ORONO — Warren Smith was home in New Jersey for a long weekend during the summer, and the senior quarterback on the University of Maine football team visited the Jersey Shore.
No, not that “Jersey Shore.” He didn’t bump into any of MTV’s spray-tanned, muscle-bound reality television personalities. But he crossed paths with three players from the Villanova football team – players who had won an FCS/Division I-AA national championship two years ago.
“They all had their rings on,” Smith said. “These guys have been there. They’ve been to a place we haven’t. They’ve been there, they’ve done that. And their record now doesn’t show it, but they’re a team that can show up every day and give you their A-game. We have to prepare for that.”
And, Smith explained, while Villanova is winless in conference play this season, the Wildcats are capable of surprising their opponents.
The No. 8/12 Black Bears (6-1, 4-0 Colonial Athletic Association) face the Wildcats at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Villanova Stadium in Villanova, Pa., and face a program that, in spite of its struggles this season, has established itself as a historical power in the Football Championship Subdivision and one of the top programs in the CAA. And the Wildcats (1-7, 0-5) could also be considered a sleeping giant.
“It was profound, the number of seniors they lost from last year,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said.
“And how good they were as players. They’re very young now, this group they’ve got playing. They’re very talented. It’s just that they’re inexperienced. But now, when does the inexperience turn to experience? Sometimes it takes longer than others, but there’s also that question of ‘when?’ That’s what we see.”
The Wildcats lost 21 seniors from last year’s team, and Villanova’s only win this season came Sept. 24, a 30-21 nonconference win against Penn. The Wildcats are ranked last in the CAA in nine statistical categories, including total offense (14.1 points a game), rushing defense (allowing an average of 186.1 yards a game), total offensive yards (269.2 yards a game), sacks against (28 for a loss of 197 yards) and fourth-down conversions (three of 11).
But the Black Bears aren’t focusing on Villanova’s shortcomings.
“They also have some good players who have the ability to make some plays,” Maine defensive lineman Raibonne Charles said. “With that, this is the type of game they’re going to get up for. A game like this could really make their season. We definitely respect them. They’ve got guys that know how to play in big games and guys that know how to lead in big games.”
A week after a 23-22 win at Richmond, in which the Black Bears scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to remain undefeated in the CAA, the Black Bears now have to carry the momentum into Saturday’s game at Villanova.
“We had a great fourth quarter (at Richmond),” Smith said. “Now we have to carry that fourth quarter into the first quarter at Villanova. Even though their record doesn’t impress, they have a good scheme and they have good players.
“But we have to understand what’s got us here. Great effort, great toughness, great ball security. That’s the reason we’re in this spot right now.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: