ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team was 1-4 at home in 2012.
Coach Jack Cosgrove and the Black Bears hope to reverse that trend starting Saturday afternoon when UMaine takes on Bryant University in its home opener.
UMaine looks to implement a mentality and focus similar to what it has demonstrated on the road as it tries to remain undefeated early in the season.
“On road trips, there’s a privacy factor that you have, the control,” Cosgrove said. “When you play at home [the players] go back to the dorm, back to their apartments and they go back to their lives.
“We’ve talked about trying to do things more privately, some things that we can control with our meetings, our dinner Friday night, so we’ve changed those up a little bit,” he added.
Bryant Bulldogs (2-0) vs. Maine Black Bears (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: UMaine takes on Bryant of the Northeast Conference for the third consecutive season. The Bears pounded the Bulldogs 51-7 last season at Smithfield, R.I.
UMaine is coming off a 24-14 victory against Football Bowl Subdivision team Massachusetts, giving the Bears a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 2002, when they went 6-0.
Cosgrove said UMaine encounters a veteran and improved Bryant squad that embraces what Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema calls “real football.”
“[It’s] football where you line up and play physical. They believe in the tight end, the fullback, the tailback,” Cosgrove said of the Bulldogs’ two-back approach.
A UMaine defense, spearheaded by linebackers Cabrinni Goncalves (20 tackles, 2 sacks) and Christophe Mulumba (13 tackles, 1 interception) and safety Jamal Clay (9 tackles), will try to contain the Bryant offense. The Bears have surrendered an average of 10 points and 244.5 yards per contest thus far.
The Bulldogs are averaging 399 yards and 25.5 points per game after wins over Holy Cross and Division II Assumption.
Bryant, which features four senior starters on the offensive line, is paced by tailback Ricardo McCray (41 carries, 231 yds., 1 TD), quarterback Mike Westerhaus (29-for-62 passing, 425 yds., 3 TDs, 3 interceptions) and wide receiver Jordan Harris (10 receptions, 196 yds.).
UMaine rolls out an offense that has been solid in the first two games. The unit has put up 23.5 points per game and an average of 445.5 total yards.
Senior QB Marcus Wasilewski has provided the spark, netting 130 yards on 21 carries (6.2 ypg) and a TD via the run while completing 35 of 56 passes for 476 yards, one TD and two interceptions.
Rickey Stevens (23 carries, 111 yds., 2 TDs) and Zedric Joseph (24-111-1) provide a 1-2 punch at tailback, while senior wideout Derrick Johnson (13 receptions, 120 yds.), Joseph (6-150-1) and Damarr Aultman (5-55) are among the top targets for Wasilewski.
The Bryant defense has suffocated opponents to the tune of 238 yards per game allowed, including only 29.5 on the ground. The Bulldogs also have made four interceptions among five forced turnovers while racking up 10 sacks.
Lineman Connor McNamara and linebacker Sam Sammons have each made 12 tackles and combined for 4½ sacks for Bryant. Special teams also have excelled, with the Bulldogs getting three blocked punts — two for touchdowns — against Assumption.
“They’re aggressive on special teams,” Cosgrove said. “On defense, they’re going to pressure us and try to make things difficult.”
Bear tracks: UMaine has been dealing with some injury problems coming off the UMass game. Senior tight end Justin Perillo and senior defensive end Mike Cole both were limited in practice this week, but are expected to play. Junior fullback Carlton Charles of Windham is questionable with a left foot/ankle injury and sophomore wideout Isaiah Jones is out with a shoulder injury. Follow Saturday’s game with live updates on the BDN website here.
Husson Eagles (0-1) vs. Springfield Pride (1-0), 1 p.m., Stagg Field, Springfield, Mass.: Husson heads back on the road looking for its first win of the season. The Eagles are coming off a 33-7 setback at Hartwick last Saturday.
Husson was unable to generate much offense in its opener, but Bangor’s Ellis Throckmorton headed the defense with eight tackles.
Springfield will go at the Eagles with its triple-option offense, one that churned out 469 rushing yards in a 49-40 win over Western New England last week.
Anna Maria AMcats (0-1) vs. Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-0), noon, Ritchie Field, Castine: Coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners look to bounce back after an 0-9 season in 2012. MMA returns six starters on both sides of the ball, including senior fullback Bill Wetherbee of Veazie, a former John Bapst High School standout.
Anna Maria opened with a 34-6 home setback against Worcester State. The AMcats won last year’s meeting 34-13.