ORONO, Maine — For my money, Dan Collins was one snap from losing his job as the University of Maine’s starting quarterback on Saturday afternoon.
Coach Joe Harasymiak denied that assertion after the Black Bears’ resilient 35-31 victory over Bryant at Alfond Stadium, but Collins continues to tiptoe a fine line between being an adequate quarterback and failing to meet expectations.
Prior to the final snap of the first half on Saturday, Collins had been mired in a protracting passing slump. He had completed only 11 of his previous 31 throws (35 percent) for 130 yards with no touchdowns and six interceptions dating back to halftime of the Black Bears’ 31-20 loss to James Madison a week earlier.
With UMaine trailing 21-0, the officials moving the chains and only two seconds remaining on the clock, Collins did have the presence of mind to set the offense and take a snap in time to loft a 2-yard scoring pass to Micah Wright in the end zone.
The re-energized Black Bears, back within two scores, eventually rallied in the final 19 minutes to pull out the win.
Collins settled down to have a much more productive second half, thanks in great part to the rejuvenated running game spearheaded by freshman tailback Josh Mack.
Collins, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from Williamstown, New Jersey, has been an enigma during his UMaine career.
In games during which he has taken the majority of the snaps, the Black Bears have a lackluster 5-13 record. That includes a 2-6 mark last year.
Collins has made 17 starts in 21 appearances dating back to limited action as a redshirt freshman in 2013. He is a 51 percent career passer (271-for-532) and has thrown for 3,237 yards. He has only 19 TD passes and has been intercepted 17 times.
With UMaine having played only one Colonial Athletic Association game this season, is Collins the right quarterback to lead the offense the rest of the way?
Ultimately, Collins’ job security wasn’t an issue on Saturday. Junior backup Drew Belcher, who has played significant minutes the previous two seasons, was not even dressed as he was suspended for a violation of team rules dating back to the 2015-2016 school year.
That left untested redshirt freshman Jack Walsh as the backup.
Collins earned the right to direct the UMaine offense by virtue of his edge in game experience and having the strongest throwing arm among the QB corps. But nothing has come easy for him.
He beat out then-freshman Belcher for the starting job in 2014 and demonstrated resolve while running for his proverbial life that season behind a young offensive line. He was driven into the turf by Stony Brook’s Dante Allen and suffered a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder in the sixth game.
Last year, the UMaine coaching staff waited until 48 hours before its opener at Boston College before dubbing Collins the starter over Belcher. Belcher went 1-2 as a starter later in the season, but Collins regained the job for the last two games, both losses.
This year, there was little mystery and no fanfare as Collins again earned the nod.
There have been glimpses of stellar play exhibited by Collins during his career, but there have been more examples where he didn’t get the job done.
Moving forward, Collins must demonstrate not only more throwing accuracy but better decision-making, especially when looking downfield. It seems that his desire to make a big play has resulted in too many balls being thrown up for grabs.
Settling for an underneath receiver or throwing the ball away vastly improves UMaine’s chances of keeping the ball and playing another down.
No one questions Collins’ commitment or his drive to win, but his ability to limit interceptions will play a major role in the Black Bears’ ability to put points on the board and win more games this season.