ORONO, Maine — Marcus Wasilewski of the University of Maine and Villanova’s John Robertson have dominated opposing defenses during much of the 2013 football season.
On Saturday afternoon, the two signal callers will set the tone in a pivotal Colonial Athletic Association game.
Wasilewski has excelled more throwing the ball, but is a run threat. Robertson is an elusive runner who can put the ball in the air.
“He [Robertson] scares the heck out of you by what he does when he has the ball under his arm,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove.
“Marcus is just a guy that’s going to go north and south and take a hit and get down,” he added.
Maine Black Bears (6-1) at Villanova Wildcats (4-3), 1 p.m., Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.: Eleventh-ranked UMaine expects its toughest Football Championship Subdivision test of the season, thus far, from No. 17 Villanova.
To stay atop the conference standings and extend their win streak to four games, the Bears (3-0 CAA) must contain Robertson. The shifty sophomore has rushed for 849 yards on 135 carries (121.3 ypg) and 11 touchdowns.
Last Saturday, he had a 256-yard, three-touchdown effort in a gut-wrenching 29-28 loss at New Hampshire. The CAA’s No. 2 rusher ranks first in total offense at 290.7 yards per game.
“John makes people miss,” Cosgrove said. “He is a runner, a true cutback guy. He’s got great feet.”
Robertson also has completed 109 of 149 passes for 1,186 yards and seven scores with only three interceptions.
UMaine’s defense contends with a Villanova offense that presents diverse challenges. Kevin Monangai (88 carries, 414 yds., 3 TDs) rolled up 192 yards among the Wildcats’ 314 rushing yards in last season’s 35-14 rout of the Bears in Orono.
Poppy Livers has made 36 catches for 379 yards and 2 TDs.
“They’ve got some dynamic players in the backfield and at receiver,” Cosgrove said. “We can’t just say we’re going to shut down John Robertson and have success.”
UMaine, which ranks fifth in CAA total defense (334 ypg) is led by linebackers Chris Mulumba (55 tackles, 2 INTs), Cabrinni Goncalves (52 tackles) and Troy Eastman (43 tackles).
Wasilewski spearheads a UMaine unit that is third in total offense (450.1 ypg) and third in passing (251.6 ypg). The senior is the CAA’s No. 3 passer, completing 143 of 211 throws, good for 1,726 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions.
Wasilewski has netted 308 yards on 66 attempts (4.7 ypc) to complement tailbacks Nigel Jones (95-459, 5 TDs) and Rickey Stevens (59-285, 3 TDs). A balanced receiver corps includes Derrick Johnson (38 rec., 370 yds., 1 TD), Justin Perillo (25-309-3) and Damarr Aultman (24-292-3).
Villanova ranks seventh in total defense (380.9 ypg) and is last in the CAA against the pass (259 yards per outing). Linebackers Joey Harmon (58 tackles) and Don Cherry (56) have been the leading tacklers.
With a win, UMaine could take another step toward a postseason berth and a shot at the CAA title and deal the Wildcats a blow to their playoff aspirations.
Bear tracks: UMaine lost two players to injury in last week’s win over William and Mary. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Darius Greene (torn knee ligament) and sophomore fullback Carlton Charles of Windham (broken leg) are both out for the season. Jones was limited in practice during the week with an ankle injury. Senior defensive end Mike Cole (chest) is expected to play after sitting out last week.
Husson Eagles (4-2) at Gallaudet Bison (6-0), 1 p.m., Hotchkiss Field, Washington, D.C.: The winner of this game takes charge in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference as both teams have 3-0 league records.
Husson looks to continue its resurgence with a fifth consecutive victory. A defense led by Ellis Throckmorton of Bangor (55 tackles), Stephan Dance (53) and Ernest Wiggins (48 tackles, 7 sacks) will be tested.
Gallaudet features the ECFC’s top rushing attack, netting 366 yards per game behind fullback B.J. Flores (116 ypg).
Nichols Bison (1-5) at Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-5), noon, Ritche Field, Castine: The Mariners go after their first win of the season in a clash between the two New England Football Conference bottom-dwellers.
MMA matches its option offense against Nichols’ sluggish offense and the Mariners must put up more resistance with a defense that has allowed 607 yards and 52 points per game.
Saturday’s other games: Bates (2-3) at Colby (2-3), 1 p.m.; Wesleyan (5-0) at Bowdoin (2-3), 12:30 p.m.