There is little room for error once a team moves into conference play.
Today, the University of Maine football team begins a stretch of seven straight Atlantic 10 games with an important midseason road contest against undefeated and 17th-ranked Towson University.
The Black Bears (1-0 A-10) are looking to make a statement against the Tigers (1-0 A-10) about their potential to challenge for the conference title.
“We know what we’re capable of and that’s going out there and getting a win, week in and week out,” said UMaine senior Justin Roberts. “We want to be A-10 champs and that starts this weekend.”
Maine (2-2) at Towson (4-0), Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson, Md., 3 p.m.: The Bears expect a challenge trying to contain a potent Tigers passing game that is averaging a league-high 298 yards per game. Sophomore Sean Schaefer has completed 94 of 141 passes for 1,164 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions.
“It shows you a quarterback who is accurate, smart and dangerous,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “Their strength is their quarterback and their receivers. This is as good a receiver group as we’ll see all year.”
The receiving corps is headed by Eric Yancey (23 receptions, 266 yds., 4 TDs) and Demetrius Harrison (22 rec., 273 yds, TD).
UMaine will contend with a spread offense, a scheme with which it is quite familiar.
“Going against the type of offense that you play against every day in practice is definitely going to be a benefit for us,” said Bears end Matt King who, along with Mike DeVito and Pat McCrossan, hopes to get pressure on Schaefer.
“They have a pretty good screen game,” King said. “He does like to take deep shots, but he likes to take underneath routes – quick, short passes – so the line doesn’t have to protect for that long.”
The Bears secondary is paced by safeties Jonathan Calderon (22 tackles) and Daren Stone (15).
UMaine also eyes more production on offense. Arel Gordon (128 multipurpose yards per outing) is the top run threat, while QB Ron Whitcomb (44-82, 355 yds., 5 TDs, 4 INTs) has a variety of targets including Gordon (16 rec., 139 yds.), Manzi Pierre (7 rec., 95 yds., 2 TDs) and Landis Williams (7 rec., 74 yds., 3 TDs).
“We have to now start to turn the growth process, the improvements, into yards and first downs and points,” Cosgrove said.
Towson’s defense, which has given up only 13 points and 263 yards per game, features linebackers Brian Bradford (34 tackles) and Marcus Edwards (34).
BEAR TRACKS: The Bears welcome back junior tight end Matt Mulligan of West Enfield, who sat out last week’s game with an illness. It was not mononucleosis, as previously reported.
Springfield (4-0) at Husson (3-2), Winkin Complex, Bangor, 1 p.m.: The Eagles look to rebound from a difficult one-point loss at Mount Ida by taking on the No. 1 team in the New England Division III coaches’ poll.
Husson must contend with a powerhouse rushing attack that has ground out 384 yards per game while averaging 36.8 ppg. Springfield is led by Chris Sharpe, who has netted 184 ypg and 9.7 ypc and scored 14 touchdowns.
The Eagles have allowed only 128 ypg via the run and surrendered just 15.8 ppg. Linebacker Ross Salovitch continues to set the tone with nine tackles per outing.
Offensively, Husson has produced only 16.2 ppg spearheaded by the running talents of Bryan Ferguson and the passing of QB David Chase (121 ypg, 6 TDs, INTs). Strong safety Kevin Fessette (29 tackles, 2 INTs) leads the Springfield defense.
Former UMaine center and captain Ben Lazarski is a graduate assistant coach with the Pride.
Maine Maritime Academy (2-2) at Worcester State (2-3), Worcester, Mass., noon: The Mariners head back on the road for a New England Football Conference Bogan Division contest against the Lancers.
This contest pits MMA’s option run attack against Worcester’s preferred pass-oriented offense. The QB talents of Brandon Hamilton (93 ypg) have helped the Mariners move the ball well and rank third in the league in scoring (23.5 ppg).
Worcester, which has allowed 140 ypg via the run, will have to contend with only occasional passes by the Mariners.
MMA must contain a unit that has thrown for 185 ypg with Pat Good (178 ypg, 6 TDs, 4 INTs) throwing to Brian Doherty (24 rec., 244 yds). Safety Nate Bolduc and LB Chris Tracy head up the Mariners defense.
Today’s other games: Middlebury (2-0) at Colby (0-2), Williams (2-0) at Bates (0-2), Tufts (2-0) at Bowdoin (0-2).