SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jared Turcotte will soon become a father for the first time.
The question Friday evening was, would the University of Maine’s starting tailback be on the field Saturday night when the Black Bears take on Syracuse?
Turcotte, a native of Lewiston, and his wife Allysha are awaiting the birth of their daughter, Aiva Jeannette Turcotte, who is due Sunday.
“She’s feeling all right. She’s  months [pregnant], so she’s definitely ready for the baby to be born,” Turcotte said.
While Allysha Turcotte is staying at her parents’ home in Gorham, Jared Turcotte is a seven-hour drive away. Even so, he is prepared to head back to Maine if Allysha goes into labor.
“If she has the baby (goes into labor) anytime before the game, I’ll not be playing,” Turcotte said. “If I get the word before the game, my brother (Nathan) lives in Vermont, like three hours away, so he would have my back and take me home.”
Turcotte did not seem too concerned about the possibility of the baby coming during the Black Bears’ visit to Syracuse, but is committed that his duties as a husband and father take priority over playing Saturday night’s game.
“I don’t think she will have her before we get back anyway,” he said.
Turcotte is a key component of the UMaine offense. Last week, he rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, spearheading the offense in a 31-23 victory at Monmouth.
“I thought our tailback ran very hard,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He gives us a chance to be a good running football team. It’s unique when you have a guy who’s that big (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and could be characterized as that fast.”
Friday afternoon’s walk-through practice was Turcotte’s first trip to Syracuse’s famed Carrier Dome (capacity 49,262). He was suffering from a sports hernia in his abdomen last season and did not accompany the team to northern New York.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to, to go play in that facility and all the excitement and in front of 50,000 people,” said Turcotte, whose collegiate debut in 2008 came at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium and a crowd of more than 70,000 Hawkeye fans.
He said the familiarity of UMaine’s players with the Bowl Championship Subdivision games, in large, noisy stadiums, should help the Bears on Saturday night.
“It’s not like we’re going to be in awe when we go in there,” Turcotte said. “It will be a little different environment and I think it’s going to help us out.
“There’s nothing better than playing in front of that many people,” he added. “I like it better when there’s 50,000 people that are rooting against us.”
While UMaine didn’t experience too many problems with the Carrier Dome atmosphere a year ago, the Bears nonethless took some extra measures to prepare for it. Music was blared over the loudspeakers at Alfond Stadium during practices this week.
Tonight’s game is the season opener for the Orange, thus Syracuse officials are expecting a larger crowd than the 35,632 who attended the 2009 contest. The Carrier Dome is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The Bears’ familiarity with the setting can’t help but work in their favor a little bit.
“We’ve been there. We know where the locker room is. We know what the stadium looks like and we’re used to the noise,” Cosgrove said.