Maine is known for its scenery...its jagged, mostly rocky coastline, its low, rolling mountains, and its heavily forested interior, as well as for its seafood cuisine, especially lobsters and clams. What it is not known for is coming to the Carrier Dome and beating Syracuse. I think we're all in agreement we would like to keep it that way.
Syracuse traded in Northeastern for Maine this year as the requisite 1-AA punching bag on the schedule. Last year's announced crowd at that game...34,694. The Orange SHOULD be able to beat that, considering the difference in momentum from last year to this.
The Orange might have gotten an extra 2-3K butts in the seats this week thanks to last weekend's win over Northwestern. But SU isn't going to rest on it's Northwestern-beating laurels. They're pulling out the big guns. They're calling a play directly from the Six Flags playbook...KIDS ENTER FREE!
Syracuse fans ages 12 and under can now receive a free admission ticket to the Orange game against Maine on Saturday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. These complimentary youth tickets for Syracuse University’s Youth and Senior Citizen Day will be available beginning Monday, September 21 in person only at the Carrier Dome Box Office. A minimum of one adult ticket must be purchased along with the complimentary youth tickets.
So, sorry parents, you can't just drop your five-year-old off at the Dome on Saturday and swing by to pick'm up around ten. You'll have to watch to. Apologies.
So...now that we've established there will be SOME people in the building on Saturday, who in the hell are these Maine Black Bears and what's their story?
The Bears began the season with a thrilling 34-27 win over something called St. Cloud State.
The teams exploded for 24 points in the fourth quarter and there were six lead changes during the game. St. Cloud State (0-2), an NCAA Division II program, tied the game at 27-27 with 6 seconds left in regulation on a 30-yard field goal by Tyler Aldridge.
Next up, Maine took on those Huskies from Northeastern and dispatched them 17-7 thanks to114 yards from Derek Session. Notably in this game, back-up QB stepped into the game and delivered a strong performance, 10 of 13 passes for 145 yards and an Int. Starter Mike Brusko wasn't hurt, the coaches just wanted to rotate in their younger back-up in order to keep things fresh on offense. Again...very familiar.
Last week the Black Bears made their first trip into the state of New York this season and took on Albany. The Black Bears led 16-0 at halftime but Albany scored 20 unanswered points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, for the 20-16 win. Albany overcame five first-half turnovers to prevent the Bears from going 3-0 for the first time since 2002. Despite talk that Brusko was still the starter before the game, Smith saw much more action in this one and seemed to have supplanted Brusko as the starter.
So what do we know? Well the heart and soul of their offense seems to be sophomore RB Derek Session. He's already got 314 yards and 3 TDs on the year. His season-best was 124 yards in the season-opener against St. Cloud.
As far as the QB position, it would seem the Smith will be the go-to guy on Saturday. He's the freshman with the big arm whereas Brusko is the tested senior. Brusko has never been terribly explosive, he threw only 8 TDs to 7 Ints last season. My guess at the moment is that we'll see both but Smith will get a high percentage of snaps.
We'll learn a little more about these guys as the week goes on but by all accounts first impressions say that SU should have no problem here. They certainly cannot lose to Maine for the simple reason that Albany beat them...and there's no way we're going to sit here for the next 20 years and listen to Albany talk about how we lost to the team they beat. Not happening.
Update: Get some more insight into Maine's games so far here at Jenn Menendez's column. (H/T: Mark)