WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — The University of Maine football team has focused on intensity and execution since last week’s season-opening loss to Albany. The Black Bears’ offense, in particular, hopes to demonstrate its lackluster debut was a fluke when it heads back onto the field for today’s nonconference game. UMaine and Husson University are both coming off losses, while Maine Maritime Academy of Castine plays its opener during Saturday’s games featuring Maine college programs.
Maine Black Bears (0-1) at Monmouth Hawks (0-1), 1 p.m., Kessler Field, West Long Branch, N.J.: The Bears return to the scene of a dramatic, late-game victory in 2008, hoping to prove they are better than they showed in their 3-0, opening-game loss to Albany.
Junior quarterback Warren Smith will lead the Bears’ offense onto the field in his first collegiate game played in his home state. The offense is determined to make a statement after being shut out by Albany, when Smith completed only 5 of 13 passes for 49 yards with an interception.
“This week we tried to come out with a new mindset, going hard every time like it was a game situation,” junior tailback Derek Session said of UMaine’s practice mentality. “I think [the change] was execution and boost of intensity, because we all know we didn’t play to the best of our ability.”
It starts up front, where the line must blow open holes for Session and fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston while providing time for Smith to find open receivers.
Turcotte (18 carries, 90 yards), who suffered a hip pointer against Albany, is expected to be ready to play against the Hawks, who play in the same Northeast Conference as the Great Danes.
“We were fortunate that we had a little extra time to heal up,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “He’s been out practicing with us and he’s ready to go.”
UMaine faces a Monmouth squad that took No. 21 Colgate to the wire, but failed to make a two-point rush that would have given it a victory. The Hawks are paced defensively by linebacker Chris Mastrangelo (13 tackles) and safety Kendall Haley (9 tackles).
“They’re perennially a first- or second-place team in that [Northeast] conference,” Cosgrove said. “They’re really an outstanding football program.”
The Bears defense hopes to reprise its stingy effort against the Great Danes, during which it surrendered only a first-half field goal and 250 total yards. Safeties Jerron McMillian (13 tackles) and Trevor Coston (8 tackles) and linebacker Donte Dennis (8 tackles) look to set the tone against the Hawks.
Monmouth, which has a reputation as a potent running team, platoons quarterbacks Kyle Frazier and Adam Mandeville.
Frazier (10-for-16, 105 yards) provides the arm, while Mandeville (7 carries, 55 yards) gives the Hawks a “wildcat” run threat. Tailback Bobby Giles (12 carries, 66 yds.) is poised to become a career 1,000-yard rusher.
“I think the two quarterbacks catch your eye,” Cosgrove said. “They did a nice job of using them in the second half [at Colgate].”
Springfield Pride (1-0) at Husson Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles’ testy nonconference schedule continues with their second straight home game.
Coach Niles Nelson’s squad has been working hard coming off last week’s 38-0 loss to nationally ranked Otterbein. Things aren’t likely to get much easier against the Pride.
Springfield, of the Empire 8 Conference, features the triple-option offense, one that usually proves a challenge for its opponents.
The Eagles will rely on defensive end Ernest Wiggins, linebacker Mike Toothaker and safety Kyle Vanidestine (9 tackles in the opener) to help slow down the Pride. Springfield racked up a 31-7 victory last week over King’s College.
Husson looks for more offensive consistency led by QB Jack Hersom and tailback Justin Lindie.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-0) at Anna Maria Amcats (0-1), 1 p.m., Amcat Field, Paxton, Mass.: The Mariners begin their quest for a second straight NCAA Division III playoff berth with a nonleague game on the road.
The Mariners, featuring a veteran offense sparked by All-America tailback Jim Bower, are likely to be a handful for the Amcats, who play in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference along with Husson.
Anna Maria, 0-10 since starting NCAA play last season, committed six turnovers in its season-opening 49-21 loss to Worcester State.
MMA led all of Division III in rushing a year ago and will rely on QB Matt Rende to make the reads and decide who gets the football.