ORONO – From here on out, the next eight weeks will be nothing short of labor intensive for the University of Maine football team.

The Black Bears open their Colonial Athletic Association schedule at 3 p.m. today against No. 6 Delaware, beginning an eight-game slate in one of the most competitive Football Championship Subdivision (former Division I-AA) leagues in the nation.

“It’s going to be tough,” Maine safety Trevor Coston said. “It’s going to be a grind. You’re going to have to really focus.

“If you lose focus, you could lose a game. And in the CAA, a big play that happens early in a game could be the deciding factor in a game.”

Delaware Coach K.C. Keeler said something similar to his team last Saturday after a 27-17 victory over Old Dominion at Newark, Del.

“As I told the kids after the game, ‘Welcome to the next seven weeks of our life,’” Keeler said.

“The next seven weeks are going to be pretty exciting because it’s the kind of games, every time you walk into them, it’s going to be a battle.”

Delaware (3-1, 1-0 CAA) reached the 2010 FCS national championship game, losing 20-19 to Eastern Washington, and has won six national championships.

“The challenge is being able to play an elite team in our league, at home, in our first CAA game,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said.

“We know a little bit more about ourselves than we did when the season started; we made some major improvement in parts of our game but there are parts of our game that we have to improve on.”

“Are we good enough at this point to beat a Delaware team that’s coming off a season in which they played in the national championship game?

“This league is always one that, while you’re in it, it’s incredibly tough. But if you can survive it, it’s a nice reward at the end of it.”

Maine defensive back Jerron McMillian said his team faces another challenge after two weeks off: keeping the game simple instead of being overwhelmed by it.

“Run the ball and stop the run,” said McMillian, whose defense faces a Blue Hens squad that has averaged 177.8 yards a game rushing.

“It’s basic. Football, it’s played as simple as possible. If you play simple, you’re going fast. If you think about it, you’re not going to go as fast.”

However, the Black Bears (2-1, 0-0) aren’t focusing as much on the external factors of today’s game as they are on themselves.

As a result of last weekend’s bye, the Black Bears haven’t played a down of football in nearly two weeks, since a 31-15 win at Albany, and they have taken the time to prepare for their CAA opener and to refine some areas that appeared to be question marks, particularly the team’s depth at defensive line and healing the injuries sustained in nonconference games at Pittsburgh and at Albany.

“There are five things we look at when we go into our games,” Maine quarterback Warren Smith said.

“We want to be tough, we want to be disciplined, we want to play together, we want a great effort and we want to play with great ball security.

“If we play like that, we’re going to be in every single ballgame.

“And if there’s a sixth thing we’ve got to do, we’ve got to execute.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi


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