The Maine football team is on its fourth road trip, but still looking for its first win away from home, when it meets Albany at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The good news: The visiting team has won the past five games in this series. The better news: Four of Maine’s next five games are at home. Albany beat Maine 20-7 in Orono last year in a rugged game marked by strong winds. This year, Albany has experience on both lines, but is young at the skill positions. The Black Bears are trying to forget about two blowout losses in their last two ventures away from home. Here’s what I’ll be keeping an ear on while covering hockey in Portland this weekend:

1. The return of Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga at middle linebacker. The junior hasn’t played since early in the season opener at Boston College, when he suffered a leg bruise. Let’s just say sitting out has not sat well with the player who led the Black Bears in tackles the past two seasons. “He’s been a little pouty,” Coach Jack Cosgrove told me Tuesday. He was back to his usual smiling self when I saw him in the hallway that day, though. More importantly, he wasn’t limping. John McCabe has been solid in Mulumba Tshimanga’s place, but having both available will undoubtedly help Maine’s efforts to stop the Albany run game. Of course, like so much with the Black Bear football team this year, the good news is mixed with some bad. Outside linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves will not play Saturday with an undisclosed injury.

2. The strength of the Maine football team is its defensive front. Everyone knows this. So it was startling to see that group fail to record a sack last week in a 48-17 loss at Richmond. True, the Spiders were in “max protect” mode. But Trevor Bates, Pat Ricard and Mike Kozlakowski are too good to be kept at bay a second consecutive week, right? If pressure remains a problem, I’ll be curious to see whether the Black Bears dial up more blitzes.

3. Last week, Maine made Richmond sophomore quarterback Kyle Lauletta look like a rising star, surrendering 319 passing yards and four touchdowns. This week, it’s sophomore D.J. Crook’s chance to try to take advantage of a Black Bear secondary that has been struggling. I wrote about the secondary for my game preview in tomorrow’s Press Herald, so I won’t belabor that issue here. But suffice to say that Crook, a Penn State transfer coming off a 94-yard effort last week in a 37-0 loss at Holy Cross, will be eager to bounce back. Maine can’t let him.

4. Nigel Beckford has been putting up solid numbers as Maine’s top rushing option the past three games. Still, Cosgrove made it a point this week to say the statistics aren’t telling the whole story, and that his sophomore needs to be more patient, and that such patience would result in a whole lot more yards. Beckford had 75 of them last year against Albany. Can he double that total Saturday? And how much more can backup Sacoy Malone be counted on to produce after a career-high 38 yards last week and his first career touchdown? The run game could really help take the pressure off of quarterback Dan Collins. And it could provide more needed rest for the defense as well.

5. Micah Wright has been a revelation at wide receiver for Maine. The redshirt freshman has caught 25 passes, more than double any other Black Bear. He has touchdowns in back-to-back games. He can help move the chains but also can be a game-breaker downfield. But sometime soon, maybe even Saturday, we’re going to start to see what happens when opponents make him a focal point of their scouting report. Will Wright start to see more double coverage. Will teams try to get more physical with him at the line of scrimmage? And how will he respond if they do? There’s no question Wright has been the team’s offensive MVP so far. And he may just be getting started. He’s an exciting player and I’m curious to see his development.