April 09, 2020

Black Bears seek revenge vs. Pride UMaine, Husson host Homecoming games; MMA trying to extend run

Homecoming is an annual celebration, built around a football game, that brings alumni together on campus to revisit the college experience.

The University of Maine and Husson College hope to provide their alumni and fans with something to celebrate today with football victories in their respective homecoming games.

Hofstra (2-3) at Maine (4-2), 2 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: Last season, the Black Bears’ trip to Hempstead, N.Y., resulted in a 44-0 defeat and led to the revamping of UMaine’s offensive scheme. This time, the 19th-ranked Bears hope to show the Pride how far they have come since.

“They embarrassed us,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove. “I’ve never felt so beaten in any game since I’ve been at Maine.”

Since switching to a spread offense the next week, the Bears are 7-4. Today, they have a chance to improve to 4-0 in the Atlantic 10.

“This is the weekend where the pride of being a Maine football player is a little bit more emphatic,” Cosgrove said of homecoming.

UMaine is coming off a 20-7 win over Villanova during which it was smothering on defense and good enough on offense. Cosgrove would like to see more drives end in touchdowns.

The UMaine defense ranks atop the A-10, allowing only 70 rushing yards per game. While the Bears have given up 212 ypg through the air, that hasn’t consistently translated into points for opponents (24 ppg).

The unit headed by linebacker Andrew Downey (40 tackles), safety Jonathan Calderon (34) and end Matt King (41 tackles, 5 sacks) will try to contain a Hofstra offense that is fourth in the league in passing (225 ypg). Senior quarterback Anton Clarkson (105-for-196, 1,338 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) throws to wide receiver Shaine Smith (35 receptions), the national leader in yards per game (114.3).

“Anton Clarkson is as tough a kid as has ever played against a Maine football team,” Cosgrove offered.

The Pride, who have lost back-to-back games by four points, also have two good running backs in Kareem Huggins (65 carries, 308 yds., 3 TDs) and Terry Crenshaw. Another key weapon is placekicker Rob Zarrilli, who is 11-for-12 on field goals, including a 47-yarder.

“He’s as good as there is in the country in I-AA football,” Cosgrove said.

Hofstra has been solid defensively, especially against the run (109 ypg). Linebackers Luke Bonus (40 tackles) and Gian Villante (33) spearhead the group, which has given up only 325 ypg.

The Bears continue to search for more productivity on offense, which ranks 11th in the conference (291 ypg). They’ll try to establish the run with tailback Arel Gordon (92 carries, 511 yds., 3 TDs), QB Ron Whitcomb and speedy wideout Ryan Callahan (12 yards per carry).

Whitcomb, who needs three TD passes to pass Mike Buck (67) as UMaine’s all-time leader, is 72-for-125 for 638 yards and six TDs with four INTs. Gordon (25 rec., 163 yds.), WR Manzi Pierre (14 rec., 168 yds., 2 TDs) and Callahan (12 rec., 80 yds., TD) are the main targets.

Alfred (5-1) at Husson (4-3), noon, Winkin Complex, Bangor: The Eagles look to build on their winningest season since restarting the football program four years ago against the talented Saxons.

Husson snapped a two-game losing streak with last Saturday’s 27-19 victory at SUNY-Maritime College. Alfred occupies third place in the Empire 8 Conference and has won its last three contests, including last weekend’s 24-3 win at Utica.

Husson owns three victories over E-8 teams this season.

Husson’s strong defense will try to contain a balanced and potent Saxons offense that has averaged 29.7 points and 367 yards per contest. Running backs Elmer Newsome (64 ypg) and Vinson Hendrix (51 ypg), QB Paul Keeley (1,325 yards, 16 TDs, 1 INT) and WR Jared Manzer (27 rec., 428 yds., 6 TDs) are the main weapons.

Junior linebacker Ross Salovitch (54.5 tackles) continues to spearhead the Eagle defense.

Offensively, freshman tailback Bryan Ferguson is the workhorse for Husson with 647 yards and four TDs. Quarterback David Chase has thrown for 819 yards and 8 TDs and WR Jeremy Shorey (22 rec., 279 yds., 4 TDs) heads the receivers.

Alfred has given up only 15.3 points and 232 yards per game.

Maine Maritime Acad. (4-2) at Framingham State (0-6), 1 p.m., Framingham, Mass.: The Mariners try to push their win streak to four games as they take on the winless Rams in a New England Football Conference clash.

MMA is coming off a 21-19 victory over Mass. Maritime during which it withstood a second-half charge by the Buccaneers. The Mariners can stay in the thick of the Bogan Division chase with a victory.

The Mariners will again rely on their potent ground game behind QB Brandon Hamilton and fullback Jim Bower, who have helped them average 212 ypg. Framingham ranks last in NEFC total defense (414 ypg) and has surrendered 31.2 ppg.

MMA’s defense, which ranks second against the run (80 ypg) and fifth in total defense (258 ypg) encounters a Framingham squad that has mustered only 10.5 points and 217 total yards per outing.

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