No. 12 UMaine focused on Rhode Island; MMA faces key league game

Posted Oct. 14, 2011, at 2:37 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 14, 2011, at 7:46 p.m.

Riding high after knocking off sixth-ranked James Madison at home, the University of Maine hopes to keep its momentum going with a Homecoming game against traditional New England rival Rhode Island.

On the coast, Maine Maritime Academy continues to fight for bragging rights in the New England Football Conference Bogan Division with a home game against Framingham State, highlighting Saturday’s football games involving Maine college teams.

RHODE Island Rams (1-4) at Maine Black Bears (4-1), 1 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: Some want to call it a “trap” game, but UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove said his 12th-ranked Bears haven’t achieved enough to look past any team in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Rhode Island (0-2 CAA), which will depart the CAA for the Northeast Conference after the 2012 season, has lost three times by nine points or fewer, including a 21-14 decision at Syracuse.

“We know they’re still a proud football team with great ability and talent,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve got their eyes on us. We really need to keep playing the kind of football we’ve been playing or it’ll be a long afternoon for us.”

The Bears, who rank fourth in CAA total defense (329.4 yards per game) and are third nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.95), encounter a URI offense that has netted 182 ypg on the ground led by versatile quarterback Steve Probst (45 carries, 284 yards, 2 touchdowns) and halfback Travis Hurd (67-242-3). Probst is 70-for-127 passing with eight TDs, but has been intercepted nine times.

“Their quarterback owns us,” Cosgrove said. “We’re probably his favorite opponent to play.”

Speedy Anthony Baskerville (19 receptions, 312 yds., 3 TDs) heads the receiver group.

UMaine’s defensive catalysts are senior safeties Jerron McMillian (40 tackles, 1 interception) and Trevor Coston (32 tackles, 3 INTs) and senior linebacker VInson Givans (37 tackles, 1 INT). The Bears have shown resilience and fight in the face of tough field position and have limited opponents’ big plays for the most part.

URI has been plagued by turnovers.

On offense, balance and efficiency continue to be key elements for UMaine, which is third in CAA passing (246 ypg) behind senior QB Warren Smith (108-for-164, 1,230 yds., 8 TDs, 2 INTs).

The top targets in an injury-thinned receiver corps are sophomore tight end Justin Perillo (23-263-2) and junior wideout Maurice McDonald (25-211-3).

The Bears boast the league’s No. 2 rusher in senior tailback Pushaun Brown (93-536-6), who is averaging 107.2 ypg despite having his string of six straight FCS 100-yard efforts snapped at JMU.

Another important aspect has been the lack of turnovers as the Bears lead the CAA at plus-7 (10 takeaways, 3 turnovers).

The Rams’ defense has been stingy against the run (115.6 ypg), but has surrendered 230 ypg and 10 touchdowns through the air. URI looks to linebackers Dave Zocco (46 tackles) and Doug Johnson (38) to set a hard-hitting tone.

BEAR TRACKS: As part of homecoming, UMaine will recognize its championship teams from 1951, 1961 and 2001. It also will induct two new members into the Ring of Honor. They are former Black Bear greats Chris Keating (Class of 1979), a linebacker who played in the National Football League, and Thurlow Cooper (1957), a receiver who played in the former American Football League … UMaine leads the series with URI 52-34-3 and has won four in a row. The rivalry, the second longest for the program behind New Hampshire, began in 1911.

FRAMINGHAM State Rams (4-2) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (4-1), 1 p.m., Ritchie Field, Castine: The Mariners, coming off a thrilling, 36-34 double-overtime victory at Westfield State, need to keep the momentum going against the Rams.

MMA needs a win to remain in the thick of the Bogan Division title chase. The Mariners are 2-1 in the division, while Framingham State leads the way at 3-0.

The game will pit the Rams’ balance against the Mariners’ versatile option offense. Framingham State ranks fifth in NEFC total offense (1,058 yds. rushing, 1,138 yds. passing) behind RB Melikke Van Alstyne (148-848-10), QB Dino Mancinelli (31-for-56, 384 yds., 5 TDs, 4 INTs) and WR James McCarthy (28-286-6).

MMA is the No. 2 rushing team in the country, piling up 367 yards and 32.2 points per game behind the trio of fullback Ian Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft (87-644-3), QB Matthew Rende of Augusta (117-607-7) and HB Nick Bourassa of Jay (41-340-6).

The Rams boast the No. 33 run defense in Division III (103.8 ypg) and are 13th in total defense (237.3 ypg).

HUSSON Eagles (0-5) at Mount Ida Mustangs (2-3) , 1 p.m., Mount Ida Athletic Stadium, Newton, Mass.: The Eagles will back on the road looking for their first win of the season in another Eastern Collegiate Football Conference contest.

Husson (0-2 ECFC) continues to struggle on both sides of the ball. It ranks dead last in Division III rushing, averaging 3 yards per game and checks in at No 237 of 239 in total offense (167 ypg) and scoring offense (8.0 ppg).

The Eagles also have given up 53.4 points and 474 yards per outing.

Mount Ida (1-1 ECFC) has demonstrated good offensive balance (180 yards rushing, 177 yards passing) but has been better on defense. The Mustangs rank No. 20 in total defense (258 ypg).

Saturday’s other games: Hamilton (2-1) at Bowdoin (1-2), noon; Bates (2-1) at Wesleyan (2-1), 1 p.m.; Amherst (3-0) at Colby (0-3), 1 p.m.

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