The University of Maine’s game against the University at Albany has been circled on the calendar ever since the 2011 schedule was announced.
The two don’t play in the same football conference, nor do they even operate with the same level of scholarships.
That hasn’t stopped the Great Danes from handing the Black Bears a loss each of the last two seasons.
UMaine heads on the road for the second straight week, hoping to get the best of UAlbany, highlighting Saturday’s games involving Maine colleges.
Maine Black Bears (1-1) at Albany Great Danes (0-1), 6 p.m., Varsity Field, Albany, N.Y.: Despite a loss at Pittsburgh, the Bears won’t be looking past an Albany squad that has had its number.
“They have a very confident mindset because they’ve beaten us twice in a row,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
“Our guys have demonstrated a focus on this game from the day we first met and went through the scouting report right through (Thursday),” he added. “We’ve got to be a very disciplined football team that respects its opponent and works its butt off to be successful.”
UMaine looks to continue its offensive development after scoring 29 points at Pitt. The Bears seek a better run-pass mix, with senior tailback Pushaun Brown (36 carries, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns) heading the run game and senior quarterback Warren Smith (41-for-65, 469 yds., 3 TDs, 0 interceptions) throwing to the likes of senior end Derek Buttles (10 receptions, 193 yds., 1 TD), junior wideout Maurice McDonald (9-65-1) and sophomore Derrick Johnson 8-75-0).
The Great Danes are coming off a bye week on the heels of a 37-34 overtime loss at Colgate. UAlbany allowed 27 first downs and 490 total yards, including 280 via the run, against the Raiders.
Heading up the Great Danes’ defense are linebacker Jon Morgan (11 tackles), end Eddie Delaney (10 tackles, 1 sack) and linebacker Dave Plungas (9 tackles). UAlbany returned seven starters and are strong in the secondary.
The UMaine defense held its own against the Panthers last week, but had trouble dealing with Pitt’s balance. The Great Danes netted only 93 rushing yards in their opener, paced by Drew Smith (6 carries, 33 yds., 1 TD), while QB Dan Di Lella went 17-for-28 passing with 239 yards, a TD and an interception.
Receiving threats include Ryan Kirchner (4-46-0), Kevin Chillis (3-59-1) and Smith (3-45-0).
“They certainly had some quick-strike offense against Colgate,” Cosgrove said. “They’re more spread than we saw year year.”
UMaine’s defensive stoppers include senior safety Jerron McMillian (21 tackles), senior linebacker Vinson Givans (15 tackles) and end Michael Cole (13 tackles, 3 sacks).
BEAR TRACKS: UMaine may be without two defensive starters today. Senior tackle Ryan Nani and redshirt freshman linebacker Arron Achey both were knocked out of the game at Pitt with undisclosed injuries. … UAlbany coach Bob Ford is among the senior statesmen of Division I football coaches. “In the ‘70s when I was playing, he was coaching,” Cosgrove said. “He’s a very well-respected guy and he should be. He’s done well there. This is Ford’s 43rd season as a head coach, his 39th at UAlbany. His 247 career victories rank him fourth in Football Championship Subdivision history. … The Bears began their trip to Albany on Thursday, stopping overnight in Portland. Cosgrove said the move was necessary to facilitate travel and practice plans for Friday. … UAlbany is 5-2 in the FCS ranks when coming off a bye week.
Husson Eagles (0-1) at Springfield Pride (1-0), 1:30 p.m. Amos Alonzo Stagg Field, Springfield, Mass.: Husson has been hard at work for the last two weeks after a lopsided loss to Adrian (Mich.) College in its Sept. 2 opener.
Coach Sean Murphy’s Eagles have been concentrating on fundamentals and trying to establish some consistency and chemistry on both sides of the ball.
Husson was overwhelmed in its opener, surrendering 667 yards of offense. Safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor (14 tackles, 1 INT) led the defense.
Springfield opened last weekend with a 48-24 Empire 8 victory over Frostburg State. The Pride rambled to 522 rushing yards with their triple-option offense, averaging nearly 10 yards per rush.
Springfield features QB Josh Carter (17 att., 189 yds., 3 TDs) and backs Brodie Quinn (17-151-1) and Andy Bean (4-92-1).
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (1-0) at UMass Dartmouth Corsairs (1-1), 1 p.m., Cressy Field, Dartmouth, Mass.: The hosts hope to be able to contain a powerhouse MMA offense that amassed 551 yards — 510 on the ground — in its 42-13 win over Anna Maria.
The Corsairs will need a superb defensive effort, especially since their offense has averaged only 12 points and 168 total yards of offense so far.
Chris McKenney’s MMA squad will try to ride the option attack that features quarterback Matthew Rende of Augusta (31-170-1) and halfbacks Ian Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft (17-206-1) and Nic Bourassa of Jay (4-93-1).
Safety Alex Hermes (10 tackles, 2 INTs) and linebacker Matthew Ball (8 tackles) are among the Mariners’ defensive standouts.
UMD, which was shut out by Bridgewater State a week ago, is led by QB Patrick Orlando (12-for-30, 128 yds., 1 TD), running back Mike Janey (44-138-2) and receiver Will McNamara (5 rec., 56 yds).