The University of Maine seeks to build off a key league victory, Maine Maritime Academy of Castine looks to bounce back from its first conference loss and Husson University of Bangor eyes its first win of the season.
All of those teams are on the road to highlight the slate of Saturday’s games involving Maine college football teams.
MAINE Black Bears (3-1) at James Madison Dukes (4-1), 3:30 p.m. Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Va.: The Bears will receive a significant test with a Colonial Athletic Association road game against the sixth-ranked Dukes. UMaine hopes to ride the momentum generated from last week’s 31-17 victory over then-No. 10 Delaware.
The Bears expect to be challenged by a JMU squad that is 2-0 in CAA play and competes in a large stadium backed by lots of fans and a big-time atmosphere.
“I guess we’ll get the benefit of going into a very hostile environment and finding out a lot more about ourselves,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove.
The key dynamic in this game is the Dukes’ success in the run game — on both sides of the ball. JMU leads the league and ranks 15th in the Football Championshp Subdivision, averaging 228.4 yards on the ground.
The Dukes also lead the CAA in run defense, giving up only 85.8 ypg to rank 10th in the nation.
“(Former NFL coach) Chuck Noll always used to say, if you’re able to run the football you wear down your opponent not only physically but mentally,” Cosgrove said.
James Madison, which has given up 19.2 ppg, features a defense that’s fast and likes to attack. Linebackers Stephon Robertson (40 tackles), Pat Williams (31) and Vidal Nelson (25) patrol the middle of the field.
The Bears rely on a balanced run-pass approach to be effective. Senior tailback Pushaun Brown (120.5 ypg, 6 touchdowns) is the league’s No. 2 rusher and his efforts help open up a play-action pass attack that features senior quarterback Warren Smith (80-for-124, 935 yards, 6 TDs, 2 interceptions) and receivers Maurice McDonald (16 receptions, 144 yds., 2 TDs), Justin Perillo (14-162-1) and Derek Session (12-174-1).
“We’ve got to be able to run the football against the No. 1 rush defense in the conference. If we’re able to do that, we’ll have a chance,” Cosgrove said.
He added UMaine will have to beat JMU at the point of attack and run at the defense, rather than trying to get around the outside.
The Bears’ defense, which has allowed only 311.2 ypg, must contend with a Dukes offense that has ground out 4.8 yards per rush.
Dae’Quan Scott has carried for 84.2 ypg and Jordan Anderson has netted 53.6 ypg and 7.4 yards per carry, while Jauan Latney is another threat.
The Bears’ defense is led by safeties Jerron McMillan (33 tackles) and Trevor Coston (22), along with linebackers Vinson Givans (28) and Troy Russell (21).
“They’ve got fast running backs and fast receivers,” Cosgrove said.
The Dukes are directed by backup QB Jace Edwards, who led them to victory last week despite going 5-for-13 passing for 34 yards. Brian Barlow (11-86-0) and Kerby Long (9-134-1) are receiving threats.
MAINE Maritime Academy Mariners (3-1) at Westfield State Owls (2-3), 1 p.m., Alumni Field, Westfield, Mass.: The Mariners hope to shake the disappointment of last week’s road loss to Worcester State that knocked them into second place in the New England Football Conference Bogan Division.
MMA pits its option offense, which has rolled up 369 yards and 31.2 points per contest, against a Westfield defense that has surrendered 26.8 points a league-high 220 yards per game.
Fullback Ian Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft (131.5 ypg) and QB Matthew Rende of Augusta (110 ypg) head up the MMA offense.
The Mariners’ defense, paced by linebacker Joel Chadbourne of Westbrook (29 tackles) and safety Alex Hermes (28), is likely to face challenges defending the Owls’ passing attack, which features QB Tyler Dow (45-80, 678 yds., 4 TDs, 3 INTs.) and Kevin Parnell (15 rec., 214 yds., 1 TD).
Westfield has averaged 186 ypg through the air.
HUSSON Eagles (0-4) at Gallaudet Bison (2-2), noon, Hotchkiss Field, Washington, D.C.: The Eagles were much more competitive a week ago in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference overtime loss to Becker.
However, Husson’s inability to run the ball consistently continues to hamper its offensive efforts. The Eagles have shown some spark behind QB Kash Keezer, who has thrown for 155 ypg to the likes of Shabashe McIntosh (11-90-0) and Audie Murphy (9-153-2).
Husson’s defensive standouts are Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor (38 tackles, 3 INTs.) and Stephan Dance (36).
SATURDAY’S other games: Bates (1-1) at Williams (1-1), 1:30 p.m.; Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (0-2), 1 p.m.; Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (2-0), 1 p.m.