April 05, 2020

Bears facing tough test in Villanova UM plays Wildcats in pivotal A-10 matchup

Momentum can be fleeting in football, but teams that can establish consistency and build conference from week to week are the ones that taste success more frequently.

The 23rd-ranked University of Maine football team looks to put together back-to-back victories today with an Atlantic 10 home contest against always-tough Villanova.

Villanova (2-3) at Maine (3-2), 2 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: The Black Bears return to Morse Field after playing four of their first five games on the road. UMaine is riding a wave of confidence after winning three of its last four, the loss coming at Division I-A Boston College.

However, the Wildcats come in having caught the eye of the UMaine coaching staff. They have won two straight on the road, including last week’s 20-16 league victory at Hofstra.

“Villanova’s a good football team,” said Bears coach Jack Cosgrove. “They’ve had a very difficult schedule [including I-A Central Florida] and have been very competitive in all their games and won their last two.”

The game is likely to pit the Bears’ ground-based offense and its ability to control the clock against a more balanced Villanova offense.

UMaine’s defense has been stingy against the run (90 yards per game) and a bit more forgiving against the pass (211 ypg), but has held opponents to 18.4 points per contest. The Bears have allowed two touchdowns or fewer in four straight games.

Safety Jonathan Calderon (32 tackles), end Matt King (29), and linebacker Andrew Downey (29) have been among the leaders. They’ll contend with a Villanova unit directed by senior quarterback Marvin Burroughs (210 ypg passing, 6 touchdowns, 4 interceptions), who has thrown for more than 4,200 career yards.

“They have a quarterback who is a veteran of this league who is an outstanding thrower and runner,” Cosgrove said.

Tailback DeQuese May (62 ypg, 5.7 yards per carry) heads the run game and is the top receiving threat (17 receptions, 262 yds., 3 TDs).

Even though UMaine ranks 11th in Atlantic 10 in total offense (283 ypg), the Bears have been effective. Tailback Arel Gordon (476 yards, league-best four 100-yard games) and QB Ron Whitcomb head a run attack that has netted 195 ypg.

UMaine has receiving threats in Gordon (21 rec.), WR Manzi Pierre (8 rec., 2 TDs) and Landis Williams (7 rec., 3 TDs).

The Wildcats will try to tighten things up with a defense that has given up 26.6 points and 359 yards per game. The catalyst is safety Allyn Bacchus (8.6 tackles per game).

“Bacchus is as good a player as there is in this conference in the secondary,” Cosgrove said.

The Bears have won the last three meetings with ‘Nova, but they haven’t played since 2003. UMaine is 4-1 in Orono in the series.

Maine Maritime (3-2) vs. Mass. Maritime (3-2), 1 p.m., Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland: The venue is different, but the intensity of the rivalry remains intact as the Mariners face the Buccaneers for the Admiral’s Cup. Both teams are 2-1 in the Bogan Division of The New England Football Conference.

Maine Maritime leads the all-time series 21-12, including a 41-28 win last season at Buzzards Bay, Mass.

“We’ve got a lot of kids from the southern Maine area,” said Mariners coach Chris McKenney. “A lot of the families and the alumni are excited about it.”

The Mariners have won two in a row this fall behind stingy defense, allowing only 14 points combined. Nate Bolduc, Travis Fergola, and Chris Tracy have been among the stalwarts on that unit.

“We’ve been real strong against the run,” McKenney said.

The Bucs are coming off a 15-13 win over Westfield State on a late field goal. Mass. Maritime ranks last in the NEFC in scoring offense (12 ppg) and has mustered only 241 ypg behind QB Joseph DeFrank (143 ypg, 4 TDs, 5 INTs) and Stefan Stauber (23 rec. 275 yds., TD).

Maine Maritime’s option-based, ball-control offense features QB Brandon Hamilton (99.2 ypg) and fullback Jim Bower and has netted 21.2 points and 300 yards per game.

“We want to run the ball and eat the clock and I’d like to see us score a little bit more,” McKenney said.

The Bucs have allowed 294 yards and 22.4 points per contest, giving up 186 ypg via the pass.

Husson (3-3) at SUNY-Maritime College (0-4), 1 p.m., N.Y.: The Eagles look to snap a two-game losing streak and take on the Privateers, who are playing their first season of NCAA varsity football. Husson won last year’s exhibition game in Bangor by a 40-0 count.

Husson will try to bounce back from Saturday’s 43-16 defeat by Springfield. The offense has averaged only 16.2 ppg behind TB Bryan Ferguson (81.3 ypg), QB David Chase (126 ypg, 7 TDs, 7 INTs), and end Jeremy Shorey (18 rec., 237 yds., 3 TDs).

The Maritime College defense has given up 25 ppg.

Defensively, the Eagles are led by Ross Salovitch, Shane Rogers, and Bryan Biggers.

Today’s other games: Bowdoin (0-3) at Hamilton (0-3), Colby (1-2) at Amherst (2-1), Wesleyan (1-2) at Bates (0-3).

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