October 23, 2019
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UMaine football game against Georgia Southern appears to be a go after Hurricane Dorian threat

Peter Buehner | UMaine Athletics
Peter Buehner | UMaine Athletics
Emmanuel Reed of the University of Maine scores a touchdown during last Friday's season-opening 42-14 football victory over Sacred Heart University at Alfond Stadium in Orono. Reed was among the bright spots for the Black Bears, whose Saturday game at Georgia Southern may be threatened by Hurricane Dorian.

For the second time in three years, the University of Maine was impacted by a hurricane that threatened to cancel a football game.

But it now appears that Saturday night’s game between Football Championship Subdivision team UMaine and Football Bowl Subdivision team Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia, is going to be played.

Classes were canceled at Georgia Southern for Tuesday and Wednesday due to Hurricane Dorian.

Bryan Johnston, Georgia Southern’s associate athletic director for public relations and communications, said school officials have been closely monitoring the hurricane and the game is still on.

He said the athletic directors at the two schools, Georgia Southern’s Tom Kleinlein and UMaine’s Ken Ralph, have been in constant communication about the situation.

[How UMaine’s football team plans to build on 2018’s historic season]

It appears as though the Statesboro area is going to be spared the brunt of the storm. The National Weather Service is predicting at most a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Wednesday and Thursday with wind gusts reaching a maximum of 29 mph on Wednesday.

Those are the worst predicted conditions through Saturday.

Even though the forecast calls for sun and 96 degrees on Saturday, Johnston said were a lot of other variables that could have impacted the game. That includes whether emergency personnel scheduled to work the game are called away to other assignments because of the storm.

Two years ago, UMaine had its game at Central Florida in Orlando canceled because of Hurricane Irma. UMaine received a $350,000 guarantee from Central Florida and kept the money, even though the game was canceled.

UMaine is scheduled to earn a $325,000 guarantee from Georgia Southern.

UMaine head coach Nick Charlton is taking the situation in stride.

“We don’t play until Saturday but it will be up to their administration to make sure everybody is safe,” he said.

UMaine intends to leave for Georgia on Friday.

Georgia Southern lost its opener on Saturday night, falling 55-3 at No. 6 Louisiana State University.

Charlton said during Monday’s CAA coaches teleconference that preseason All-America junior linebacker Deshawn Stevens, who may have torn his Achilles tendon on Friday, is still being evaluated.

“We expect him to be out right now but we’re still taking a look at it and we’ll have an announcement in the next couple of days,” Charlton said.

Stevens led the team with 120 tackles a year ago.

[UMaine football team relies on versatile yet inexperienced players at key tight end position]

The Black Bears will regain the services of a veteran linebacker for the Georgia Southern. Last year’s No. 2 tackler, Taji Lowe, will be back.

Lowe, who was involved in 85 tackles last season, was suspended for the Sacred Heart game due to a violation of team rules.

Charlton said he was pleased with his team’s performance against Sacred Heart.

“We got off to a good start. We scored a lot of touchdowns early,” said Charlton, whose team scored touchdowns on its first six possessions.

Junior quarterback Chris Ferguson completed his first 11 passes and wound up 23-for-29 for 423 yards and three touchdowns. He earned the CAA Offensive Player of the Week award.

“He played at a very high level,” Charlton said.

Graduate student running back Emmanuel Reed, a transfer from Football Bowl Subdivision school Buffalo, was UMaine’s leading rusher with 62 yards on 10 carries and two TDs.

“I felt really comfortable playing back there with [Ferguson],” said Reed, a shifty, 5-foot-8, 195-pounder. “It was really fun. It was definitely a great experience being out there.”

Charlton said Reed also did a good job in pass protection.

One sticking point for UMaine was penalties. The Black Bears were flagged for 13 penalties for 172 yards and Charlton said that has been addressed.

UMaine was assessed 1,120 penalty yards last season, the most among the 124 Football Championship Subdivision schools. And discipline was among the points of emphasis for Charlton in his transition to becoming the head coach.

“We need to fix that,” he said.

Related: Watch the new UMaine head football coach speak about his plans for the Black Bears



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