ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team is off to an impressive start, but the Black Bears’ success hasn’t come without significant challenges.
UMaine often has had to play from behind and has committed a handful of momentum-sapping turnovers that might have been their undoing.
Instead, coach Jack Cosgrove’s team has been able to overcome adversity.
“It’s a credit to our players, our staff, that we have been able to continue to play the next play. It has been a consistent type of thing,” he said of the struggles.
“We have reduced our mistakes, but we haven’t cut down on the Grade-A mistakes,” Cosgrove added.
He pointed to last week’s game at Richmond, when quarterback Marcus Wasilewski threw two interceptions in the end zone, but persevered, as did the Bears.
“When those things happen, it can ruin you if you’re not a tough guy mentally,” he said. “My hat’s off to Marcus for being as hard-nosed as he is. All the guys continued to play.”
Maine Black Bears (4-1) vs. Delaware Blue Hens (4-1), 3:30 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: The 23rd-ranked Bears and the No. 24 Hens meet in an important early Colonial Athletic Association game. Both are 1-0 in league play.
Cosgrove lauded Delaware for its efforts in a 29-22 come-from-behind win over No. 14 James Madison that reminded him of his own team.
“I was really impressed with their win because it spoke to a lot of character,” he said.
UMaine must try to slow a Blue Hens offense that ranks second in the CAA averaging 35.6 points and 450 yards per game. That includes 253 yards per game through the air.
Quarterback Trent Hurley (90 for 128, 1,177 yards, 13 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) has completed 70 percent of his throws and has a dangerous corps of receivers led by Michael Johnson (23 receptions, 471 yds, 4 TDs), Nick Boyle (19-238-5) and Rob Jones (14-176-3).
Throw in running backs Andrew Pierce (79-358-3) and Julian Laing (32-215-3) and the Blue Hens have a multifaceted attack.
The Bears have been solid defensively, allowing 19.5 points and 344 yards per contest behind the talents of linebackers Cabrinni Goncalves (40 tackles), Chris Mulumba (37 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Troy Eastman (28 tackles, 1 INT).
UMaine also has welcomed back senior end Mike Cole, who is slowed somewhat by a chest injury.
The Bears’ offense has featured the passing game, led by Wasilewski. UMaine is fourth in CAA total offense (425.8 ypg) and second in passing yards (260.8 ypg).
Wasilewski has completed 109 of 162 passes for 1,269 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions. His offensive corps includes wide receivers Derrick Johnson (34-335-1) and John Ebeling (20-204-1) and tight end Justin Perillo (20-255-2).
Sophomore Nigel Jones (64 carries, 298 yds, 3 TDs) has inherited the bulk of the running game after injuries to three senior tailbacks.
Delaware has been among the more forgiving defenses in the CAA so far, giving up 27.6 points and 393.8 yards per game, both of which rank 10th in the conference. That includes 255.8 ypg using the pass.
The Blue Hens’ defensive leaders include linebacker Pat Callaway (43 tackles, 2 INTs), safety Craig Brodsky (23 tackles, 2 INTs) and safety Travis Hawkins (23 tackles, 2 INTs).
BEAR TRACKS: Senior safety Jamal Clay has been slowed by a leg injury suffered against Richmond. He is likely to be a game-time decision. Classmate Mike Mangiarelli, who racked up 11 tackles coming off the bench last week, is ready to go.
Husson Eagles (1-2) vs. Castleton State Spartans (1-2), 12:30 p.m., Winkin Complex, Bangor: Coach Gabby Price’s team hopes to be rested and well-prepared to take on the top passing offense in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference at homecoming.
Husson must contain QB Tyler Higley (41-for-79, 479 yds, 1 TDs, 3 INTs), who threw for 311 yards in last week’s 23-8 loss to RPI. His favorite target is WR Kevin Alberque (16-239-1).
The Eagles (6.7 ppg) must generate more offense of their own behind TB Kyle McKinnon (39-166-1), QB Ryan Stroud (16-for-42, 108 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs) and tight end Ben Foss (5-64-0).
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (0-3) vs. Endicott Gulls (0-3), noon, at Beverly, Mass.: Coach Chris McKenney’s squad is out to forget a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of Western New England with a New England Football Conference matchup against the Gulls.
MMA (0-1 NEFC) was unable to stop the run last week and surrendered 580 rushing yards. The Mariners’ best weapon often is its option offense, but they netted only 207 total yards.
Endicott (1-0 NEFC) has demonstrated balance and throws the ball effectively.
Saturday’s other games, 1 p.m.: Colby (1-1) at Wesleyan (2-0), Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (0-2), Bates (1-1) at Williams (0-2).