No. 14 UMaine football team hopes to continue surge against William & Mary

Posted Oct. 18, 2013, at 5:32 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Evaluating the potential benefits of a bye week can’t come until after the next game is played.

The 14th-ranked University of Maine football team hopes to demonstrate the benefits of some added rest and preparation on Saturday.

William & Mary Tribe (4-2) vs. Maine Black Bears (5-1), 12:30 p.m., Morse Field, Alfond Stadium, Orono: Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears will try to remain near the top of the Colonial Athletic Association standings when they face the College of William & Mary in their homecoming game.

UMaine hopes for a lively atmosphere and a large crowd in a game that matches the league’s stingiest defense in William & Mary against a UMaine offense that has been productive thus far.

The Tribe (1-1 CAA) has afforded opponents only 11.8 points and 283.3 yards per game. They rank second in pass defense (175.3 ypg) and third against the run (108.0 ypg).

Free safety Jerome Couplin (54 tackles), strong safety Ivan Tagoe (46) and middle linebacker Luke Rhodes (44) are the leading playmakers for William & Mary.

“They’re a very good defense, very assignment-sound,” said UMaine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. “They don’t give up a whole lot of big plays and their scheme is a little bit different.”

The Bears (2-0 CAA) enter the game as the CAA’s No. 3 offense (455.2 ypg), averaging 32.2 points per game behind a passing attack that ranks second at 261.5 yards per game.

Wasilewski (127-for-189, 1,534 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) has been the catalyst. He also averages 4.6 yards per carry.

UMaine’s run game is led by sophomore tailback Nigel Jones (83 carries, 405 yds., 5 TDs), but senior Rickey Stevens (35-187-2) returns to give the Bears a boost after missing the last three games with fractured ribs. Wide receivers Derrick Johnson (37 receptions, 362 yds., 1 TD) and John Ebeling (25-301-1) and tight end Justin Perillo (21-262-2) are the top pass targets.

The Tribe’s offense has been solid and efficient. William & Mary is averaging 24.2 points and 343 yards per outing, but features good balance.

Quarterback Michael Graham (65-115, 839 yds., 5 TDs, 2 INTs) looks for wideouts Tre McBride (23-374-1) and Sean Ballard (22-338-2) through the air. Tailback Abdul-Saboor has piled up 500 yards on 100 carries with six scores to spearhead the ground game, but may be sidelined by an injury.

“They want to establish the run, but they have two really good receivers in Tre McBride and Sean Ballard,” Cosgrove said. “They’ll throw the ball down the field, they’re not afraid to.”

Cosgrove pointed out The Tribe also leads the CAA with the fewest penalties and in turnover ratio.

The UMaine defense has been dependable, giving up only 21 points and 343 yards per game. The unit ranks third against the pass (192.7 ypg) in the CAA.

The linebacker trio of Chris Mulumba (47 tackles, 2 INTs), Cabrinni Goncalves (43 tackles) and Troy Eastman (36 tackles, 1 INT) continues to set a hard-hitting tone.

Bear tracks: UMaine will honor longtime radio and TV broadcaster George Hale between the first and second quarters of Saturday’s game. Hale’s 60-year career in Maine included decades as the TV voice of Black Bear football and the radio play-by-play man for UMaine baseball. Saturday also marks the 50th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy’s visit to UMaine. The pregame coin flip will be conducted using a Kennedy 50-cent piece.

Becker Hawks (1-4) vs. Husson Eagles (3-2), 1 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: Gabby Price’s Eagles have rattled off three straight wins and hope to continue the trend against the Hawks in an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference clash.

Husson has outscored its opponents 82-17 during the win streak, featuring the running of tailbacks Byron Jackson (43 carries, 300 yds.) and Kyle McKinnon (66-287). The Eagles have received a boost with the insertion of sophomore QB Joe Seccareccia of Bangor (17-for-26, 240 yds., 3 TDs), whose receiver corps includes Josiah Hartley of Bangor (12 rec., 149 yds., 2 TDs).

Saturday’s other games: Maine Maritime Academy (0-4) at Coast Guard Academy (2-4), 1:30 p.m.; Colby (1-3) at Hamilton (0-4), noon; Bowdoin (2-2) at Trinity (4-0), 12:30 p.m.; Middlebury (3-1) at Bates (2-2), 1 p.m.

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