Sports, Football

Struggling Maine Aims To Flip The Upset Script This Saturday

After two weeks of their normal Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponents, the Maine Black Bears face their biggest challenge of the season so far when they venture to Chestnut Hill for a matchup with an opponent that participates in the highest level of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Boston College Eagles.

While FBS football is what most people think of when they think about college football—the system that contains conferences like the SEC, Pac 12, and BC’s ACC—the FCS is the tier just below the FBS. Often, FBS programs will schedule a game against teams in the FCS, as a means of padding their non-conference schedules early on.

“I think it’s nice to have the ability to play some geographically suited teams up in this area for the fan bases, whether it be Maine, UMass, whatever down the road, maybe a Rutgers or whatever,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said in a teleconference. “I think there’s a good formula here. Unless something changes in the structure of the power five, it’s hard to go out there and play the conference we play, then play teams like USC and Notre Dame when they rotate on your schedule all the time. That would be a tall order.”

The Black Bears are just two games into their schedule, with a bye week separating their season opener against Norfolk State from their second test against Bryant University.

The season kickoff against Norfolk State is the only win that the Black Bears have tallied so far, as they knocked off the Spartans by a score of 10-6. The defense held Norfolk to just 67 yards rushing and 33 yards through the air, and the Black Bears nearly doubled the Spartans’ offensive output with 95 yards on the ground, led by Nigel Jones, who netted 67 yards on 25 carries, and 92 yards passing from quarterback Dan Collins, who completed eight of 20 attempts to give the Black Bears the edge.

Two weeks later, though, Collins and Jones both improved on their week-one performances, but the offensive effort from the Black Bears was not enough to counteract Bryant’s efficient passing game, and the Black Bears fell by a final score of 10-13.

Maine’s offense so far this season has been fairly evenly distributed between its run game and passing game, with Collins himself taking the ball on the ground from time to time, amassing 25 carries in his first two performances for gains of 88 yards, his net falling to 52 as he has been sacked seven times thus far, raising questions about the effectiveness of Maine’s offensive line and Collins’ ability to evade pressure in the pocket.

Apart from Jones and Collins, no player has more than 10 carries on the season, and the two of them combined account for 93 percent of Maine’s total offense when you combine the yards on the ground by both players with Collins’ passing yards.

The receiving job is split a bit more evenly than the rushing job, with no player grabbing more than five receptions on the season. Damarr Aultman, who has 96 yards on five receptions thus far, leads the core. Jordan Dunn, who, despite having the same number of receptions has just 28 yards on the season, follows him.

On the other side of the ball, the Maine defense has held its opponents to under 100 rushing yards so far this season, but the Black Bears have yet to face a team as run-oriented as BC, and they will face a considerable test from BC’s core of running backs as well as dual-threat Tyler Murphy.

While this game is not in the same league (literally) as the Eagles’ conference schedule, Maine will be pushing to put up as strong a performance as possible against its only FBS opponent of the year.

“They’re coming in here ready to roll,” Addazio said. “It will be a tough, physical game. Our guys, we have to play with the same energy level and passion level that it takes week in and week out to compete at the level we’re at.”

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

September 18, 2014

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