The 19th-ranked University of Maine, 2-0 for the first time since 2002, is prepared for the second of three consecutive road games.
Meanwhile, Husson University of Bangor and Maine Maritime Academy of Castine play their home openers during Saturday’s contests involving instate college football programs.
Maine Black Bears (2-0) at Albany Great Danes (0-2), 1 p.m., University Field, Albany, N.Y.: Coach Jack Cosgrove’s team seeks continued improvement as it battles the two-time defending Northeast Conference champions.
Both teams are dealing with injuries to All-America running backs. UMaine will be without sophomore fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston, who is missing his third straight game with a groin injury.
The Lewiston Sun-Journal reported Friday that the 2006 Fitzpatrick Trophy winner is likely facing surgery in the near future.
Albany has a key injury issue as senior tailback David McCarty injured his hip last week against Massachusetts and is questionable against UMaine.
Albany has earned respect in recent years, especially after winning eight straight games to end last season, including a win over Colonial Athletic Association member Hofstra.
“I felt like Albany had really been demonstrating the signs of what you call a CAA team,” Cosgrove said.
The developing UMaine defense, led by linebackers Brandon McLaughlin (18 tackles) and Donte Dennis (17) and end Kris Enslen (16), encounters a run-oriented Albany team.
The Great Danes are led by running quarterback Andrew Smith (13 carries, 112 yards), McCarty (34-105) and Justin Gannon (26-103).
“They have gone to a little bit of a ‘wildcat’ operation,” Cosgrove said. “Smith is a great athlete who, for right now, is their wildcat guy.”
The wildcat is a scheme in which a player in the backfield takes a direct snap from center and runs the ball.
Quarterback Vinny Esposito is 27-for-54 with 234 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Wide receiver Tim Bush has 11 receptions for 106 yards.
Albany has committed seven turnovers in two games.
The Bears continue to streamline their offense with a two-quarterback system. Senior Mike Brusko (103 yards rushing, 14-for-20, 112 yds., passing) and sophomore Warren Smith (10-13, 145, 1TD) will share the snaps.
“Now we’ve got to put the plan into action,” Cosgrove said. “We think it’s helped us game-plan, provide a challenge to our opponent.”
Leading the receiver corps are senior Landis Williams (6 rec., 73 yds, 1 TD) and junior Des Randall (7-107).
Sophomore Derek Session has picked up the slack with Turcotte out, rushing for 238 yards on 42 carries with two TDs.
Having faced two tough opponents in Georgia Southern and UMass, the Great Danes have allowed 36.5 points and 395 yards per game, 271 via the pass.
Albany’s mainstays include inside linebacker Justin Brancaccio (20 tackles), free safety Dave Casale (16) and outside ‘backer Dave Nicomini (14), who have combined for 8.5 tackles for a loss.
UMaine hopes to minimize turnovers after committing four against Northeastern.
“They’re (Albany) going to be a very hungry bunch because they’re not used to being 0-2,” Cosgrove said. “They’re opening their season now at home and they’re very good at home.”
BEAR TRACKS: UMaine also may be without senior linebacker and tri-captain Mark Masterson for today’s game. He suffered a foot/ankle injury at Northeastern, did not return to that game and was limited in practice this week.
Anna Maria Amcats (0-2) at Husson Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles will make their 2009 home debut against a future Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference opponent in Anna Maria of Paxton, Mass., a first-year varsity program.
Husson is coming off a tough opener at Merrimack, where the Eagles lost the game and a couple of key players. Starting quarterback James McCandless and tailback Justin Lindie of Winslow both were injured in the contest and are expected to sit out today.
That means sophomore Jack Hersom of Sidney, a former Lawrence High School standout, takes over at quarterback. Tailback Julius “Juice” Williams will now be backed up by Byron Jackson.
The Eagles look to tighten up the defense a bit behind the likes of linebacker Deenon Blindow (seven tackles), cornerback Ramael Barton (6.5) and linebacker Bobby Gilbert of Beaver Cove (6.5).
Anna Maria has been outscored 90-40 in two games, giving up 212.5 ypg on the ground and 219.5 ypg through the air.
The Amcats are led offensively by running back Nate Adames (48 carries, 235 yds., 1 TD). Kevin Fitzpatrick and Rich Brandt have been in on 20 tackles each to spearhead the defense.
Western New England Bears (1-1) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (1-0), 1 p.m., Ritchie Field, Castine: The Mariners hope to keep the offense rolling after churning out 508 yards and 62 points in their victory at Becker.
MMA’s top run threats are halfback Nick Bourassa (seven carries, 177 yds., 1 TD) and senior fullback Jim Bower (22-157-3), along with senior QB Tyler Angell (7-50).
WNE is coming off a 21-6 loss at Westfield State. The Bears have averaged 430 total yards per game, but have put up only 17 ppg.
Quarterback Justin Waltz has completed 40 of 85 passes for 577 yards and four TDs with four interceptions. Chris Vaillant (9 rec., 79 yds.) is among the leading receivers.
The Mariners counter with a defense that looks to Travis Fergola (9 tackles), Conor Callahan (8) and Wade Mondoux (7) to set the tone.