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It wasn’t the start the University of Maine football team expected.
Coming off a Colonial Athletic Association championship and first-ever berth in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, the Black Bears find themselves at 1-2 and looking to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday at Colgate University.
Colgate, the two-time defending Patriot League champion, is 0-3.
First-year UMaine head coach Nick Charlton isn’t pushing the panic button.
“We were 4-3 last year, and we had lost to a one-win team [Central Michigan], a middle-of-the-road Ivy League team [Yale] and a bottom CAA team [William & Mary],” Charlton said. “And we went on to have the best year in the program’s history.”
UMaine (1-2) vs. Colgate (0-3), Saturday, noon, Crown Field at Andy Kerr Stadium, Hamilton, New York: The Black Bears can ill afford a loss with an important CAA showdown at 3-0 Villanova on Sept. 28.
Colgate (10-2 in 2018) upended then-No. 6 CAA power James Madison 23-20 in last year’s FCS playoffs before losing to eventual national champ North Dakota State 35-0.
The Raiders have struggled this season, allowing 40 points and 450.3 yards per game. They also lost first-team All-Patriot League quarterback Grant Breneman on the first series of Saturday’s 38-10 loss at William & Mary.
Junior Jake Froschauer will make his first college start against UMaine. He is 13-for-23 for 114 yards passing in two relief appearances this season.
Charlton insists Colgate has a good football team.
“I saw some good stuff on film,” UMaine senior quarterback Chris Ferguson said. “They’re off to a slow start just like we are. We’re both hungry for a win. It should be a good fight.”
UMaine senior defensive end Kayon Whitaker said the Black Bears should never underestimate an opponent and must prepare as if they are facing the best team in the country.
UMaine’s defense, stout a year ago, has been porous this season, allowing 28.3 points and 360.3 yards per game.
“We have to tackle better, create more turnovers and get more pressure on the quarterback. We only have one sack. We have to make more plays and win the one-on-one matchups,” Whitaker said.
UMaine has forced only one turnover.
The Black Bears hope to get their running game (90.3 ypg) untracked against a Colgate defense that has allowed 305.3 rushing yards per game. Ferguson is averaging nearly 42 passes per game, which has made UMaine one-dimensional and more predictable.
Ferguson leads the FCS with 1,000 passing yards but has been intercepted five times, including four in last Saturday’s 45-23 loss to Towson. The Black Bears have five receivers with 11 or more catches led by Jaquan Blair (17 for 279 yards) and Devin Young (14-240).
Colgate running back Malik Twyman averages 4.6 yards per carry.
Linebacker Nick Ioaniklli (22 tackles), free safety Aidan Gaertner (20) and end Nick Wheeler (2 sacks) lead a veteran Colgate defense. Strong safety Joshua Huffman (19 tackles) and free safety Richard Carr (15) have paced UMaine on defense.