The Colonial Athletic Association’s football teams open the season this week, and as far as Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove is concerned, it’s about time.

“It’s that time of year when you want to (play) somebody else,” the Black Bears’ coach said.

It’s a feeling shared by other teams and coaches in the league, whose schedule kicks off Thursday night with three nonconference games: New Hampshire at Toledo, Villanova at Temple and Massachusetts at Holy Cross. Maine, which opens the season at 5 p.m. Saturday against Bryant, will focus this week on fine-tuning and preparation.

“In terms of anybody’s major theme in preparation, it’s to practice at a high level, to go day by day and address the parts of a game plan you’re seeing in front of you on a daily basis,” Cosgrove said during Monday morning’s CAA teleconference. “When you get to the end of the week, you want to take a deep breath, look at everything and say, ‘we’re ready to go.’ “

Late last week, Maine named senior Warren Smith its starting quarterback against Bryant. Cosgrove said he’s buoyed by the development of his team’s offensive line, which boasts four returning starters, as well as the health of junior center Garrett Williamson and right guard Christopher Howley, who were hampered by injuries in 2010.

“It’s important you have a starting point and have an ending point,” said Cosgrove, whose team finished 4-7, 3-5 in the CAA. “And that’s Saturday, where it all comes together.”

Bryant finished 7-4 last season, including 4-4 in the Northeast Conference – a conference that has had recent success against the Black Bears, including Albany’s 3-0 win over Maine in the 2010 opener.

“We’ve suffered the last couple years with losses to teams from their league (the Northeast Conference), so we’ve got to focus,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove said Maine’s practices were relatively untouched by Tropical Storm Irene but several coaches from the CAA’s southern programs are scrambling to resume their practice and game-week schedules in the wake of the storm.

At Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., Monarchs Coach Bobby Wilder said the storm hit Virginia’s Tidewater region Saturday night, where there was extensive wind and rain damage. The Monarchs are about to begin their first season in the CAA and broke training camp Thursday, as players and coaches left campus for the weekend. Planning in the event of a hurricane, Wilder said, was more nerve-wracking than planning for the opener Saturday against Campbell.

“Football, it’s just a game,” said Wilder, a Madison native who played at Maine, then was an assistant coach at Maine from 1990 to 2006. “Nobody’s lives are in danger. With this, you worry about the well-being of your staff and family members.”

At William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Tribe Coach Jimmye Laycock said the football offices are one of the few on campus that had electricity Monday morning, and that the football program had no contingency plans in place because of Irene, despite his team preparing for Saturday’s opener at Virginia.

“You have to make decisions on the run,” said Laycock, whose team shared the 2010 CAA championship with Delaware. “It’s not what you want to be doing as you’re getting prepared for a game against Virginia. But everybody is safe, and that’s the most important thing. We’ll try to regroup, get ready and get back into the swing of things.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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