April 26, 2018
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UMaine hopes to cash in twice at Syracuse

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

Any given Saturday. It’s a term coaches use to motivate their players for games, especially those against more highly-regarded opponents.

The University of Maine hopes to post an upset Saturday night when it takes on Bowl Championship Subdivision member Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

Maine Black Bears (1-1) at Syracuse Orange (1-1), 7:15 p.m., Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.: The Bears will represent the Colonial Athletic Association and the Football Championship Subdivision while taking on Big East Conference member Syracuse for the second year in a row.

UMaine earns a check for $300,000 to provide the Orange with one of six home games this season. The practice of playing a “guarantee” game has become standard procedure for the Bears and numerous other FCS programs.

“It’s something that’s become a part of our program,” said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove, whose team plays at Pittsburgh in 2011. “Our players look forward to it, our coaches. It helps us grow in many ways as a program.”

UMaine hopes to make it a win-win proposition by beating Syracuse. Only last week, CAA member James Madison knocked off then-No. 13 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

“We’re not going there for the experience,” stressed UMaine senior guard Matt Barber. “It’s a football game, we’re going there to win. That’s what we’re preparing for.”

Last season, the Bears executed two onside kicks and two fake punts in trying to combat what is perceived as the Orange’s superior talent and depth, but lost 41-24. Syracuse is likely to be leery of such plays this time around.

“I don’t think anything’s going to work this year. We’ve got a lot of respect for Syracuse,” Cosgrove said.

“All coaching staffs look for opportunities to find ways where perhaps through a trick play or surprise on special teams you can get an edge,” he added.

However, Cosgrove was quick to point out Syracuse dominated the second half last season, in all phases of the game, en route to the victory.

“For us to win the game, we have to play better football,” he said. “If we’re not successful over the course of 60 minutes, that’ll catch up to us.”

Syracuse played its first two games on road, opening with 29-3 win at Akron, before dropping a 41-20 decision at Washington. The Orange have been balanced on offense behind the running of Delone Carter (91 yards per game, 1 touchdown), quarterback Ryan Nassib (34-for-62, 431 yds., 3 TDs, 2 interceptions).

UMaine won’t have to deal with SU wideout Aaron Weaver, who is out for the season with an injury. However, the Bears must keep tabs on receivers Van Chew (9 receptions, 162 yds., 1 TD) and Alec Lemon (7 rec., 83 yds., 1 TD).

The UMaine defense is spearheaded by safeties Jerron McMillian (20 tackles) and Trevor Coston (13) and linebackers Donte Dennis and Vinson Givans (13 tackles each).

Syracuse’s offensive front averages better than 6-foot-4, 302 pounds.

“We see them much improved in the offensive line and wanting to run the ball with a back who was very dangerous last year in Carter,” Cosgrove said. “I think that allows them to be a better play-action pass team and a better third-down team.”

On offense, the Bears look to continue the progress demonstrated last week against Monmouth. That means first running the ball consistently with tailback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston (117 ypg, 3 TDs).

UMaine also has to protect quarterback Warren Smith (22-for-39, 243 yds., 3 TDs, 1 INT) and have TB Derek Session (7 rec., 122 yds.), tight end Derek Buttles (6 rec., 59 yds.) and WR Des Randall (6 rec., 28 yds.) get open consistently.

The Orange feature a veteran defense that looks to LB Derrell Smith (19 tackles), FS Phillip Thomas (15) and LB Doug Hogue (10 tackles, 1 sack).

“They’re very fast, physical, an extension of what we saw last year but with improved personnel,” Cosgrove said.

The Bears are without starting left tackle Josh Spearin of Limington, who suffered a knee injury at Monmouth.

For the record, five FCS teams have beaten BCS opponents this season.

Salisbury Sea Gulls (2-0) at Husson Eagles (0-2), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: Coach Niles Nelson’s squad plays its third consecutive home game, this time taking on the Sea Gulls from Salisbury, Md., and the Atlantic Central Football Conference.

Husson has been a victim of its difficult early nonleague schedule and has been outscored by a combined 89-0. The Eagles continue to try to shore up an offense that has mustered only 142 yards per game.

On defense, the Eagles have surrendered 347 ypg via the run. Safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor (16 tackles) and linebacker Mike Toothaker of Wilton (15 tackles) head the unit.

Salisbury thumped Christopher Newport 58-10 last week and has been a prolific run team (368 ypg) while clamping down on opponents’ rushing attacks to the tune of 39.5 ypg.

UMass Dartmouth Corsairs (1-1) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (1-0), 1 p.m., Ritchie Field, Castine: Coach Chris McKenney’s team blanked Anna Maria 47-0 last week, piling up 491 yards behind Nick Bourassa, Todd Murphy and Jim Bower.

MMA now jumps into New England Football Conference play with an interdivision game against UMD. The Mariners’ defense, led by Joel Chadbourne and Wade Mondoux, must deal with a balanced offense directed by QB Pat Orlando.

The Corsairs, coming off a 10-7 setback at Bridgewater State, have allowed only 12.5 ppg.

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