The University of Maine Black Bears football team (1-2) will travel down to Philadelphia this weekend to play the Villanova Wildcats (2-2) in a Colonial Athletic Association conference bout. The Black Bears suffered a tough 28-10 loss to No. 1 James Madison back on Sept. 16 and are coming off an unorthodox bye week due to the cancellation of their game at the University of Central Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Last year, third-year quarterback Zach Bednarczyk threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 326 yards, while fourth-year defensive back Rob Rolle was good for two of Villanova’s four interceptions to help the Wildcats get the win over Maine 26-7. This year Maine looks to turn the tables.
The Black Bears will lean on their offensive line against a Wildcat defense that is ranked No. 1 against the rush in the CAA, meaning second-year running back Josh Mack, who is leading all rushers in the CAA with 502 yards on 64 attempts averaging 7.8 yards per carry and four touchdowns, will have his hands full. His friends on the line, especially fourth-year Jamil Demby, who was a Preseason CAA All-Conference team selection, has been a standout in the trenches for the Black Bears and understands the challenge Maine faces on Saturday.
“Bye week, people think rest, but we have just been going hard in the weight room, just getting our bodies right and taking advantage of the bye week,” Demby said.
Demby was quick to add that the extra week off gave the Black Bears plenty of time to watch the Villanova game film, which should help them counter the vaunted Wildcat run defense.
“Playing them last year they ran a 3-3-5, so we have to just mentally be locked in. We all got to be on the same page, climbing up to the second level and taking care of the three down lineman.”
On the defensive side of things, Maine looks to slow the arm of Bednarczyk, who has thrown for over 1,000 yards on the season for six touchdowns and no interceptions.
“They’re offense first; a lot of motion, option stuff, typical spread college stuff you see. They do some formational and some motion stuff that’s challenging, so we’ll have to line up and make sure we do a good job with that,” Head Coach Joe Harasymiak said.
“They’re talented they always have been. They’re usually towards the top of the league; I think they made the playoffs last 3-4 years a row. They always execute well, they don’t really make a lot of discipline mistakes, they’re well coached and will have have to be ready to play.”
The Black Hole Defense that is second in the CAA in interceptions (7) will look to make plays against a strong pass offense. When Maine steamrolled Bryant University 60-12 they were able to pick off redshirt third-year quarterback Price Wilson five times for two touchdowns, which helped get Maine going early in the first half. Redshirt third-year defensive back Darrius Hart was one of those players who tallied a pick and also earned one against the University of New Hampshire in the season opener. The third-year from Tom Rivers, N.J. says that the team relishes the opportunity to play a team that wants to throw a lot.
“We’re happy that a team is going to throw a lot, that’s what we want we have a lot to prove from last year we were kind of low in the standings as far as pass defense so we take a lot of pride in teams who want to pass against us,” Hart said.
Hart believes that sticking to the basics of pass defense, as well as focusing on the little details, is going to be key for the Black Bears defense in staying this game.
“Just eyes and discipline is really what it comes down to, as soon as you get bad eyes or bad discipline, big plays happen. We feel well with our match ups; we feel pretty confident if we have good eyes and good discipline we should shut the pass down,” Hart said.
Hart will have his eyes on the prize along with the rest of the Black Bears when they pile onto the plane to travel south for this conference battle on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.