest athletic traditions in Bangor’s annual Labor Day 5-mile road race.

The race will celebrate its 54th running on Monday morning. It’s a challenging yet fun event that loops around the city.

If you’re training for a fall marathon or half marathon, this is the perfect race to add to your training regime. The middle mile is one of the most challenging miles in Maine road racing, taking runners up a steep Holland Street, but once you turn onto West Broadway back towards downtown, you’re set up for a fast, downhill finish.

The race starts at 9 a.m. and you can sign up on race day for $20 from 7:45 to 8:45. Even if you don’t plan on running, there are plenty of great spots in the city – from Union Street near Mansfield Stadium to West Broadway by Stephen King’s house, and the long homestretch on Main Street – to cheer on Eastern Maine’s best runners.

Returning to where it all started 

I usually don’t use this space to promote myself, but if you haven’t heard the news already, I’m proud to announce that I’m returning to the BDN’s sports staff after five years on the Metro Desk.

This blog has certainly allowed me to get back into sportswriting to a degree, and I’ve learned a lot about my profession from editors and colleagues during my time on the Metro Desk. It’ll certainly make me a better sportswriter.

I’m excited to once again work alongside a talented team in Pete Warner, Larry Mahoney and Ernie Clark, and as the fall sports season gets into full swing this week, we’re excited to bring you some great stories about the great athletes and teams, high school and college, and other great athletes, of the state of Maine.

To my Metro colleagues, best of luck and thank you for all that you’ve taught me, and remember I’ll be a Tom Brady swing pass away in the newsroom if you want to come say hi.

I also look forward to reconnecting with all the great coaches and administrators throughout the state and following some talented athletes in their quests for achieving their athletic dreams.

See you on the court, rink, field, track or cross country course soon! Hopefully, it’ll be just like I never left.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.