In this Sep. 11, 2021, file photo, James Madison linebacker Kelvin Azanama (7) latches onto Maine running back Freddie Brock (28) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Credit: Daniel Lin / Daily News-Record Via AP

For University of Maine sophomore running back Freddie Brock, Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association football game at Albany will be a homecoming of sorts.

His hometown of Rochester, New York, isn’t exactly a neighboring community at 227 miles from Albany — but it is the closest CAA venue to his home and he is looking forward to the 1 p.m. game at Casey Stadium.

“I grew up three hours from there. It’s going to be wonderful for me. My family and friends will get to come see me play. I don’t get much chance to go home and see them. It’s really exciting,” Brock said.

Brock is the leading rusher for UMaine so far this season, with 296 yards on 67 carries for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. He’s also caught 10 passes for 105 yards and has run for three touchdowns and caught a pair of TD passes, too.

Brock has become the team’s primary running back in the wake of Elijah Barnwell’s ankle injury. 

Not only has he ran for 296 yards on 67 carries for an average of 4.4 yards per carry, he has also caught 10 passes for 105 yards. He has run for three touchdowns and caught a pair of TD passes.

“He does it all,” UMaine quarterback Derek Robertson said. “He runs the ball well, he catches the ball out of the backfield, he pass protects. He means a lot to the offense.”

Brock has rushed for at least 85 yards in two of his last three games, gaining 85 yards on 18 carries in a 41-14 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision team Northern Illinois on Sept. 25 and picking up 86 more on 15 carries in UMaine’s 27-16 win over William and Mary (Virginia) last Saturday.

“He has done a good job. He’s getting better every single week,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said. “In pass protection, he’s really smart and has done a great job of that. He continues to improve running the football and he has become ‘the guy’ right now. And he catches the football as well.”

Charlton said Brock has become better in short yardage situations on third and fourth down.

“It’s a matter of sticking your foot in the ground and getting vertical,” said Brock, who was UMaine’s leading rusher as a true freshman this past spring when he gained 165 yards on 29 carries in the Black Bears’ four games. He also snared six passes for 16 yards.

Brock is only 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds but he hasn’t let his size hamper him.

He explained that because he is undersized and comes from a tough city whose players are overlooked, he has always played with a chip on his shoulder.

He would like to put on some weight and retain his speed, he said.

Albany was one of the first schools to offer Brock a scholarship. He originally committed to the University of Massachusetts but wound up decommitting and deciding to come to UMaine.

“When I visited Maine, it felt like home,” he said.

Albany coach Greg Gattuso knows Brock is one of the players his team will have to stop Saturday.

“He is a really good running back. He’s a heck of a football player,” Gattuso said.

Brock said the William and Mary win will give the Black Bears momentum coming into Saturday’s game.

“We’re going in the right direction. We need to keep grinding and get 1 percent better every day,” Brock said.

UMaine will look to extend its winning streak over Albany to seven games and its winning skein at Casey Stadium to six games.

The Great Danes have lost nine in a row dating back to last spring and are 0-6 overall this season and 0-4 in conference play.

All four conference losses have been by seven points or less so Charlton said Albany’s record isn’t indicative of how good a football team it is and he expects a difficult challenge.

The Great Danes have really struggled offensively as they are last in the 12-team CAA in points scored per game (15.5), yards per game (254.7) and rushing yards (57). They also have the league’s worst run defense, allowing 214.5 ypg, but the best pass defense (162.2 ypg allowed).

UMaine’s Robertson has completed 72 of 143 passes for 900 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. Binghamton, New York, native Devin Young has 27 catches for 271 yards and Andre Miller has 24 for 404 yards. Fofie Bazzie’s 51 tackles, Ray Miller’s 46 and Adrian Otero’s 36 tackles pace the defense.

Albany’s Jeff Undercuffler has completed 72 of 143, the same as Robertson, for 843 yards and three touchdowns with five interceptions. Jabbie Mohamed has 17 catches for 179 yards and Karl Mofor has 16 for 116. Mofor is the Great Danes’ leading rusher with 385 yards on 110 carries.

Jackson Ambush’s 54 tackles, Danny Damico’s 40 and Larry Walker Jr.’s 33 key the defense.