For the first time this season, it will be a full Saturday of football involving Maine college programs.
Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges play their openers, while the University of Maine, Husson University and Maine Maritime Academy reach the one-third mark in their respective seasons.
Maine Black Bears (2-1) at Syracuse Orange (1-2), 7 p.m., Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.: Last weekend, UMaine was hampered in part by a conservative offensive approach. Tonight, against Big East Conference foe Syracuse, the Bears intend to take a different mentality onto the field.
UMaine has a tall order against a Football Bowl Subdivision squad that appears to be generating some momentum after beating Northwestern last week.
“It goes without saying we have to play our best football game that we’re capable of playing and they have to stumble a little bit,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove.
UMaine is 1-6 all-time against FBS opponents, the one win coming at Mississippi State in 2004.
Cosgrove isn’t saying so, but part of the new attack may well be the increased presence of sophomore Warren Smith.
The strong-armed quarterback appears to be the logical choice for an offense that bogged down last week when he and senior Mike Brusko alternated series.
While Brusko continued to take some snaps at quarterback in practice this week, he also was lining up frequently as a slot receiver, a role he filled last season prior to taking over at QB after a season-ending injury to Adam Farkes.
“(We want to show) more aggressiveness in terms of play-calling,” Cosgrove said. “The quarterback that moves the chains is the guy that’s going to be in there.”
Cosgrove conceded the task will be difficult against a Syracuse defense that ranks 19th in the nation (FBS) in rushing defense (80.7 yards per game). UMaine will try to open holes for tailback Derek Session, who is second in the Colonial Athletic Association and 15th in the Football Championship Subdivision with 104.7 rushing yards per game.
The Orange are led by linebacker Derrell Smith (8.7 tpg), strong safety Max Sutter (7.0) and LB Doug Hogue (6.7).
“They’re a good team. They play with a tremendous amount of energy, enthusiasm, excitement in all three phases,” Cosgrove said.
A young but improving UMaine defense expects to have its hands full with a Syracuse offense directed by QB Greg Paulus. The former Duke University point guard has completed 57 of 86 passes (.663) for 618 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions in his first and only season of collegiate football.
His favorite target is wideout Mike Williams (23 receptions, 357 yds., 3 TDs), while tailback Delone Carter (212 yds., 2 TDs) provides a strong run presence.
“Their play[-action] pass is very good,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve got a nice misdirection series. They’re certainly going to challenge us with their speed and their talent.”
The Bears are led defensively by sophomore linebacker Donte Dennis (28 tackles), senior ’backer Brandon McLaughlin (26), senior end Jordan Stevens of Temple (20) and freshman end Kris Enslen (20).
BEAR TRACKS: UMaine senior linebacker Mark Masterson is questionable tonight with a right ankle injury. He was hurt at Northeastern and hasn’t played since. He wore an immobilizing boot two of the last three practices, including Friday’s workout at the Carrier Dome.
New York Maritime Privateers (2-1) at Husson Eagles (1-1), noon, Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles play their first official game as a member of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference against the improving Privateers.
Husson is coming off a lopsided 63-12 home win over first-year program Anna Maria, while New York Maritime posted a 28-21 overtime victory over King’s Point.
Both teams are run-oriented as the Privateers rank 19th in Division III rushing (247 ypg) and the Eagles are 25th (233.5 ypg). James Spanopolous (116 ypg) leads Maritime, while Julius Williams (79.5 ypg) tops Husson.
On defense, tackle Chris Dalecki (7 tpg) and cornerback Ramael Barton (6.0) spearhead Husson. Linebacker Keith Barnes has made 9.3 tpg for the Privateers.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (2-0) at Bridgewater State Bears (2-1), noon, Bridgewater, Mass.: Emotions are likely to be running high in this Bogan Division battle, since the Mariners’ victory over the Bears last season ultimately put MMA in the New England Football Conference playoffs at Bridgewater State’s expense.
MMA leads the league and ranks second in Division III while rushing for 442.5 ypg. The triple option is directed by QB Tyler Angell, while fullback Jim Bower (the nation’s No. 4 rusher at 160.5 ypg) and halfback Nick Bourassa (116 ypg) are the main weapons.
The Bears rank sixth in the country with 324 rushing yards per contest with Justin Fuller (No. 3 in Division III) accounting for 165 ypg and QB Steven Clark netting 96 ypg via the run.
Today’s other games: Williams at Colby, Trinity at Bates, Middlebury at Bowdoin. All are 1 p.m. kickoffs.