SMITHFIELD, R.I. — Game week brought a little more urgency for Maine defensive end Jonathan Louis.

Michael Kozlakowski has been lost for the season with a torn bicep. Louis may be in line to fill that sizable void when the Black Bears (1-0) visit Bryant (2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m going to just try to play for (Kozlakowski), and hopefully he comes back stronger,” Louis said. “I stay in pretty good shape. So maybe I’ll just try to get a little extra conditioning after practice. But my body should hold up,”

Louis is a senior who transferred from Connecticut and played primarily on passing downs a year ago. Redshirt freshman Jean Point-Dujour also figures to take some snaps at Kozlakowski’s defensive end spot. Patrick Ricard, a sophomore who has been used as a pass-rushing defensive tackle, also could slide over to end.

Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said the team is exploring a range of options to replace Kozlakowski. He wasn’t willing to tip his hand in advance of Saturday’s game, but what happens along the Black Bears’ defensive front will be a key storyline.

“We’re not going to have somebody be able to step in and be Mike Kozlakowski,” Cosgrove said. “If we did have somebody like that, he’d already be starting for us someplace, because you’re talking about a really good player here. There’s a few things that we’ve discussed, is probably the best way to say it.”

Louis is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds with long arms and good speed. But Bryant is known as a running team, so that will challenge him to be patient and maintain containment on the outside.

“Bryant just has two or three run plays that they run over and over. They’re just going to hope that the defense makes a mistake,” Louis said.

“They stay in their run formations all the time. And sometimes on third-and-long, they’re still going to run it. You just have to try to keep working, stop the run, and when you get your chances, and you know it’s a pass, you’ve just got to try to get there.”

Ricard recorded a big sack late in Maine’s season-opening 10-6 win over Norfolk State. He has been splitting time with fellow sophomore Darius Greene at defensive tackle, but he was a linebacker at David Prouty High School in Spencer, Massachusetts, and Cosgrove has praised his ability to play inside or outside on the line. At 6-2, 270 pounds, he’s still spry enough to pressure the quarterback from the edge. If that’s what Maine has in mind.

“You can’t get moved off the ball, because that’s pretty much the heart of the defense,” Ricard said. “After that, I think my speed and athleticism help me. We still have a lot of good (defensive) ends that will be rotating. They might ask me to learn a little bit (of that role). I’ll be ready.”

Bryant’s offensive line has three first-time starters. Coach Marty Fine, in his 11th season with the Bulldogs, expects the group to struggle with whoever Maine lines up opposite.

“It’s going to be hard to find a first down. We’re not going to be able to block their front guys,” Fine said. “Very honestly, Maine would have to do something wrong for us to have a chance to win the game.”

Maine has won the previous three meetings with Bryant, including 35-22 last year. Fine has a veteran defense returning, but like Maine, lacks experience on offense. Sophomore Dalton Easton is the new starting quarterback, and has four touchdown passes in the first two victories.

Fine claimed his team will be overmatched regardless. What would it take to beat the Black Bears?

“The officiating,” he deadpanned. “If they call a lot of penalties on Maine and never stop the clock, our chances increase.”

Cosgrove isn’t buying into Fine’s diminished expectations. He called this year’s Bulldogs the best in the four seasons that Maine has played them. He pointed to a season-opening 13-7 victory at Stony Brook, like Maine a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

“It was an inspirational win for them to go to Stony Brook, and you get a lot of juice out of that,” Cosgrove said. “You could see it on film, the lift they got.”


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