The University of Maine football team, ranked sixth in the national Football Championship Subdivision rankings, is focused on earning its second win in as many seasons over a Football Bowl Subdivision team when it takes on Georgia Southern.
Last season, en route to their first FCS semifinal appearance in school history, the Black Bears overcame a 21-0 deficit to upset FBS team Western Kentucky 31-28.
“Any time you play an FBS opponent it’s a big challenge. They have bigger bodies, more scholarships. But I think we can hang with them,” junior guard-center Chris Mulvey said.
FBS schools can offer up to 85 scholarships compared to 63 for FCS schools.
Georgia Southern is coming off a 55-3 loss at No. 6 Louisiana State University.
“They’re going to be hungry [for a win]. But we’re starving,” UMaine junior quarterback Chris Ferguson said.
“We have our work cut out for us,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said. Their defense really flies around.
“They run the option so that’s going to be a challenge right away. We’re going to have to be very disciplined [on defense] and do a good job with our eyes.”
Georgia Southern won’t take the Black Bears lightly.
“They could easily compete in the Sun Belt Conference,” Georgia Southern coach Chad Lunsford said.
Maine Black Bears (1-0) vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (0-1), 6 p.m., Saturday, Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Ga.: The Black Bears will have their hands full with shifty quarterback Shai Werts, who rushed for 908 yards and 15 touchdowns last year en route to All-Sun Belt Conference second-team honors. He also completed 69 of 116 passes for 987 yards and 10 TDs. Werts sustained a minor injury at LSU and was held out of practice early in the week. If he can’t play, redshirt freshman Justin Tomlin will start.
The Eagles were held to 98 yards of total offense and gave up 427 at LSU. UMaine is 0-3 vs. Georgia Southern with all three losses coming in the FCS playoffs.
UMaine’s Ferguson was the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week after completing 23 of 29 passes for 423 yards and three TDs in the 42-14 win over Sacred Heart.
One intriguing matchup to watch will involve Georgia Southern cornerbacks Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor against UMaine’s deep and talented receiving corps of Earnest Edwards, Jaquan Blair, Andre Miller and Devin Young, who combined for 19 catches last week. Brinson was the team’s No. 2 tackler last season (67) with 10 pass breakups, and Vildor had a team-best four interceptions and 11 pass breakups.
Linebacker Rashad Byrd made 16 tackles against LSU while linebacker Jaron Grayer and safety Joshua Huffman were the Black Bears’ leading tacklers last week with seven and six, respectively.
Georgia Southern has won 11 of its past 12 home openers and its past 22 home games against nonconference opponents dating back to 2006.
UMaine lost preseason All-America linebacker and 2018 tackles leader Deshawn Stevens for the season when he tore his Achilles tendon against Sacred Heart.
Maine Maritime Academy (0-0) at SUNY Maritime (0-0), Saturday, noon, Reinhart Field, Throggs Neck, New York: SUNY Maritime, 7-4 a year ago, has won all four meetings with MMA including a 36-8 win last fall. The Mariners have lost 24 of its past 25 games and are looking to get off to a good start this season against a Privateers team that was chosen to win the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference in the preseason poll.
MMA was picked last in the eight-team New England Women’s and Men’s Conference after going 0-9 last season. The Mariners have 37 newcomers.
SUNY Maritime’s offense was hit extremely hard by graduation and the list of departures included quarterback Thomas Wright, the ECFC Offensive Player of the Year, and receivers Brandon n Drumgole and Christian Castle, who combined for 125 catches. The MMA defense should be much improved with linebacker and leading tackler Terrell Thomas (83 tackles), the NEWMAC Co-Rookie of the Year, and No. 3 tackler Maxwell Horton (67), a defensive back, headlining the unit.
The Mariner offense produced just 7.1 points and 176 yards per game. MMA returns a quality receiver in All-NEWMAC selection Dominic Casale (41 catches, 550 yards).