CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The University of Maine will be among the last Division I football teams in the country to kick off their season.
That dynamic should only intensify the Black Bears’ excitement and resolve Saturday as UMaine visits Boston College in what is the 1,000th game in the history of the program.
Maine Black Bears (0-0) at Boston College Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m., Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass. (ESPN3 Internet): Coming off an opening-week bye, UMaine gets started against what is likely to be its toughest opponent of the season in the Eagles of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears, ranked 16th in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll, look to build off the good vibes from last season’s 9-4 record and a trip to the national quarterfinals as they tackle a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
The all-time series is tied 3-3 after the Eagles won a 2006 meeting 22-0.
“This is the first time they’ll play together as a team and you’re always curious as to the makeup of a team’s chemistry and enthusiasm,” Cosgrove said. “There’s been a sense of urgency and I like the leadership on the field with our guys as we’ve had to grow and teach younger players their roles.”
The Bears encounter a Boston College team that fell 41-32 to Miami a week ago.
“It’s one of those losses that would be very painful for them. I thought they were the better team,” Cosgrove said. “I feel like we’re going to face a very angry BC team Saturday.”
Coach Frank Spaziani’s offense will provide a formidable test for UMaine. Behind quarterback Chase Rettig (32-for-51, 441 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), BC piled up 537 yards of offense against the Hurricanes.
Rettig’s passing performance netted the most yards since Doug Flutie (447) against Penn State in 1984 and is the sixth most in school history.
“I like his arm, his instincts and he’s very well taken care of by the offensive line [which averages almost 6-foot-6-inch and 300-plus pounds],” Cosgrove said.
The Bears, behind senior linebackers Donte Dennis and Troy Eastman, junior end Mike Cole and junior cornerback Kendall James, must try to contain a unit that includes running backs Andre Williams and Tahj Kimball (4.6 yards per carry; 8 receptions, 130 yards, 1 touchdown) and wideout Alex Amidon (10 receptions, 149 yards).
UMaine’s defense is counting on some first-time starters, including defensive tackles David Toriola and Matt Wilson, along with safeties Khari Al-Mateen and Jamal Clay.
BC had its share of miscues against Miami, including two lost fumbles, and failed to convert in some key situations that might have changed the complexion of the game.
The game marks the first career start for UMaine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. The junior from Kulpmont, Pa., relishes the chance to lead the offense against BC.
“I’m going to have a lot to be concerned about at the time [other than the atmosphere], but it’ll definitely be a special moment, especially with my family being up in the stands,” Wasilewski said.
The Bears are counting on a veteran line led by senior tackle Josh Spearin of Limington, senior guard Chris Howley, senior center Garet Williamson and junior guard Jeff Gakos. Sophomore David Hood gets the start at tailback as the featured back, while junior tight end Justin Perillo, senior wideout Maurice McDonald and junior WR Derrick Johnson head a deep group of receivers.
On defense, the Eagles look to linebackers Devin Pierre-Louis (14 tackles) and Steele Divitto (11 tackles) to set a hard-hitting tone. BC surrendered 415 total yards to Miami, including 208 via the run.
However, the Bears know they’re up against a formidable defense.
“They’re very disciplined,” Wasilewski said. “They have great technique and they’re very aggressive and fast. We have to be really focused with our operation and make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
BEAR TRACKS — UMaine appears to have weathered the preseason without too many significant injuries, although sophomore DT Matt Pellerin of Turner is sidelined by a knee strain.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-0) at Anna Maria AMcats (0-1), 1 p.m., Paxton, Mass.: The Mariners make their 2012 debut on the road. MMA of the New England Football Conference takes on Anna Maria of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, the same league in which Husson University competes.
MMA is coming off a 4-5 campaign during which it lost the last four contests. Coach Chris McKenney’s squad was picked to finish sixth in the Bogan Division this season.
The Mariners are led by senior tri-captains Tyler Chamberlain of Eddington, Joel Chadbourne of Westbrook and Matt Hebert of South Portland. Senior linebacker Brock Lawrence of Benton and Chadbourne are the team’s top returning tacklers.
However, MMA is rebuilding its option offense. Junior fullback Bill Wetherbee of Veazie is the leading returning rusher and junior QB Ben Violette of Waterville has solid game experience, but the rest of the crew is largely untested.
Hebert anchors the offensive line.
Anna Maria opened last week with a 56-10 loss to Worcester State of the NEFC.
Springfield Pride (1-0) at Husson Eagles (0-1), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles learned a lot about themselves in last week’s season-opening 55-14 loss to Hartwick. This time, Husson must contend with Springfield of the Liberty League.
Husson’s inexperience was evident on the offensive and defensive lines and in the secondary against Hartwick. This week, the Eagles face a perennially potent triple-option attack. Middle linebacker Stephan Dance and end Ernest Wiggins are the mainstays of the Husson defense.
Springfield dropped a 21-17 decision to Bridgewater State in its kickoff to the season a week ago. The Pride, which usually controls the field and the clock with its offense, instead found itself playing defense too often against the Bears.
One of Husson’s bright spots from Week 1 was freshman place-kicker Reece Attard of Werribee, Australia. He was named the ECFC Rookie of the Week after averaging 41 yards on nine punts and converted both of his PAT kicks.