The University of Maine Black Bears take the field at the season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Brice-Cowell Musket has resided in Durham, New Hampshire, for two years — and that’s too long for University of Maine senior center Mike Gerace.

UMaine and the University of New Hampshire will renew their football rivalry on Saturday at Wildcat Stadium in Durham where the Black Bears haven’t won since 2001.

The winner keeps the Brice-Cowell Musket for a year.

UNH has won the last nine games in Durham by an average of 13.2 points per game. The Wildcats have won 16 of the last 18 meetings overall.

UMaine is 5-5 overall this season, 3-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association, and has won four of its last five games.

UNH is 3-7 and 2-5, respectively, and has lost seven games in a row.

The two teams haven’t played each other since 2019 because the pandemic prevented them from competing this past spring.

“They were able to hold on to the musket an extra year. And we haven’t won there since 2001. That’s fuelling everyone right now, it fuels everything,” Gerace said. “For the state of Maine, it’s the battle of the border. Which is the better state this year, Maine or New Hampshire? It gets chippy but it all comes down to who plays better.”

Andre Miller, a graduate student wide receiver, missed the last game of the rivalry with a knee injury.

“We have to go down there and take care of business and get the musket back,” he said. “They got to sit on the musket a little longer than they should have.”

Quarterback Joe Fagnano, who had previously been unaware of UMaine’s long losing streak at UNH, said the knowledge fueled him even more.

“We want to get a win, cap the season off. To come off a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision school [UMass] and to beat your rival would be a great way to go into the offseason,” the junior said. “And (finishing) 6-5 is way better than 5-6. It looks a lot better.”

For UNH coach Sean McDonnell, the rivalry “supersedes” the rest of the season. He acknowledged UMaine’s offense is “dynamic and creative” and that his team is going to have to play better than it has over the past few weeks to beat the Black Bears.

Fagnano, who returned to the lineup last weekend against UMass after missing seven games with an ankle sprain, has completed 44 of 74 passes for 545 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.

Freddie Brock has rushed for 627 yards on 119 carries and Elijah Barnwell has added 420 on 95 carries. Devin Young (51 catches-555 yards) and Miller (31-548) are the leading receivers and the defense features Ray Miller (92 tackles), Fofie Bazzie (61), Adrian Otero (57) and Xavier Nurse (55).

For UNH, Bret Edwards has completed 160 of 257 passes for 1,565 yards with 12 TDs and five interceptions. Sean Coyne (34-319) and Brian Espanet (31-406) are his favorite targets and the leading rushers are Carlos Washington (108-446) and Dylan Laube (69-401).

The defense has been led by Josiah Silver (68 tackles, 10 sacks), Ryan Toscano (63 tackles) and Noah Stansbuiry (56 tackles, three interceptions).