UMaine opens CAA play; unbeaten MMA travels to Worcester State

Posted Sept. 30, 2011, at 1:48 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 30, 2011, at 7:47 p.m.

The University of Maine opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule, Maine Maritime Academy of Castine takes an unblemished record on the road for a key league game and Husson University of Bangor kicks off conference play with a home game, highlighting Saturday’s games involving Maine college football teams.

DELAWARE Blue Hens (3-1, 1-0 CAA) at Maine Black Bears (2-1, 0-0 CAA), 3 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: The Bears’ quest for the CAA title and a Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot begins in earnest against the always troublesome — and fifth-ranked — Blue Hens.

UMaine is plenty motivated to start league play on a positive note. Senior defensive tackle Raibonne Charles of Windham provided some perspective.

“The 2-1 start gave us momentum and playing good against Pitt told us, OK, we do have a good team when we play how we know how to play,” he said. “Unfortunately, that means nothing going into this game. Right now it’s an eight-game season that determines our future.”

Delaware, which played in the national championship game last season, is the winningest FCS program in the country over the last 10 seasons, winning 80 games since 2001. The Blue Hens have tradition, and plenty of talent.

“Delaware has less depth problems than most,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “They’re a great team.”

The Bears’ defense is matched up against a formidable offensive unit that features an offensive line Cosgrove said is better than the one UMaine faced against Pittsburgh of the Big East. The group is led by center Gino Gradkowski and guard Rob McDowell.

Delaware hasn’t missed a beat with junior quarterback Tim Donnelly (67-for-90 passing, 758 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception) filling in for injured starter Trevor Sasek. Junior wideout Nihja White (16 receptions, 255 yds., 2 TDs) is the favorite target, while prolific sophomore tailback Andrew Pierce is a constant big-play threat at tailback.

Pierce (74 carries, 369 yds., 6 TDs) is coming off a slight knee strain suffered last week, but is expected to play.

The UMaine defense builds around Charles (15 tackles), inside linebacker Vinson Givans (21) and safeties Jerron McMillian (26) and Trevor Coston (17 tackles, 2 INTs). The Bears are fourth in CAA total defense (322.3 yards per game).

Senior QB Warren Smith (62-97, 671, 5 TDs, 0 INTs) directs a UMaine offense that has been efficient, if not unspectacular. Senior tailback Pushaun Brown (55 carries, 289 yds., 3 TDs) leads the ground assault, while junior wide receiver Maurice McDonald (13 rec., 120 yds., 2 TDs) is the only one of the top three receivers who is healthy.

Sophomore tight end Justin Perillo (10-100-1), a Delaware native, is another important weapon for the Bears.

Delaware has recovered from numerous graduation losses on defense to limit opponents to 18.5 points and 310.5 yards per contest to rank second in the CAA in both categories.

Linebackers Paul Worrilow (43 tackles) and Andrew Harrison (29) and cornerback Marcus Burley (20, 2 INTs) are among the catalysts.

Delaware also features a field-goal threat in Sean Baner, who is 6-for-10 with one from 47 yards out.

Bear tracks: UMaine is likely to be without three key players today. Starting tight end Derek Buttles, sixth-year defensive tackle Ryan Nani and sophomore wide receiver Derrick Johnson are nursing injuries and did not practice during the week.

MAINE MARITIME ACADEMY Mariners (3-0) at Worcester State Lancers (4-0), Worcester, Mass.: This game marks the New England Football Conference Bogan Division opener for both teams and will put the winner in the early driver’s seat.

Coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners, known for their offensive prowess, have been outstanding on defense. MMA has allowed a league-low 11 points per game while giving up 277 yards per outing.

Safety Alex Hermes (25 tackles) and linebackers Joel Chadbourne of Westbrook (23) and Matthew Ball of South Portland (19) have led the charge.

Worcester has put up 41.8 points and 406 yards per game with a balanced attack led by back Marcus Price (146.8 ypg, 7 TDs), QB Tony Tokarz (523 pass yards, 10 TDs) and end A.J. Scerra (15 rec., 248 yds., 5 TDs).

On offense, MMA fullback Ian Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft, QB Matthew Rende of Augusta and halfback Nick Bourassa of Jay have combined to average 331-plus rushing yards per game along with nine touchdowns.

BECKER Hawks (0-4) at Husson Eagles (0-3), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles leave behind a brutal nonleague schedule to open their Eastern Collegiate Football Conference slate against the Lions.

Husson must be able to hold the Becker offense in check while establishing some offensive success of its own. The Eagles’ inability to run the ball effectively and stop the run (and the pass) have been key concerns.

However, Husson’s opponent this week is a Becker program that has endured plenty of its own struggles.

Today’s other games, 1 p.m.: Bowdoin (0-1) at Amherst (1-0), Colby (0-1) at Middlebury (0-1), Tufts (0-1) at Bates (0-1).

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