UMaine’s Earnest Edwards caught the first touchdown pass of the season for the Black Bears two weeks ago in the opener against Sacred Heart. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

ORONO — For once, Earnest Edwards didn’t know what to say.

A senior wide receiver for the University of Maine, Edwards had been told by a television reporter that he had gone over 100 catches in his career in last week’s 26-18 loss at Georgia Southern.

“Really?” said Edwards. “I didn’t even know that. The is the first time I’m finding that out. Thank you.”

Edwards now has 101 receptions for 1,701 yards, 13th on Maine’s all-time list. He’s caught 18 touchdown passes, averaging 31.1 yards on each of those scores. Maine has a 12-2 record when Edwards catches a touchdown pass.

Maine will need Edwards to be at his best at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Black Bears play Towson at Alfond Stadium. The game matches top-10 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision polls, each with prolific passing offenses.

“He’s a great player,” said Maine Coach Nick Charlton. “He needs to continue to be more consistent. I think he’s waiting on that breakout game … I think it’s time for him to really step up and have a big one.”

Edwards does more than catch passes. He’s returned four kickoffs for touchdowns – a school record – and has rushed for two touchdowns. Last week, he threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Devin Young

“We’ve actually practiced that play a lot, and I wasn’t completing it,” said Edwards. “I was throwing on the run. For them to call it during a game and still have faith in me to complete it, that’s big.”

Edwards took a pitch from quarterback Chris Ferguson and rolled right. He pulled up and threw to Young, who made a toe-tapping catch on the sideline.

“The play was actually for (Andre Miller) across the middle, but he was covered by like three linebackers,” said Edwards. “Then I saw Devin in the back of the end zone and let it fly … It was a better catch then a pass.”

Ferguson said he has seen a lot of growth in Edwards, even if Edwards still lets his emotions get the best of him. In the season opener, Edwards was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after scoring the first touchdown in a 42-14 win over Sacred Heart.

“I think he’s matured a lot the last couple of years,” said Ferguson. “I think that’s important, especially here, because it makes you grow up fast. He’s definitely done that. He knows now that everyone is looking at him. He knows now that the younger guys are looking at him, the fans, the media. Everyone is looking at him. So he has to be on point all the time. And when he fails, he fixes it. Obviously he’s had trouble with the celebrating. But that’s just energy, that’s just him being him.”

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Edwards spent the summer in Orono to work with Ferguson, going home to Rochester, New York, for just one week. “It was about getting down the little details to try to have everything perfect,” said Edwards. “From route running, to knowing how to read a defense like a quarterback. There’s a lot to it.”

Earnest Edwards will wear custom-made cleats Saturday in honor of Darius Minor, the UMaine player who died during a workout in July 2018. Olivia Luciani photo

When Edwards takes the field Saturday night, he’ll be wearing a new pair of cleats, custom designed for him by Olivia Luciani of Syracuse, New York. The shoes are, in essence, a memorial to Darius Minor, the 18-year-old defensive back from Virginia who died while participating in a workout in Orono in July 2018.

Painted light blue, but fading to a deeper blue, the shoes feature Minor’s face, his number (39) and the acronym RIP. The black Nike swoosh is dripping.

“I wanted to do something for Darius and his family,” said Edwards. “I jut told her what I wanted and she did everything. I think I might wear them for one or two games and then put them on a shelf and in a case.”

Luciani, whose company is called Laced by Liv, has been customizing shoes since 2014. She said she went to Edwards’ Instagram account to get a feel for what he likes and who he is. “I ran the idea by him before to make sure he was all for it,” she said.”I’m glad he likes them.”

Edwards said he was just getting to know Minor when he died.

“I’m the type of guy who likes to talk to everyone,” said Edwards. “I like to play around with everyone on the team. I had a couple of conversations with him. He was a quiet guy. We were really just getting to know him. He was just a young soul gone too soon.”

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