Dan Collins had a strong performance in the University of Maine’s season-opening 24-21 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision team Connecticut. He and the Black Bears will face an even stiffer challenge against Mid-American Conference power and FBS member Toledo at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio.
Collins’ 2016 debut (19-for-33 passing, 269 yards, two touchdowns) was even more impressive because the senior quarterback didn’t have the benefit of a running game to support him.
The Black Bears gained only 40 yards on 19 carries.
“Having a good game against them means I can have a good game against anybody,” said Collins, whose favorite receiver was Jaleel Reed (eight catches-169 yards, one touchdown).
UMaine faces an opponent that is coming off a 10-2 season, capped by a 32-17 win over No. 24 Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl, and a season-opening 31-10 triumph at Arkansas State.
“It’s going to be a huge game. They’re a great program with a lot of great players,” Collins said.
“But, no question about it, we feel we can hang with every team on our schedule. We like the system we’re in. We believe in it. And we all stay accountable to each other throughout the game,” he added.
Toledo has won 53 of its last 77 games, 38 of 48 MAC games, 20 of its last 25 home games and 21 of its 23 games against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
Justin Candle, who took over as head coach when Matt Campbell left to become the head coach at Iowa State before the Boca Raton Bowl, junior quarterback Logan Woodside and senior defensive end John Stepec don’t anticipate an easy contest.
“Maine is a very spirited team,” said Candle. “They have a young coach, [Joe Harasymiak], and they play really hard. They have some weapons on offense. They fly to the ball on defense.”
“We’ve got to be locked in,” said Woodside, who threw for a career-high 371 yards and completed 23 of 31 passes against Arkansas State.
Harasymiak said the Rockets are a much different type of team than UConn.
“UConn was a big physical team that liked to run the ball. Toledo spreads it out,” said Harasymiak. “They also like to run the ball, but they’re an uptempo team. They try to get a play off every 15 seconds. They try to keep you off-balance. They don’t substitute a lot, so we can’t substitute, and we’ll have to be careful of that.”
Toledo has averaged 35 points and 235 rushing yards per game over the past three seasons, and it boasts the school’s third-highest career rusher in Kareem Hunt, who has gained 3,548 yards.
UMaine’s running game should be bolstered by Temple University transfer Zaire Williams, who missed last week’s opener because of a compliance issue that has since been cleared up.
“We have to do a better job running the ball,” said Harasymiak, whose offensive line didn’t allow a sack against UConn and faces a Toledo defense that graduated eight starters.
UMaine also will regain the services of offensive tackle Jamil Demby (knee injury) and punter James DeMartini (suspension).
“They key is going to be third down,” said Harasymiak. “We need to extend drives on offense to keep our defense off the field. We have to chew up some clock.”
“We understand who they are, but we aren’t going to fear them,” said UMaine senior defensive lineman Pat Ricard. “We’re going to have to communicate every play and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Linebackers Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga (12 tackles) and Sterling Sheffield (8), safeties Jason Matovu (8) and Jeffrey DeVaughn (7) and Ricard (7) were UMaine’s top tacklers against UConn. UMaine had 10 tackles for loss.
Two-time All-MAC tackle Treyvon Hester, free safety DeJuan Rogers, who was a third-team All-MAC choice last year, and linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley, the defensive Most Valuable Player of the Boca Raton Bowl, anchor the Rockets defense.