Nigel Beckford returns to the backfield this week for the Maine football team, and there are signs he may find some room to run in The Big Easy.

Yes, that’s the nickname for New Orleans, where the Black Bears visit Tulane at 8 p.m. Saturday. But it also could be the nickname of the Green Wave’s defense, which has surrendered 663 rushing yards in season-opening losses to Duke and Georgia Tech.

Without Beckford, who was suspended, Maine managed only seven yards rushing in a 24-3 loss to Boston College.

Both teams are seeking marked improvement in those areas.

“The situation is way behind us,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said Monday of Beckford’s undisclosed violation of the university’s student-athlete code of conduct, which occurred last winter. “That’s football, you’re part of a family and a team. What you do reflects on all. One of the things that I feel comfortable about is that he has learned a tremendous lesson and I see it in him and his actions and how he conducts himself. Now he’s matured tremendously from a year ago and this incident is probably one that added to that.”

Beckford led Maine with 471 yards rushing and five touchdowns as a freshman last year. His sophomore year officially begins at Tulane, where Coach Curtis Johnson promised his team will improve its tackling. He said Monday the Green Wave, who have been outscored 102-17 in the two losses, are aware of Beckford.

“We know he’s a really good player,” Johnson said. “He’s not a bigger guy (5-foot-9, 195 pounds), but he’s fast and he’s quick. He’ll be ready to go.”

Cosgrove, whose team is playing FBS opponents in back-to-back games for the first time, albeit with a bye week in between, said Maine is not anticipating anything to be easy against Tulane’s veteran defense.

“We’re just trying to get our ground game going. After rushing for seven yards against Boston College, I don’t know that we have anything that we can be too confident about right now,” Cosgrove said. “We’re going to really have to get our guys going and run Maine’s offense and run the football, with Nigel back with us and his role, and hope that we’re able to get some first downs.”

In addition to the Tulane defense, Maine will be challenged by the New Orleans heat, Cosgrove said. The forecast high temperature Saturday is 86 degrees, which makes Cosgrove happy that Tulane agreed to move kickoff from early afternoon into the evening. The low temperature is predicted to be 72.

“We’re prepared to play a lot of players against a team that’s going to be incredibly hungry. It hasn’t gone well for them, but there’s a lot of talent on the football field. They’ve been humbled a little bit,” Cosgrove said. “It’s something that we’ve got to man up to and take on. We’re going down there to win, going down there with that type of attitude.”

WILLIAM & MARY is also coming off a bye week before visiting an FBS school. But, unlike Maine, the Tribe are taking on an in-state rival, and one they’ve beaten before.

“I probably won’t fool with it, but I imagine some of them will remember,” William & Mary Coach Jimmye Laycock said when asked if he was going to remind his players of the Tribe’s 26-14 victory over Virginia in 2009.

That was the Cavaliers’ first loss against an FCS team since 1986, when the Tribe triumphed 41-37.

William & Mary thumped Lafayette 34-7 in its opener. Virginia is 0-2 after losing at UCLA and then falling in the final seconds Saturday to Notre Dame, 34-27.

Laycock knows his team will still be a heavy underdog, despite having an experienced quarterback, junior Steve Cluley.

“They have a lot of great athletes out there and it’s easy to get mismatched in some situations,” Laycock said. “(Cluley) understands that the speed of the game is going to be a lot more than what we normally see. The windows to throw it in are going to be much smaller and things are going to close a lot quicker, things are going to happen a lot faster.”

ALBANY SITS ATOP the Colonial Athletic Association standings by virtue of winning the lone conference game of the season so far, 35-7 against Rhode Island on Saturday.

Coach Greg Gattuso called it the best game the Great Danes have played since joining the CAA in 2013.

“I think it was the first CAA game that we felt in control of from start to finish, which was a good feeling,” Gattuso said.

Helping Albany control things was freshman running back Elliot Croskey, who ran for 140 yards. Fellow freshman Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks is the team’s second-leading rusher with 78 yards through two games.

“We knew they were good. They came in and won the job off of an older guy,” Gattuso said. “We’re excited about our skill guys and I think our offensive line really stepped up this week and played a good game. Those guys gave us some leadership and they wanted to run the ball this week.”

The road ahead gets much more difficult. Albany visits No. 12 James Madison this Saturday.