ORONO – After an 0-2 start, the schedule loosens up a little for Maine football this week vs. Merrimack, but the real focus will be on getting redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson up to speed as he’ll make his first collegiate start after the injury to Joe Fagnano.
“This is the second time this has happened now in my short career as a head coach and nobody feels sorry for you, you got to roll and we have a lot of confidence in Derek,” said Maine head coach Nick Charlton.
On Oct. 12, 2019, a young Joe Fagnano replaced an injured Chris Ferguson under center for Maine football.
It just so happens that standing on the sidelines that day, making his first unofficial visit as a UMaine recruit, was Derek Robertson.
“I’ve wanted this my whole life, this was exactly what I wanted to do ever since I was a little kid, so to have this opportunity I just gotta make the most of it,” Robertson said.
Like Fagnano, Robertson’s path to opportunity comes at a cost, but when No. 1 went down with a high ankle sprain vs. James Madison, Robertson had little time to contemplate the circumstance.
“Derek, when he came into that huddle for the first time and the older players looked at him, they have confidence in him. It s not like here comes the freshman coming in. Derek carries himself with moxie, and I think it resonates well with the players,” Charlton said.
On emergency notice, the red-shirt freshman completed 8 of 22 passes with a touchdown and interception in the JMU loss.
“Considering the environment and the situation he was put in against a team of that caliber, I thought Derek handled himself pretty well,” Charlton said.
Now, the expectations reset for this week s game vs. Merrimack.
“It’s limited reps when Joe was in, so now it s just getting with the guys, getting with the receivers, making sure the timings right and getting ready for Saturday,” Robertson said.
For the next 4-6 weeks, Fagnano will make his contributions from the sideline while working with Robertson as he’s done from the beginning.
“Joe has been with Derek here throughout this whole thing. He was crutching his way into meetings last night at 8:30 at night. He s going to be an advocate, he s going to be another coach on the field, he had a headset on today,” Charlton said. “Joe is somebody that I have a lot of trust in and he’s going to be an extension of Coach Dresner and myself on the field with Derek.”
The Black Bears will kick things off against Merrimack this Saturday at noon. The game will be aired on ABC 7.