ORONO — Way back in August, at the University of Maine’s football media day, Micah Wright was asked about his goals for the season.

“Beat UNH,” said Wright, a sophomore wide receiver for the Black Bears. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It’s been a while since Maine has defeated New Hampshire in college football. The Wildcats have beaten the Black Bears six consecutive times – including an NCAA playoff game in 2013 – and in 13 of the last 14 games. The only Maine victory in that stretch came in 2010, a 16-13 overtime decision. No current Maine player or coach has beaten New Hampshire.

The Black Bears hope to change that at 1 p.m. Saturday when they play the Wildcats at Alfond Stadium. More importantly, they need to change that losing trend if they want to continue playing.

Maine, which began the season 0-3, and New Hampshire come into the game with identical records: 6-4 overall, 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The winner will finish in a tie for second place in the highly competitive CAA and have a shot to continue playing in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The loser will not.

“Biggest game in my career, biggest game in my life,” said Dan Collins, Maine’s senior quarterback. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Maine and New Hampshire are natural rivals, the two northernmost outposts in the CAA. They recruit the same players, they have similar philosophies.

Each year, since the late 1940s, they have played for the Brice-Cowell musket, a flintlock rifle made by Ebenezer Nutting of Falmouth in the 1700s. The Black Bears say the musket – named after former coaches Fred Brice of Maine and William Cowell of UNH – has been missing from their locker room for too long.

Senior defensive lineman Pat Ricard said this game “is everything” for Maine’s nine seniors.

“This game means a lot to this program,” he said. “Now that there’s so much on the line, everyone is just so excited. … It’s a season with seven wins, it’s a playoff spot, it’s stopping NH from making the playoffs, it’s the musket.”

Beating UNH has been the Black Bears’ priority since Day One. And not just since the start of training camp. When Joe Harasymiak was named Maine’s head coach last December, he let the players know then that was the top goal.

“We’ve talked about beating UNH a lot,” he said. “Now it’s here and we’ve got to get it done.”

Senior linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga said Harasymiak reinforced that goal at the first team meeting of the preseason when he displayed a slide that had beating UNH as the No. 1 goal.

“We know it’s a big game,” he said. “We know we have to play well but at the same time we have to do what we do. We can’t change the way we play.”

New Hampshire might be without its top rusher on Saturday. Senior Dalton Crossan suffered a concussion during the first quarter of the Wildcats’ 36-25 loss to Albany last Saturday. UNH Coach Sean McDonnell said the team won’t know until later this week if Crossan can play,

It’s quite simple for Maine: win the game, get back the musket, and possibly get a call on Sunday morning to join the FCS playoffs. Lose the game, watch the musket travel back down I-95 South 199 miles to Durham, New Hampshire, and clean out your locker.

“It’s basically a playoff game,” said Jeremy Salmon, a senior tight end for Maine.

Harasymiak stressed Wednesday that even a win over UNH doesn’t guarantee anything. The NCAA could overlook Maine for a playoff berth. That’s why beating UNH – which would give Maine a sweep of the four northernmost CAA schools (Maine has already beaten Rhode Island, Albany and Stony Brook) – remains the top goal.

“You can’t control what the committee wants to do” said Harasymiak. “Just control what you can control and that’s winning the north and getting the musket back. Accomplish our team goals and everything else will take care of itself.”

The Black Bears are at a loss to explain why UNH has been so successful against them. Several mentioned a lack of discipline by Maine in those games, while UNH has played flawlessly.

“Looking back on the games, I watched a couple to start the week Sunday night, I think we just really were undisciplined when it came down to it,” said Collins. “When the game was close, we never really pulled away and when the game was, we thought, out of reach, we never fought back.”

This year, said Collins, is different. The Black Bears believe in each other and are confident they will find a way to win on Saturday.

“No doubt in my mind. I don’t see us losing at all,” said Collins. “This game is just way too important for us. This is what we wanted. Now we’ve just got to go get it.”

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