It has been a difficult start to the season for Maine’s six college football teams, which have a combined record of 3-15.
The University of Maine has lost two straight games, Husson University of Bangor has one victory and Maine Maritime Academy remains winless.
And with only one victory on the board among the trio of Colby, Bates and Bowdoin, the intensity is building as the Pine Tree State contingent tries to get things turned around on Saturday.
Maine Black Bears (1-3) at Delaware Blue Hens (4-1), 3:30 p.m., Delaware Stadium, Newark, Del.: The Bears, coming off a 35-14 loss to Villanova, hope to halt a two-game skid as they take on the 15th-ranked Blue Hens in a Colonial Athletic Association clash.
“It’s going to be two teams looking to fix their recent woes,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
Run defense has been a major concern in UMaine’s losses to Albany and Villanova, with the Bears now giving up 207 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. They encounter a Delaware squad (1-1 CAA) that has a big, but young, offensive line and some talented backs, including Andrew Pierce, the league’s No. 3 rusher at 95 ypg.
However, the Blue Hens managed only 94 rushing yards in last week’s 34-14 setback at New Hampshire.
UMaine (0-1 CAA) has been susceptible to big plays while allowing 26.5 points per outing. The Bears are led by linebacker Donte Dennis (38 tackles), safety Khari Al-Mateen (27) and LB Troy Russell (24).
Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley (80-for-126, 891 yards, 6 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) has been a productive passer throwing to the likes of Michael Johnson (20 receptions, 256 yds., 2 TDs), Nihja White (16-155) and Stephen Clark (12-105).
“He’s more of a big, strong-armed thrower,” Cosgrove said of Hurley.
The Blue Hens also have a dangerous place-kicker in Sean Baner, who is 10-for-11 on field goals, including a 48-yarder, this season.
The UMaine offense has produced some solid numbers (398 yards and 22 points per game), but has lacked consistency and has failed to execute in several key situations.
“We learned that there’s some good things going on, but also that we’ve got a lot of work to do as a football team,” Cosgrove said.
The Bears continue to deal with injuries to starting tailback David Hood, center Garret Williamson and guard Chris Howley, all of whom are “questionable” for the game.
Junior Rickey Stevens (71.2 ypg) has spearheaded an adequate run attack, while junior QB Marcus Wasilewski (88-for-151, 1,036 yds., 4TDs, 5 INTs) continues to demonstrate growth and resilience after taking a physical pounding (7 sacks) against Villanova.
“We learned that our quarterback is tough,” Cosgrove said of the effort.
The Bears’ most productive receivers have been senior wideout Maurice McDonald (32-273), junior WR Derrick Johnson (21-262-2) and junior tight end Justin Perillo (9-89). Perillo returns to his home state in the hope of becoming a more integral part of the passing attack.
The Delaware defense features one of the most dominating forces in the CAA in Paul Worrilow. The senior linebacker leads the conference, averaging 10.6 tackles.
The Blue Hens have surrendered only 18.6 ppg to rank third in the league. Safeties Jake Giusti (28 tackles) and Tim Breaker (27 tackles, 3 INTs) are other defensive mainstays.
Delaware also ranks second in the CAA with a plus-six (six more takeaways than turnovers) turnover ratio.
Gallaudet Bison (3-1) at Husson Eagles (1-3), noon, Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles return home to take on one of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference’s front-runners in the Bison.
Husson (0-1 ECFC) is faced with the task of slowing down a potent run game that has netted 236 yards per outing while helping Gallaudet (1-0 ECFC) average 33.5 ppg. The Bison’s balanced attack is paced by Todd Bonheyo (72 ypg) and B.J. Flores (68 ypg).
Defense has been a challenge for the Eagles, who have afforded opponents 513 yards per game, including 224 via the run. Linebacker Stephan Dance (10.5 tackles per game) leads the way for Husson, which has given up 37 ppg.
QB Kash Keezer (39-for-95, 451 yds., 3 TDs, 7 INTs) directs an Eagles offense that has put up an average of only 12.8 points and 221 total yards.
Westfield State Owls (1-4) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-4), 1 p.m., Ritchie Field, Castine: The Mariners are eager to put an end to their eight-game losing streak as they take on the Owls in a New England Football Conference contest.
MMA (0-2 NEFC Bogan Division) takes on a Westfield State unit (0-2 Bogan) that is the last team the Mariners defeated. That was a 36-34, double-overtime decision on Oct. 8, 2011.
The Mariners remain the 18th-ranked rushing offense in Division III behind fullback Bill Wetherbee (96 ypg) and halfback Ryan O’Neal (61 ypg), but MMA has only put up 17.3 ppg.
Those efforts haven’t been enough to alleviate the burden on a defense that has given up an average of 32 points and 363 yards. Joel Chadbourne (9 tackles per game) continues to head that unit.
Saturday’s other games, 1 p.m.: Tufts (0-2) at Bowdoin (0-2), Wesleyan (2-0) at Colby (0-2), Williams (1-1) at Bates (1-1).