The rested University of Maine football team, which had last weekend off, will be looking for more consistency in its game as it begins a stretch of seven games in seven weeks starting with Saturday’s home game against Elon.
UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said on Monday’s weekly CAA coaches zoom conference call that the week went well.
“We worked on a lot of different things. The four extra practices were big for our football team and the players also got some recovery time. They had a total of four days off,” he noted.
The Black Bears are 1-3 overall, 0-2 in the conference, and they will be taking on an Elon team from North Carolina that is 2-3 and 1-1, respectively. Elon is coming off a 20-7 Colonial Athletic Association road win over No. 22 Richmond.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson will make his third straight start in place of the injured Joe Fagnano, who remains sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury, and the Black Bears may also be without leading rusher Elijah Barnwell.
Barnwell also has an ankle injury that he suffered in the first half of UMaine’s 41-14 loss at Northern Illinois two Saturdays ago.
“Elijah is 50-50 (to play Saturday),” Charlton said.
Barnwell, a redshirt junior who transferred to UMaine from Football Bowl Championship Subdivision team Rutgers (New Jersey), gained 29 yards on five carries against NIU before getting hurt and being replaced by sophomore Freddie Brock. Brock ran for 85 yards on 18 carries.
Barnwell has carried the ball 48 times for 201 yards, a 4.2 yards-per-carry average.
Brock, who has 40 carries for 163 yards and five receptions for 80 yards, will be the primary back on Saturday, but Charlton said Tavion Banks and Lafayette transfer John Gay will also get some time.
Charlton said the week off was beneficial for Robertson as they worked on his timing with the receivers and situational football.
UMaine has converted on just 25 percent of its third downs, which is 110th among 123 Football Championship Subdivision schools.
“Derek is going in the right direction. We have a lot of confidence in him,” Charlton said. “We have to be able to run the football and execute a little better in our passing game. We’re progressing.”
Robertson has completed 46.5 percent of his passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.
Elon coach Tony Trisciani said he has been impressed by Robertson.
“He was confident throwing the ball against Northern Illinois. Their whole offense is available to him,” said Trisciani, who is expecting a physical football game against a UMaine team that “plays really hard on both sides of the ball.”
Charlton’s Black Bear defense is 108th in points allowed (39 points per game) and 105th in total yards allowed per game (462.8) and will be facing a quality veteran quarterback in senior Davis Cheek, who has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,387 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions.
“He’s talented and he has a lot of experience. He does some really nice things,” Charlton said. “They’re a really good football team.”
The Elon defense stymied three Richmond drives inside its 10-yard line in the second half of its win over Richmond. It is led by defensive back and CAA Defensive Player of the Week Coie Coleman, who made seven of his eight tackles on those three drives.
Charlton said his Black Bear defense has shown some flashes of progress but needs to be more consistent and continue to force turnovers.
The defense may again be without three-year starting defensive end Jamehl Wiley, who missed the Northern Illinois game with an ankle injury.