The University of Maine football team spent the bulk of the offseason preparing for its season opener against Bryant.
Now, the Black Bears have a matter of days to prepare for their next opponent. Maine (1-0) faces Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Maine’s annual meeting with a Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) opponent.
“The whole offseason is about gearing toward that one opening game,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said Monday during the Colonial Athletic Association’s weekly teleconference. “It’s like Christmas week. Now you can go into the normal routine. The grind begins now. We’ve done work on Pittsburgh.”
Maine defeated Bryant 28-13 on Saturday (Sept. 3) at Alfond Stadium. But to prepare for the Panthers, who defeated Buffalo 35-16 on Saturday, Maine will emphasize consistency. Maine stormed to a fast start but sputtered in the second half of Saturday’s win, as its defense allowed Bryant 205 second-half yards and two touchdowns.
“The thing you need to do is take charge,” Cosgrove said. “We were up 21-0 (at halftime) and wanted to make a statement, and we didn’t do that. We didn’t earn a lot in the second half and the defense, at the end, got a little sloppy.
“We’ve got some concerns about our focus and our level of intensity over 60 minutes. It’s something that’s going to be emphasized over the next few days.”
Maine is one of two CAA teams that will face FBS opponents this weekend; Syracuse will host Rhode Island at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Rhode Island Coach Joe Trainer said that facing an FBS opponent comes with what he calls “mixed emotions.” FCS opponents are guaranteed to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in facing FBS opponents, and facing a bigger program helps the smaller programs recruit.
But, Trainer said, there’s a potential cost.
“Nobody feels tremendously great about their depth,” Trainer said. “Even the best teams, you’re always concerned about being one or two injuries away from being average. When you play a team with more scholarships and bigger bodies, you’re in harm’s way, from an injury standpoint. We have to come out of this week healthy.”
Six CAA teams faced FBS opponents last weekend, and Richmond’s 23-21 win over Duke was the league’s only win.
“The one thing you gain is an experience against a bigger, faster stronger team at a pace you don’t see in our league,” said New Hampshire Coach Sean McDonnell, whose team lost 58-22 Thursday at Toledo. “It was an eye-opener in how fast you have to play.
“It helps your program get exposure on a national level. It helps your budget but in the big scheme of things, win or lose, it’s done and you’re getting into the I-AA (FCS) part of your schedule that makes or breaks your season.”
NOTES: The CAA named Maine’s Trevor Coston its special teams player of the week. Coston, a senior defensive back from Greenlawn, N.Y., had 130 yards on five punt returns, including a 74-yard touchdown, and had two interceptions against Bryant. Coston also earned the College Football Performance Awards’ National Punt Returner of the Week and National Defensive Back of the Week awards, and was named The Sports Network FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week.
Maine received 12 votes in this week’s The Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll. Eastern Washington, which lost 30-27 at Washington, remains No. 1.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]