ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team is poised to achieve a feat unprecedented in the history of the program.
On Saturday, the eighth-ranked Black Bears can become the first UMaine team to start a season with a 9-1 record when they take on recent nemesis Albany on the road.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s team is taking nothing for granted against the Great Danes, who are playing their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“They’re a scary team because of our history with them,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve beaten us three of the last four times and they’ve beaten us twice here in Orono. This is a team that probably has a bit of confidence when it’s looking at playing Maine.”
Maine Black Bears (8-1) vs. Albany Great Danes (1-8), 3:30 p.m., Bob Ford Field, Albany, N.Y.: The Bears are looking to post their sixth consecutive victory coming off a bruising 19-15 win against Stony Brook. UMaine (5-0 CAA) likely would secure one of 24 Football Championship Subdivision playoff spots by beating the Great Danes (0-5 CAA).
The Bears hope to generate more offense against Albany after being significantly slowed by the Seawolves. The Great Danes rank last in CAA total defense (469.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (35.3 ppg).
UMaine counters with an offense that ranks third in scoring (31.4 ppg), second in passing (254 ypg) and fourth in total offense (438.3 ypg). The Bears’ cataly st is senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, who has completed 248 of 388 passes (.639) good for 2,672 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Wasilewski, the CAA leader in total offense (292.8 ypg) has not been intercepted and the Bears have not committed a turnover in the last four contests. He also has run for 42.7 yards per game.
UMaine features the tailback tandem of sophomore Nigel Jones (100 carries, 489 yds., 6 TDs) an d senior Rickey Stevens (84-396-4). Jones is expected to return after missing the SBU game with an ankle injury.
The receiving corps is led by wideouts Derrick Johnson (45 receptions, 430 yds., 1 TD), John Ebeling (41-488-2) and Damarr Aultman (31-392-4) and tight end Justin Perillo (33-421-3).
Albany’s defensive mainstays include linebacker Christian Dorsey (69 tackles), cornerback Randall Exantus (65) and safety Olatunji Idowu (65).
“They’re a pressure team on defense,” Cosgrove said.
The Great Danes have scored only 19 ppg but do feature solid balance. Omar Osborne is one of only three 100-yard rushers (100.7 ypg, 10 TDs) in the CAA. Quarterback Will Fiacchi (161-283, 1,832 yds., 7 TDs, 7 INTs) keys in on wide receivers Kevin Chillis (40-459-4) and Cole King (30-374-0).
UMaine’s fourth-ranked defense (337.4 ypg) has surrendered 164.7 rushing yards per game but has limited opponents to only 46 percent passing accuracy with 11 interceptions. Linebackers Chris Mulumba (74 tackles), Cabrinni Goncalves (64) and Troy Eastman (52) lead the way.
“They take some chances on offense, more so than a lot of teams,” Cosgrove said. “They keep you on your toes.”
Bear tracks: Senior safety Jamal Clay (38 tackles) suffered a broken finger on his right hand against Stony Brook that required surgery and is out indefinitely. Junior Mike Mangiarelli will start in his place … Saturday is Bob Ford Bobblehead Day at Bob Ford Field. The Great Danes’ 41st-year coach, 76, is retiring at season’s end. UAlbany is giving out a bobblehead doll in his likeness to the first 500 fans.
Husson Eagles (5-3) vs. Norwich Cadets (5-3,) ,1 p.m., Sabine Field, Northfield, Vt.: This contest is a battle for second place in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference behind Gallaudet. Both teams have won five of their last six games.
Norwich has given up a league-low 16.6 ppg and 294.8 yards, while Husson ranks first in total defense (273.9 ypg) and is third iin scoring defense (17.1 ppg).
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (1-6) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers (4-3), Steinbrenner Stadium, Cambridge, Mass.: The Mariners continue to look for ways to shore up a defense that has allowed more than 50 points and 600 yards per game.
MIT has featured a nice run-pass blend on offense and has won two of its last three in New England Football Conference play.
Saturday’s other games: Colby (4-3) at Bowdoin (2-5), 12:30 p.m., Bates at Hamilton, noon.