ORONO – Vinson Givans knows his team is looking for any advantage it can get when it comes to patrolling the defensive backfield.

In preparing for one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s top passing teams, the University of Maine’s defense is taking extra time to watch film, in hopes of finding any area to have an advantage. At practice they’re following every command the coaches are giving, executing each move, as Givans said, “to a T.”

When they’re on the field against Richmond, Givans, a linebacker, and safeties Jerron McMillian and Trevor Coston will count on each others’ experience and the chemistry between them.

“Our bond is the strongest,” Givans said. “We’re really close and we know that we have each others’ backs. We have confidence in the guy next to us, the guy in front of us and the guy behind us.

“We know what to expect of each other when we’re on the field.”

Maine (5-1, 3-0 CAA), ranked ninth in one national poll and 14th in another, will take on Richmond (3-3, 0-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Robins Stadium in Richmond, Va.

The Black Bears will face a team that relies on the pass. Richmond is 11th in the CAA in rushing, averaging 100.2 yards per game, but is third in the league in passing, averaging 248.5 yards, and boasts the CAA’s leading receiver, Tre Gray (113.8 yards per game)

On paper, Maine appears to have the tools to counter that aspect of Richmond’s game. Maine is second in the CAA in pass defense, allowing 176.2 yards per game. In last Saturday’s 27-21 victory against Rhode Island, the Black Bears allowed 160 yards passing, including 2 yards in the first half.

Still, Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove won’t underestimate any facet of the Spiders’ offense.

“Through statistical research, you look at Richmond and you say, ‘They’re a pass team,’ ” Cosgrove said. “But if we don’t defend the field, if we don’t look at things up front or in all of the defense, they’ll have success in two areas and it’s going to be even more difficult. We can’t neglect the obvious, which is to defend their whole offense. We can’t let them do two things well.

“Pass rush and undercoverage are just as important as what the secondary does. We respect the fact they throw it, but they have other intentions and we have to be able to defend those.”

Coston attributes the defensive backfield’s success to discipline and the ability to communicate with each other.

“When we communicate and make sure everyone is on the right page, we’re very strong,” Coston said. “We need to eliminate the route. Sometimes if we see something coming, we don’t break fast enough because we’re unsure. We need to be sure.”

But the combination of Coston, McMillian and Givans — all three are redshirt seniors — has chemistry developed through years of learning the system and each other’s tendencies on the field.

“It’s a combination of their experience and, as a result, their confidence,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve played a lot of football in this league. They were around football early here, as freshmen and as redshirt freshmen, playing. They’ve been three-year starters, and they’ve learned hard lessons along the way.

“We’re coming back to being a very good defense, and it always comes back to guys who have experience, demonstrating the confidence, practicing the way they need to practice and really influencing their defensive teammates. Those three have been the most powerful influences of our defense.”

Now, execution will be imperative.

“Our job is to be disciplined in the pass game,” Coston said. “Do your work early and just try to take away their routes. We’re studying the film and we know what’s going to come.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi