ORONO, Maine — This year’s University of Maine football team has done an effective job so far of not taking anything for granted.
Perhaps that is why, during their impressive drive toward a Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot and a potential Colonial Athletic Association title, the Black Bears have been so successful.
The 10th-ranked Black Bears fully expect to have their hands full Saturday against conference newcomer Stony Brook, a team that features 13 Football Bowl Subdivision transfers.
“First and foremost, they’re a team with a winning pedigree,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “They were Big South champions, beat our champion last year, Villanova, in the first round of the playoffs.”
Stony Brook Seawolves (3-4) vs. Maine Black Bears (7-1), 12:30 p.m., at Alfond Stadium, Orono: This game is expected to be a showdown between UMaine’s high-scoring offense and a Stony Brook defense that has been stingy. The Bears have won four straight, including last Saturday’s 37-35 thriller at Villanova.
The Seawolves (1-3 CAA) rank second in the league in total defense (311.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (20.4 points per game). Stony Brook also is expected to test the Black Bears’ passing game as it tops the CAA by holding opponents to 158.3 passing yards per game on 56 percent accuracy.
Stony Brook’s playmakers include safeties Naim Cheeseboro (44 tackles, 1 interception) and Christian Ricard (43 tackles) and linebacker Jawara Dudley (39 tackles). Ricard is the brother of Bears defensive tackle Patrick Ricard.
“They’re a big, tough, physical football team,” Cosgrove said. “They’re really efficient on defense.”
UMaine (4-0 CAA) hopes to continue its offensive success, having accounted for 460.9 yards and 33 points per game. Senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, the CAA’s top all-purpose performer, has completed 171 of 245 passes for 2,063 yards and 16 TDs with six interceptions.
His pass options include wide receivers Derrick Johnson (41 receptions, 394 yards, 1 TD) and Damarr Aultman (30-378-4) and tight end Justin Perillo (32-403-3). On the ground, the Bears feature tailbacks Nigel Jones (100 carries, 489 yards, 6 TDs) and Rickey Stevens (72-322-3) and Wasilewski (86-394-3).
The UMaine defense has surrendered 340.5 ypg but has been most effective against the pass, allowing only 178.2 ypg while holding opponents to a .482 completion percentage.
Stony Brook presents a run-pass balance, with tailback James Kenner (74-320-1) leading the ground game. Quarterback Lyle Negron (115-for-192, 1,468 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs) throws often to Malcolm Eugene (43 receptions, 592 yards, 4 TDs) and Will Tye (26-243-1).
“They’re a team that’s built around the power run game, the play-action pass,” Cosgrove said.
The Seawolves will represent a different kind of challenge than John Robertson-led Villanova last week. UMaine relies on a versatile linebacker group that includes Chris Mulumba (55 tackles, 2 INTs), Cabrinni Goncalves (52) and Troy Eastman (43 tackles, 1 INT).
Bear tracks: UMaine looks to go 8-1 for the first time since 2002 and for the fourth time in program history. The Bears have won nine straight FCS contests dating back to Nov. 10, 2012. UMaine has outscored its opponents 58-15 in the first quarter in its last three games.
SUNY Maritime Buccaneers (3-4) vs. Husson Eagles (4-3), noon, at Winkin Complex, Bangor: Husson hopes to embark on a new winning streak after having its four-game skein snapped by Gallaudet last Saturday. The Eagles (3-1 Eastern Collegiate Football Conference) take on a ground-oriented Maritime College team (3-1 ECFC).
Husson will pit its stingy defense (17.1 ppg, 277.3 ypg) against the Buccaneers’ option attack. The Eagles have been led by linebackers Stephan Dance (62 tackles) and Ellis Throckmorton of Bangor (58), along with end Ernest Wiggins (54 tackles, 7 sacks).
Maritime College features fullback Kyle Gardner (104.1 ypg, 5 TDs) and QB Ryan Heizman (68.8 ypg, 7 TDs). The Bucs average 5.2 yards per carry.
Salve Regina Seahawks (5-2) vs. Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (1-5), noon, at Ritchie Field, Castine: MMA looks to generate some momentum off last week’s win over Nichols. It snapped an 18-game losing streak by the Mariners dating back to the 2011 season.
Salve Regina brings in a productive and balanced offense (30.9 ppg) against an MMA defense that has allowed an average of 51.8 points and 608.7 yards per outing.
Saturday’s other games, 12:30 p.m.: Bowdoin (2-4) at Bates (2-4), Tufts (0-6) at Colby (2-3).