Winning is the best way to develop confidence within a football team.
The University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy of Castine both look to build on last weekend’s victories heading into important conference contests Saturday afternoon.
Maine Black Bears (2-3) at Delaware Blue Hens (5-0), 1 p.m., Delaware Stadium, Newark, Del.: Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Bears hope the momentum generated by their overtime victory over New Hampshire will carry over against the No. 2 Blue Hens.
“There’s a sense of camaraderie because we seemed, for the first time this year, to do something that involved all three components of our football team,” Cosgrove said. “The offense, the defense and special teams had a shared, collective effort in winning the game.”
“It’s going to be pretty fun going home, playing in front of all my friends and family and my (high school) head coach,” said sophomore defensive end Kris Enslen, who lives 15 minutes from Newark. “This date has been circled on the (calendar) for me for a while.”
Cosgrove was quick to point out UMaine (1-1 CAA) will need a performance with no turnovers and few penalties if it hopes to knock off Delaware on the road.
“We won’t have an opportunity to make mistakes this week without paying for them dearly,” he said, pointing to the need for maintaining ball security, good decision-making and discipline.
UMaine focuses its defense on stopping the run. That will be a challenge against Delaware, which ranks first in the Colonial Athletic Association, averaging 231 yards per game behind tailback Andrew Pierce (131 ypg).
“They run the ball as a theme and they run it well,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve developed some confidence with it.”
The Bears counter with the CAA’s No. 2 rushing defense (93 ypg), relying on linebackers Vinson Givans (36 tackles) and Donte Dennis (34 tackles), along with cornerback Dom Cusano (29 tackles), to set the tone.
UMaine also must deal with QB Pat Devlin, a transfer from Penn State. The polished performer has completed 43 of 70 passes for 558 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Devlin, who has a cast on his broken left wrist, suffered a concussion early in last week’s upset victory at James Madison but is expected to play.
“We think the game he played against us last year was the best quarterback game we saw in the conference,” Cosgrove said.
Delaware also has been impressive on defense, limiting opponents to a Football Championship Subdivision-low 6.4 points per game. Its 242 yards per game allowed ranks third in the country.
The Bears have netted 140 yards per contest on the ground behind junior fullback Jared Turcotte of Lewiston (90.3 ypg). Quarterback Warren Smith (90-for-134, 880 yds., 4 TDs, 4 INTs) will have to make good reads throwing to a receiving corps that features wideouts Derek Session (25 catches, 324 yds.) and Des Randall (15-100, 1 TD) and tight end Derek Buttles (18-180, 1 TD).
“The biggest thing that we have to be this week on offense is consistent,” Cosgrove said.
The Delaware defense is spearheaded by Anthony Walters (37 tackles, 3 INTs) and Andrew Harrison (36 tackles). The Hens have made 11 interceptions.
Enslen believes UMaine crossed a key psychological hurdle in beating UNH.
“We noticed in the UNH game that we can come together as a team and we felt it,” he said. “Once you get that feeling, it’s like a shark hunting for blood.”
Westfield State Owls (2-3) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (3-1), 1 p.m., Ritchie Field, Castine: The Mariners hope to provide the home fans with plenty of highlights as they take on the Owls. Both teams are 1-1 in New England Football Conference Bogan Division play.
Coach Chris McKenney’s team boasts the most productive rushing offense in Division III, averaging 525 yards per game. Senior fullback Jim Bower of South Paris leads the charge with 159 ypg, while quarterback Matt Rende of Augusta (135.3 ypg) and halfbacks Nic Bourassa (81.8 ypg) and Todd Murphy (71.5) are legitimate weapons.
Westfield State has surrendered 154 ypg via the run. On offense, the Owls have put up 175 ypg with the passing of Tyler Dow.
MMA’s defensive stalwarts include linebackers Joel Chadbourne of Westbrook (11.3 tpg) and Wade Mondoux of North Berwick (7.3 tpg), although the Mariners have surrendered 183 rushing yards and 19.5 points per outing.
Husson Eagles (0-5) at Anna Maria Amcats (0-4), 1 p.m., Amcat Field, Paxton, Mass.: The struggling Eagles may have one of their best opportunities of the season to get into the win column against the Amcats.
Both teams have been challenged to score, with Husson averaging only 6.8 ppg and Anna Maria 14.6.
Coach Niles Nelson’s squad has been the least-penalized in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, incurring only 22 flags in five games.
Eagles linebacker Mike Toothaker of Wilton and safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor are the league’s Nos. 2 and 3 tacklers, respectively, with 48 and 47. The Amcats’ defensive leader is linebacker Mike Joseph (41 tackles).
Today’s other games, 1 p.m.: Wesleyan (1-1) at Colby (1-1), Williams (2-0) at Bates (1-1), Tufts (1-1) at Bowdoin (0-2).