ORONO, Maine — It is game week once again for the University of Maine football team.
Two weeks after suffering a season-opening 24-3 loss to Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Black Bears are gearing up for Saturday night’s meeting in New Orleans against Tulane of the American Football Conference.
With a game under their collective belts and an extra week to prepare, the Black Bears are hoping for a more complete and cohesive performance against their second Bowl Championship Subdivision opponent of 2015.
“In a lot of ways, I think the bye week was very important to this football team,” head coach Jack Cosgrove said during the weekly Colonial Athletic Association teleconference.
Playing a second straight FBS game brings with it significant challenges.
“That’s a heavy undertaking, so it really got us a chance to coach our players, off the tape, on the field and take some steps forward as a football team,” he added.
One area UMaine knows it must establish is its ground attack.
The Bears were unable to run the ball against a stingy Boston College defense. This time, sophomore tailback Nigel Beckford will be in the lineup after sitting out the opener for an undisclosed violation of the UMaine Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
“One of the things I feel comfortable about is he has learned a tremendous lesson,” Cosgrove said of Beckford, a 5-foot-10, 195-pounder who led the Bears in rushing last season with 471 yards and five touchdowns.
“I see it in him and his actions and how he conducts himself,” he added.
Even with Beckford back as the No. 1 tailback and Cabrinni Goncalves set to be the backup, UMaine realizes the magnitude of the challenge it will face trying to establish the run against Tulane (0-2).
“After rushing for seven yards against BC, I don’t know that we have anything we can be too confident about right now,” Cosgrove said. “They have a very stout defense.”
The Green Wave has allowed 157.9 rushing yards per contest in losses to Duke and No. 14 Georgia Tech.
UMaine also will head south with a handful of injury issues.
Junior middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, who suffered a significant bruise to his left leg at Boston College, will not play Saturday. Sophomore strong safety Darrius Hart also did not practice Tuesday and was sporting a wrap on his right knee.
On the offensive side, junior tight end Jeremy Salmon was a no-go Tuesday with an undisclosed ailment. Salmon also is UMaine’s snapper, so Spencer Carey of Fairfield (long snaps) and Sean Reuss (short snaps) likely would pick up those duties if Salmon can’t play.
On a positive note, junior quarterback Dan Collins did not have any significant lingering problems after taking a hard shot late in the BC game. Collins sustained a contusion to his right cheek but did not suffer a head injury or any concussion symptoms.