The University of Maine hopes to take another step toward a Football Championship postseason berth and a possible Colonial Athletic Association title when it visits Richmond in a key road test.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears, ranked No. 9 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll, have lost three straight against the No. 18 Spiders.
Maine Maritime Academy of Castine, Husson University of Bangor, Colby College of Waterville, Bates College of Lewiston and Bowdoin College of Brunswick also are in action Saturday.
Maine Black Bears (5-1) at Richmond (3-3), 3:30 p.m., Robins Stadium, Richmond, Va.: The Bears want to clean up their execution and cut back on needless penalties against the Spiders after having some issues in last week’s 27-21 homecoming victory over Rhode Island.
UMaine (3-0 CAA) will be in town for Richmond’s homecoming game as the Spiders (0-3 CAA) try to put the brakes on a three-game losing streak. UR maintains the respect of poll voters in spite of the skid.
The Bears have won four in a row while posting the program’s best start to a season since UMaine went 6-0 to open the 2002 campaign.
A key challenge for the Bears will be containing a UR passing attack that ranks third in the CAA (248.5 yards per game). The catalysts are senior quarterback Aaron Corp (124-for-189, 1,483 yards, 9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and dangerous wide receiver Tre Gray (48 catches, 683 yds., 2 TDs).
“The challenge is really to tame the quarterback and tame the receivers — and always stop the run,” said Bears senior safety Jerron McMillian (46 tackles, 1 INT). “If we keep (Corp) in the pocket, nowhere for him to go, he won’t really hurt us.”
The Spiders rank dead-last in CAA rushing at 100 ypg behind fullback Kendall Gaskins (107 carries, 434 yds., 8 TDs).
Joining McMillian as UMaine’s defensive stalwarts are senior linebacker Vinson Givans (team-leading 47 tackles, 2 INTs), senior safety Trevor Coston (40 tackles, 4 INTs) and junior LB Troy Russell (35 tackles).
The Bears check in fourth in CAA total offense (378.8 ypg) thanks to their ability to mix the run and pass. Senior tailback Pushaun Brown, the league’s No. 2 rusher at 106.5 ypg with six touchdowns, heads the ground attack.
UMaine encounters a Spider defense that has surrendered 167.5 ypg via the run.
Through the air, senior QB Warren Smith (126-190, 1,463 yds., 11 TDs, 2 INTs) chooses between receivers including junior wideout Maurice McDonald (34 rec., 350 yds., 4 TDs), sophomore tight end Justin Perillo (25-281-2) and senior end Derek Session (18-223-2).
Richmond will rely on junior LB Darius McMillan (68 tackles), junior safety Cooper Taylor (53) and senior safety Colin Pehanick (51) to rally a defense that is the CAA’s stingiest against the pass (168.5 ypg, 4 TDs).
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (4-2) at Massachusetts Maritime Buccaneers (3-3), noon, Clean Harbors Stadium, Buzzards Bay, Mass.: With their postseason hopes severely diminished by last week’s loss to Framingham State, the Mariners will attempt to break a logjam in the middle of the New England Football Conference Bogan Division.
There is guaranteed to be plenty of emotion and intensity as the maritime schools clash for the 39th renewal of the rivalry to claim the Admirals’ Cup.
Maine Maritime continues to rank No. 2 in Division III rushing at 344.8 ypg behind the trio of fullback Ian Champeon of Dover-Foxcroft (113.7 ypg, 3 TDs), QB Matthew Rende of Augusta (107.8 ypg, 8 TDs) and HB Nick Bourassa of Jay (70.2 ypg, 6 TDs).
Mass. Maritime has been a solid defensive squad, allowing 323 total yards per game, including 121 ypg through the air. The Bucs won’t have to worry much about that against the Mariners’ option-dominated offense.
The Bucs have good balance with RB Matt White (89 ypg, 2 TDs), QB Mike Stanton (71-130-895, 7 TDs, 5 INTs) and end Keith Caruso (31-356-1).
Norwich Cadets (4-3) at Husson Eagles (0-6), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles return home for the first time in three weeks to face another formidable opponent in the Cadets, who have won four in a row.
Norwich, 4-0 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, is the league’s most prolific rushing team. The Cadets average 318 yards per game, which ranks sixth in Division III, with their option offense. It is led by QB Kris Sabourin (100 ypg) and RB Andrew Fulford (89.7 ypg).
Husson (0-3 ECFC) has been hampered by its inability to run the ball, managing a meager seven yards per contest, and difficulty stopping the run (285 ypg).
Bright spots have included senior safety Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor (45 tackles, 3 INTs) and freshman LB Stephan Dance (team-best 53 tackles), along with sophomore punter Kyle Bishop of Waterville (36.3 ypp, 12 fair catches, 6 inside 20-yard line).
Saturday’s other games: Bowdoin (2-2) at Trinity (4-0), 1 p.m.; Colby (0-4) at Hamilton (2-2), noon; Middlebury (1-3) at Bates (2-2), 1p.m.