Wednesday, April 23, 2014
ORONO — As if to celebrate the 58th birthday of Coach Jack Cosgrove, a dozen portable heaters stood in a small lobby outside his office at the University of Maine.
WHEN: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Alfond Stadium
RADIO: WLOB-AM 1310
TELEVISION: Fox College Sports
MAINE OUTLOOK: Coming off a 37-35 win at Villanova, the Black Bears have a nine-game winning streak against FCS opponents and have beaten nationally-ranked teams in two of their previous three games. QB Marcus Wasilewski is 56 yards shy of Bobby Wilder for seventh place on the career passing list. DE Michael Cole needs two sacks to surpass Mike Denino (27.5) for the career sacks record. Maine has outscored its previous three foes in the first quarter by 58-15. The last time Maine opened 8-1 was 2002. Before that, it was 1989. The Black Bears lead the nation in third-down conversion rate (55.2 percent).
STONY BROOK OUTLOOK: The Seawolves are coming off a 31-13 home loss to UNH and earlier in the season lost 35-6 to Villanova. A first-year member of the CAA, Stony Brook is 1-1 all-time against Maine and last played each other in 2008, a 28-13 Maine victor≠y in Orono. DB Christian Ricard is the brother of Maine redshirt freshman DT Pat Ricard. Stony Brook has the fewest first downs in the CAA and stands 10th in scoring (19.3 ppg). P Nick Ferrara leads the league with a 43.2 yard average and is 11-for-11 in PATs. RB James Kenner ran for 117 yards against UNH. TE Will Tye (26 catches) is a transfer from Florida State.
– Glenn Jordan
The reconstruction project at the adjacent Memorial Field House inadvertently knocked out heat for the football offices, which temporarily lost power as well Wednesday morning. Earlier this season, air conditioning also fell victim to the guys wearing hard hats.
“Our kids are pretty good with distractions,” said Kevin Bourgoin, Maine’s offensive coordinator, with a wave toward the cordoned-off construction zone just outside the door. “There’s hammering going on, and drilling, when we’re in position meetings, and they can’t hear me coach, but they have the ability to focus in and not let those things distract them.”
Perhaps a sociology major could write a thesis on Gridiron as Oasis. In any case the Black Bears are no strangers to adversity, starting with their location as the Northeast outpost of the Colonial Athletic Association, whose other 10 football programs have each, unlike Maine, lost to a conference opponent.
Ranked 10th in the latest Football Championship Subdivision poll, the Black Bears (7-1 overall, 4-0 CAA) host Stony Brook (3-4, 1-3) on Saturday afternoon at Alfond Stadium.
The contest pits the conference’s stingiest passing defense – Stony Brook allows only 158.3 yards per game – against one of the CAA’s leading aerial shows. Maine averages 262.2 passing yards and boasts four receivers with at least 30 catches.
Only one other school (Richmond) has more than two receivers to reach that plateau, and only two others (Towson and William & Mary) have more than one.
“We feel like we have a very talented group,” said junior wide receiver Damarr Aultman, who caught 29 passes as a sophomore and 39 as a redshirt freshman. “At any moment any one of us could take off and have a really good game.”
Indeed, the others – wide receiver Derrick Johnson, slot receiver John Ebeling and tight end Justin Perillo – all have led the team in catches during a game at some point this season, as has junior Art Williams, who was limited by injury earlier in the season and has 11 catches.
“They all have a different set of skills,” Cosgrove said. “Derrick is one of our faster players. Damarr is one of our more dynamic players. He’s made some real big plays for us this year. Justin is that consummate tight end who can find ways to get open and make catches in a crowd.”
And Ebeling, who lost out to Marcus Wasilewski in last year’s preseason quarterback competition? Cosgrove calls Ebeling the X factor.
“His contribution has been outstanding,” he said. “He has given us another inside receiver so that Justin is not the only inside receiver.”
Ebeling is a versatile athlete who considered playing college basketball and was a high school high jumper (6-foot-4) and hurdler. He became the punt snapper at Maine as a sophomore after what amounted to an open tryout. His father played linebacker and defensive end at Colgate, and his older brother played wide receiver for Yale.
“He’s helped me out a little bit with some technique stuff,” said Ebeling, who is four years younger. “I had never played receiver before coming to Maine.”
“I think the move Coach (Bourgoin) made last spring to make him a slot receiver and take him out of the quarterback picture, to a certain extent,” Cosgrove said, “has really turned into a huge bonus for us.”
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