The University of Maine hopes to demonstrate significant improvement from its first game, while Husson University of Bangor and Maine Maritime Academy of Castine get their first on-field tests during Saturday’s college football action involving Maine teams.
All three squads are on the road.
Maine Black Bears (1-0) at Northeastern Huskies (0-1), 1 p.m., Parsons Field, Brookline, Mass.: UMaine realizes it must execute better than during its opening-game overtime win over Division II St. Cloud State when it faces Northeastern in the teams’ mutual Colonial Athletic Association opener.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s 20th-ranked Bears took advantage of two extra practice days, after a Thursday (Sept. 3) debut, to shore up things.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of improvements to make,” Cosgrove said. “We needed to have better team defense vs. the pass and better team offense with the pass.”
UMaine faces a NU squad that was drubbed 54-0 by Football Bowl Subdivision member Boston College a week ago. The Bears fully expect the Huskies are a better team than that score might indicate.
UMaine and NU have a propensity for playing tight games, especially in Brookline. The Bears have won five straight in the series.
“I think every time we play down there it’s a one-score game either way,” Cosgrove said. “I think the teams have a similar mentality, two physical football teams.”
The Bears look to control the game and the clock with their veteran offense and contain the Huskies with their developing defense.
On offense, UMaine will build around its ground attack led by tailback Derek Session (career-high 124 yards in the opener), fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston and quarterback Mike Brusko. Turcotte was back at practice this week after missing more than two weeks with a groin injury.
The Bears hope to establish balance through the air. Senior wide receiver Landis Williams is on the trip after being out with a broken hand, but Brusko has several other targets including junior wideout Des Randall.
The Huskies’ defense is headed up by linebacker Phil Higgins, free safety Darryl Jones and strong safety Nate Thellen.
“Their defense is very much experienced,” Cosgrove said. “They’re real physical, fly to the football.”
UMaine seeks a more physical and aggressive approach from its defensive line and linebackers against NU. That will help take some of the pressure off the secondary.
The Bears, led by linebackers Brandon McLaughlin and Mark Masterson, along with end Jordan Stevens of Temple, expect to encounter an NU offense that will try to run the football.
The Huskies, armed with a new quarterback in junior Alex Dulski (4-for-6, 21 yards), went for more of finesse approach against BC.
“We’re ready for them to do some other things that are more physical in nature,” Cosgrove said. “They have a veteran offensive line but they are breaking in a new quarterback and some backs.”
Husson Eagles (0-0) at Merrimack Warriors (0-1), 1 p.m., Warrior Field, North Andover, Mass.: The Eagles open the Niles Nelson coaching era with another Division II opponent. Husson lost only one Division III contest last season.
Husson returns with a veteran offense paced by the tailback tandem of Julius “Juice” Williams and Justin Lindie of Winslow. One concern may be nagging injuries to the offensive line.
Merrimack has a game under its belt, a 58-34 loss to American International College. The Warriors won last year’s meeting, also on opening day, 42-7.
The Eagles’ revamped defense, led by safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor and linebacker Bobby Gilbert of Beaver Cove, will have to contend with the likes of
Merrimack QB James Suozo threw for 188 yards and two TDs last week.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-0) at Becker Eagles (0-1), Alumni Field, Leicester, Mass.: The Mariners open the campaign with a nonleague road game against the Eagles of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, which also includes Husson.
MMA’s bread and butter is the triple option offense, which features senior fullback Jim Bower of South Paris and quarterback Tyler Angell of Leeds.
Becker was blitzed 64-7 by Utica in its first game, during which the Eagles allowed five yards per rush. Becker edged MMA 34-32 in their 2008 meeting at Castine.
The Mariners need to avoid turnovers, convert scoring chances and minimize the Eagles’ big plays with a sound defensive effort.