Saturday marks the halfway point of the season for the University of Maine football team, which looks to continue its growth with a key Colonial Athletic Association road game.
Husson University of Bangor plays its homecoming contest looking for an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference victory to build on, while Maine Maritime Academy of Castine heads on the road hoping to right its ship in the New England Football Conference.
Those games highlight a full schedule of action involving Maine college football teams.
Maine Black Bears (2-3, 1-1 CAA) at Towson Tigers (2-3, 1-1 CAA), 7 p.m., Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson, Md.: Coach Jack Cosgrove’s UMaine team is eager to prove it can string together another defensive performance similar to the one that backstopped last Saturday’s 26-3 victory at Delaware.
The Black Bears must contend with the 17th-ranked Tigers, who are equally in need of a win if they wish to successfully defend their CAA title.
UMaine must have another complete effort against Towson, one that features all facets of the team playing well in unison.
“I think we made a huge step in that direction [against Delaware], understanding the importance of supporting each other offensively, defensively and special teams-wise,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine encounters a Towson squad that leads the CAA and ranks sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision while giving up only 282 yards per game. The Tigers have done so despite playing Bowl Championship Subdivision programs Louisiana State and Kent State.
Towson not only has held opponents to a league-best 135 passing yards per game, good for No. 2 in the nation, it has given up 147 ypg via the run.
Top performers include linebackers Telvion Clark (34 tackles), Bryton Barr (32) and Tye Smith (32), along with safety Jordan Dangerfield (31).
“They have good team speed and do a lot of things that are going to really force us to play smart football,” Cosgrove said.
The Bears counter with an offense that continues to make progress despite working around two key offensive line injuries the past two weeks. Senior All-CAA guard Chris Howley (ankle) is probable after missing the Delaware game.
Junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski (100-for-169 passing, 1,212 yards, 7 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) hopes to work off the effectiveness of the two-pronged ground game sparked by sophomore David Hood (89.7 ypg, 2 TDs) and junior Rickey Stevens (70.4 ypg). His corps of receivers is led by senior wideout Maurice McDonald (33 receptions, 289 yds., 1 TD), junior WR Derrick Johnson (27-335-2) and sophomore WR Damarr Aultman (11-213-3).
The offense’s ability to control the ball and convert scoring chances will be a key as UMaine tries to slow down the Towson offense.
The Tigers rushed for 334 yards against the Bears last season and return powerhouse tailback Terrance West (88.4 ypg, 7 TDs) and QB Grant Enders, who is averaging 43 ypg rushing while completing 89 of 140 passes for 855 yards, 5 TDs and 5 INTs.
“Terrance West is a first-team All-American, but you really have to look at how talented the quarterback is, too,” Cosgrove offered. “He’s a great beneficiary of play-[action] pass.”
Towson’s multifaceted attack also includes wideouts Erron Banks (17-187-1) and Spencer Wilkins (16-178).
UMaine continues to receive its defensive spark from the likes of senior linebackers Donte Dennis (49 tackles) and Troy Russell (29), along with sophomore safety Khari Al-Mateen (35).
Redshirt freshman Mike Kozlakowski steps into the starting spot at defensive end after the season-ending quadriceps tendon injury suffered by junior Michael Cole.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-5) at Framingham State Rams (5-1), 1 p.m., Framingham, Mass.: This will be another difficult Bogan Division matchup for coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners, who have dropped nine straight games dating back to last season.
The difference in this contest likely will be the teams’ defenses. MMA ranks among the most forgiving defenses in the NEFC, having surrendered 38.2 points and 387 yards per game.
The Mariners encounter a Framingham State offense that ranks second behind them with 219 rushing yards per game. While MMA has churned out 248 ypg on the ground, the Rams have stifled opponents to 41 yards per game and 1.2 yards per carry.
Mount Ida Mustangs (4-1) at Husson Eagles (1-4), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: It’s homecoming for the Eagles as they try to derail the Mustangs’ quest for a possible league championship.
Husson has lost two in a row, including last Saturday’s 44-14 setback against Gallaudet. Coach Sean Murphy’s squad continues to rank as the ECFC’s least-productive offense, averaging 13 points and only 212 yards.
Mount Ida is the league’s No. 2 scoring team (34.4 ppg) while piling up 445 yards per outing, including 273 through the air.
Saturday’s other games, 1 p.m.: Bowdoin (1-2) at Hamilton (0-3), Wesleyan (3-0) at Colby (0-3), Williams (1-2) at Bates (2-1).