The University of Maine football team opens its CAA schedule Saturday against Delaware and for Black Bears Coach Jack Cosgrove, the next eight weeks bring a certain sense of excitement, as well as a challenge.

“After what we were able to address last week, in fixing parts and growing our personnel, I think the guys are real excited to get back to work,” Cosgrove said during Monday’s CAA teleconference. “With an opponent like Delaware on the horizon, it’s really exciting.”

In their first CAA game this weekend at Alfond Stadium, the Black Bears (2-1) seek an identity, which can be an ongoing process for teams.

“We still need to find out about ourselves,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve played two NEC teams (Bryant and Albany) and a Big East team (Pitt). There’s a scholarship differential in all of that. We’re always looking up to teams and that’s the nature of the business. Over the years, there are some teams that have great history and traditions against us, like Delaware. We’ve had a hard time winning football games against Delaware.

“But, most importantly, I’m excited about the fact that we get to find out where we are.”

The Black Bears face the Blue Hens, who lost 20-19 to Eastern Washington in the 2010 FCS national championship game. Since 2002, Maine is 2-5 against the Blue Hens, and Delaware is 23-7 all time against the Black Bears.

Delaware (3-1, 1-0 CAA) is second in the conference in total defense (310.5 yards a game) and Blue Hens quarterback Tim Donnelly is second in the conference in pass efficiency (67 for 90 passing, 758 yards for an average of 161.3 yards in four games).

In Saturday’s 27-17 win over Old Dominion, Donnelly finished 26 for 39 for 304 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s almost frightening, the efficiency level he’s performing at,” Cosgrove said of Donnelly, a junior. “What he did (against Old Dominion) in the second half, 8 for 9 down the stretch and being an extension of Delaware’s offense, he has some great receivers who may be underappreciated by the league. The timing and spots he’s hitting receivers at is impressive.”

In its first CAA game, Old Dominion led 17-16 with 9:50 left in the game, but Donnelly connected with receiver Rob Jones for a 32-yard touchdown 21 seconds later to help Delaware regain the lead.

“The biggest thing we learned from this game is what I’d told our players and staff going into it,” said Old Dominion Coach Bobby Wilder, a Madison graduate who played and coached at Maine. “The pace of the game will be consistent for 60 minutes. You have to think fast and you have to play fast every play of the game. We did that for 50 minutes and didn’t do that for 10 minutes.”

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

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