Gazette: Football Seeks Pay Back Vs. Maine - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Football Seeks Pay Back Vs. Maine

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The Daily Hampshire Gazette has its look ahead to Saturday's UMass-Maine game.

In the more than 100-year-old football rivalry between the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the Minutemen have held a comfortable advantage. They'll take a 40-15-1 series lead into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at McGuirk Stadium.

But the last two meetings between the New England rivals have been sore spots for the Minutemen.

Minutemen look for payback as Black Bears visit

AMHERST - In the more than 100-year-old football rivalry between the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the Minutemen have held a comfortable advantage. They'll take a 40-15-1 series lead into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at McGuirk Stadium.

But the last two meetings between the New England rivals have been sore spots for the Minutemen.

Last year, the Black Bears defeated UMass 19-9 in Orono in a game that was sloppy on both sides. Maine's 2008 win in Amherst was more significant. The Black Bears' 21-20 victory cost the Minutemen a playoff spot as they finished 7-5. Maine, which had a similar resume, completed the year at 8-4 and earned a bid.

While Maine (3-5, 2-3 CAA) is out of the playoff picture, the Minutemen (5-3, 3-2) are very much still in play. Ending its two-game losing streak against the Black Bears would help UMass end its two-year streak of missing the playoffs.

"Maine has certainly been a bug for us the past couple of years," Morris said Friday. "We better be ready to play."

Despite a losing record, the Black Bears have had some high points. They nearly upset William & Mary before falling 24-21 on Sept. 25. A week later they defeated rival New Hampshire, 16-13 in overtime. They also beat Rhode Island, 28-23 on Oct. 23.

The Black Bears have struggled to score, averaging 16.9 points per game, which ranks ninth in the CAA.

UMass' win over James Madison last week got Maine coach Jack Cosgrove's attention.

"I was impressed with everything about their operation," Cosgrove said. "To go down there and beat James Madison, it looked like they had a sense of purpose. I thought all parts of their football team contributed."

UMass quarterback Kyle Havens said the JMU win would be negated if the Minutemen can't beat Maine. "It's not going to mean anything if we don't build on it and continue to play well this week," said Havens, a northern California native who was wearing a bright orange San Francisco Giants National League Champions T-Shirt. Against JMU, the UMass rushing attack relied almost exclusively on Jonathan Hernandez after alternating between him and John Griffin for most of the season. Morris said he expects to go back to a two-pronged attack.

"In the Richmond and New Hampshire game we didn't have a great flow running the football. Against JMU, we wanted to try to get Jon Hernandez going a little bit to get some flow to our run game," Morris said. "We needed some flow so we tried to get one of the guys going. It wasn't Jon vs. John. Coming back this week we're going to go with both again and if one guy is getting hot we're going to try to ride that hot guy."

IHNE OUT, IGWENAGU UNCERTAIN - The Minutemen will again be without injured senior center John Ihne. Quinton Sales will start in his place. UMass is 2-0 when Sales starts. Junior tight end and captain Emil Igwenagu, who missed Saturday's win over James Madison with an injury, will be a game-time decision.

"Hopefully he's a full go. We'll see," Morris said.

NELSON HONORED - UMass wide receiver Anthony Nelson was named to the ESPN Academic All-District First Team. The senior economics major has a 3.88 grade point average. He's now eligible to be an Academic All-American.

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