The Maine football team jetted off to rainy Richmond today looking for a fourth consecutive victory over the Spiders and a 2-0 start in Colonial Athletic Association play. It will help matters if the Richmond football team is as sloppy as the weather, as it was last year in a 33-20 loss in Orono that included five turnovers and a blocked punt. It’s probably too much to expect an encore. But here’s what I’ll be looking out for Saturday:

1. The back end of the defense. Safety was a position of concern to begin the season, but it may rapidly be approaching crisis territory. Darrius Hart, the most accomplished of the young group, figures to miss a third consecutive game with a bruised knee suffered in the opener at Boston College. Depending on what arthroscopic surgery reveals, his season may be done. Huge loss. Hart is extremely dependable, especially for a sophomore. This week, Mozai Nelson tore his ACL in practice and will miss the rest of the season. That leaves Jason Matovu and Sinmisola Demuren as starters, both appearing in their fourth games Saturday. They’ve been good so far, but who will back them up? Spencer Carey of Fairfield should see the most action of his young career. Will they move Sherrod Baltimore back there from his cornerback spot? Some tough decisions are looming there.

2. Speaking of Baltimore, can they afford to ever take him off the field? He and Najee Goode form a terrific cornerback tandem. That much has been evident all season, even before Baltimore intercepted two passes in last Saturday’s victory over Rhode Island. The problem has been when the starters need some rest. Sophomore Tayvon Hall and true freshman Joshua Huffman weren’t up to the task last week. The Rams picked on them at every opportunity, to the point where Coach Jack Cosgrove turned to defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak and said, “I’m not comfortable with them out there.” But somebody needs to be. The backups need to get a lot sharper because, weather permitting, Richmond can throw the ball a whole lot better than Rhode Island.

3. Nigel Beckford can certainly carry the football more than the 17 times he did last week. But how many more? That will be answered Saturday as the tailback will be without his partner, Darian Davis-Ray, sidelined by an ankle injury. Sacoy Malone will move up on the depth chart. He has some experience, although he has not really been used this year. What he doesn’t have is Beckford’s strength. Cabrinni Goncalves has the size, at 220 pounds, and will be the third option. But with Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga still out with a leg injury that has been slow to heal (and I’m hearing rumors of a possible redshirt season), does that make it harder to move Goncalves from his usual linebacker spot? Is this the game he finally plays some on each side of the ball? On a rainy day, you’d ideally love to be able to run the ball 35-40 times and be done with it. I’m not sure the Black Bears have the horses to do that now, unless Beckford is ready for double the workload.

4. Ben Wezel got pulled at right guard last week after vexing his coach by picking up two holding penalties (Cosgrove initially said it was three, but one of them was mistaken identity by the officials, so he corrected the record when we spoke Tuesday). The senior will start again Saturday, but sophomore John Reddington will be at the ready. Effective line play would certainly go a long way toward helping the ground game and controlling the clock.

5. Finally, how bad will the weather be? It’s been hard to get a read on how much Hurricane Joaquin will soak the Richmond area. But every forecast I’ve found indicates that it will be non-stop rain, in some degree of force, down there Saturday. That should favor the defenses, right? And the Black Bears, even with the injuries in the secondary, are a cut above the Spiders in that department.