University of Maine redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson had a solid debut against the University of New Hampshire nine days ago.
But it didn’t produce a win as the Black Bears dropped a heart-breaking 24-23 decision to their archrivals.
Ferguson hopes for an even better performance and a win Saturday, when UMaine hosts Bryant University of Smithfield, Rhode Island its home opener.
Ferguson completed 23 of 44 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted twice against UNH.
“I thought I played so-so,” Ferguson said. “A lot of guys around me did well and made me look good at times. There are some things I’d like to take back but that happens in every game. Hopefully I can clean that up this weekend and come out with a win.”
Bryant Bulldogs (1-0) at Maine Black Bears (0-1) , 3:30 p.m., Alfond Stadium, Orono: Bryant had the Black Bears on the ropes a year ago, building a 21-0 lead before the Black Bears scored 28 second-half points and beat the Bulldogs 35-31.
“They’re a good football team,” UMaine QB-turned-tight end Drew Belcher said. “Last year, they came out and punched us in the mouth right away. We had to come back in the second half.
“We’ve got to come out ready to play. We don’t have a win yet and we’re hungry for our first one. I’m excited for the opportunity,” Belcher said.
Josh Mack rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns against Bryant a year ago and had 103 yards on 27 carries vs. UNH.
The Bulldogs have a first-year head coach in James Perry, who had been the offensive coordinator at Princeton the last seven years. Last season, Perry’s offense led the Ivy League in points per game (34.6), total yards (415.5) and rushing yards per game (183.2).
He has already put his stamp on the Bulldogs as they scored 49 points in their opener against Division II Merrimack, their most ever since making the move to Division I in 2012. Their 555 yards of total offense rank third all-time at Bryant.
Bryant scored 29 fourth-quarter points to erase a 16-point deficit and post a 49-41 win over Merrimack.
“Maine has always been a physical football team. We have to be able to handle their physicality,” Perry said.
The Bulldogs also have a first-year quarterback in Price Wilson, who transferred from Football Bowl Subdivision team Louisiana Tech and threw for 378 yards against Merrimack.
He replaced Dalton Easton, who set virtually every school passing record during his time at Bryant.
The Bulldogs also have a multi-purpose weapon in wide receiver-kick returner Matt Sewall, who set career highs with nine catches for 146 yards and two TDs. He rushed three times for 68 yards against Merrimack. Sewall averaged 28.9 yards per kickoff return a year ago, third best in the country.
UMaine has won four of the five meetings with Bryant.
Linebackers Jaron Grayer and Sterling Sheffield and cornerback Najee Goode anchor UMaine’s defense while linebacker Jesse Nemerowicz (14 tackles vs. UMaine and had a freshman-record 91 in 2016) headlines the Bryant defense.
Husson University (1-0) at Dean College (0-0), noon, Franklin, Massachusetts: Husson opens defense of its 2016 Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championship against league newcomer Dean College.
While Dean participated in the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association before joining the ECFC this year, the Bulldogs are no strangers to the Eagles.
Senior running back John Smith rushed for a school-record 280 yards along with four touchdowns last Sept. 16 as Husson cruised to a 43-23 victory in Bangor.
But the Dean roster has a considerably different look now under second-year head coach Steve Tirrell. There are 62 freshmen listed on the 87-player roster — including four first-year quarterbacks who were vying throughout preseason to start the Bulldogs’ 2017 opener against Husson.
Husson will seek to unleash an offense that averaged 464.4 total yards per game last fall but was limited to 257 yards during its 20-7 victory over Union College at the Winkin Sports Complex last Saturday.
The Eagles struggled with their ground game early against the Dutchmen before Smith broke loose for 110 second-half rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns behind an offensive line filled with players making their first college starts — tackles Jake Cameron and Brandon Darius, guards Brad Weston of Pittston and Josh Rivera, and center Luis Rivera.
Husson’s defense proved resilient, yielding 315 yards but allowing just one touchdown. Senior cornerback Jean Gabriel, junior linebacker Elvin Suazo, senior defensive tackle Luke Washburn and junior cornerback Quan Soyini, but the Eagles also got significant contributions from several first-time starters including senior linebacker Christian Mowrer of Orono and freshman end Frank Curran of Cheverus High School in Portland.